The formal assessment of Donald Trump indicates he suffers from psychopathic personality disorder. His condition is extreme, rigid and immutable.
Trump’s core traits of callousness, unyielding drive to dominate, and impulsive mode of functioning were never going to yield to the difficult realities of Covid-19 or the civil unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd. Trump’s particular kind of disastrous response to these emergencies was unavoidable. Up close Trump is dramatic, flamboyant, irreverent and appears to be unpredictable. But, from 20,000 feet up, his behavior is very predictable, including his patterns of chaos. He may proclaim “total authority” to the country, but he is at the mercy of his hard-wired traits.
Here are the ways his condition undermines the execution of the duties of the Presidency.
- Because of his greater than normal need for stimulation and impulsivity, disruptions to the legal, financial, and administrative functions of our government will accumulate.
- In the exercise of his duties – at every choice point – power and dominance will prevail over the welfare of others.
- Because of his inability to process emotions related to danger, the government will be lax in response to threat situations.
- Because he is undaunted by fear of punishment, norms of trust and decency will continue to erode.
- His callous and remorseless disregard for the feelings of others means that vulnerable populations will remain at significant risk.
- In a time of crisis and suffering, the Office of the Presidency is expected to convey empathy to the people. Trump is so bereft in this capacity that he can’t even use his Reality TV skills to simulate a message of decency or compassion.
- His neglectful approach to governance, coupled with his inability to take responsibility for harm he may have created, appear to have led him to appoint to his cabinet mostly feckless and corrupt plutocrats who either could care less or are driven to undermine the Departments they were appointed to administer.
- His traits have infected the body politic. Cruelty, nihilism and deceit, to a shocking degree, have become normalized in our civil society and political class.
As the Covid-19 crisis and injection of authoritarianism into our body politic evolve, Trump’s set of destructive traits will drive his behavior. They will drive his behavior regardless of the damage, danger, or even the harm to his political standing.