Category Archives: Political Science

Paul Krugman Doesn’t Get the Message

I hate to say bad things about Paul Krugman, because it was his books back in the 1990s that got me interested in economics, but he sure can be a condescending ass sometimes, as illustrated by his recent opinion piece about whether it makes sense for Democrats who are unhappy with Clinton to vote for Johnson:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will.

Krugman is leaving out an important precondition: You have to believe that your vote can sway the election. Literally speaking, that’s almost never the case. In order for your vote to make an actual difference in the outcome, you’d not only have to be the deciding vote in your state, but also your state flipping would have to flip the electoral college. The chances of both of those things happening are so unlikely that you shouldn’t waste any time thinking about it.

(Your vote has other effects, which I’ll get to later.)

Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.

First of all, this is disingenuous. The Libertarian party platform has historically been written as an absolutist statement of doctrinaire libertarian theory, unlike, say, the Democratic party platform, which is a lengthy list of promises to every identifiable interest group. In either case, you’re not electing a party, you’re electing a person, and their personal positions on the issues are far more important than their respective party platforms.

Gary Johnson is a moderate libertarian. He isn’t going to try to do everything in the Libertarian platform, if for no other reason than that he knows Congress will fight him. For example, although Johnson does want to eliminate the income tax, he wants to replace it with a consumption tax, which is a variation on European-style VAT taxes. A vote for Johnson isn’t a vote for the Libertarian party platform.

Second, Krugman is cherry-picking the items from the libertarian platform that he thinks his readers will hate the most. You’ll notice he didn’t mention that the Libertarian platform is very pro-choice, pro-free-speech, and pro-trade.

Third, like most people who criticize Libertarians for some of their extreme positions, Krugman is ignoring the crazy positions of the major party candidates — such as Hillary Clinton’s disturbing policies on things like trade, labor, free speech, immigration, industrial policy, crime, and war — probably because he is used to them and considers them unremarkable.

To elaborate on one glaring example, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both support the War on Drugs, which I consider to be a monstrous enterprise that has wrecked hundreds of thousands of lives and has provided the justification for an encroaching police state that is eroding our Constitutional protections and robbing Americans of their privacy and their freedom. I think Trump is an unusually bad candidate, but in a normal election year, with Democrats and Republicans both supporting the awful War on Drugs, I really don’t much care which of them wins. They both suck.

Now, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you consider center-left policies just as bad as hard-right policies. And maybe you have somehow managed to reconcile that disdain with tolerance for libertarian free-market mania. If so, by all means vote for Mr. Johnson.

But don’t vote for a minor-party candidate to make a statement. Nobody cares.

Really? Because Krugman sure seems to care, at least enough to write this piece. In fact, there’s been a surge of Johnson-bashing from the left over the past few weeks. It sounds to me like the Democratic machine is getting at least some of the message.

The reason your vote matters is because if the candidates know you are part of a group that has an interest in certain issues, they just might adjust their positions on those issues to get your vote. (Clinton did that quite blatantly to attract Bernie Sanders supporters.) And even if Clinton doesn’t lean libertarian for this election, the Johnson voters should attract candidates in future elections who want to get their votes.

This is a variation on the “a vote for Johnson is a vote for Trump” trope. (Republicans have a trope that is exactly the same except it ends in “Clinton.”) By voting for Johnson instead of Clinton, Krugman is saying, Johnson voters are handing a victory to a candidate they’ll like even less than Clinton.

You know what, Krugman? Fuck that shit. If you want people to vote for your candidate, you should have picked a better candidate. But you chose Clinton, and now you’re trying to blame someone else for the problem you caused. Gary Johnson wouldn’t be polling a fifth of what he’s polling now if your candidate wasn’t a warmongering technocrat and the other side wasn’t running a raging narcissistic sociopath. Gary Johnson, and people voting for Gary Johnson, are not the problem here. The problem is that your candidate sucks, and you can’t blame that on the Libertarian party platform.

Nevertheless, for those of my readers who prefer Johnson to Clinton, but who would hate to inadvertently hand Trump the presidency, there’s a simple solution: Plan to vote for Johnson, and if you get called in a poll, be sure to tell them you’re voting for Johnson.

Then, just before election day, check the poll results for your state to see how Clinton, Trump, and Johnson are doing. If Clinton is losing to Trump, and the Johnson vote is large enough that Clinton would win if she got his votes, then switch your vote to Clinton at the last minute to defeat Trump.

On the other hand, if Clinton is winning, or if Trump is winning by so much that the Johnson vote won’t make a difference, then you might as well go ahead and vote for Gary Johnson. You won’t do any harm, you’ll feel better about your vote, and you’ll send a message to future politicians that you’re out there and that they can win your vote by adopting positions that appeal to your interests.

Clinton Did It, but What Would Trump Do?

Here’s a sentiment I’ve seen from some Donald Trump supporters, especially those who get to Trump by way of Bernie Sanders and hate Clinton enough to vote for Trump:

(In case it doesn’t show, it’s a picture of a dumb-looking guy saying “I’m voting for the candidate who got people killed, covered [up] sexual assaults and threatened national security…because the other one said mean things.” The person who tweeted it responds “Sums up Clinton supporters really well.”)

In many situations, that’s a reasonable thing to say, but I don’t believe we’re living through one of those situations.

If this was a matter of criminal justice, for example, that would be a good point: Criminal culpability depends on known bad acts in the past, not on predictions of bad acts in the future. But this is not about criminal justice, it’s about the future of the country. We can’t change what the candidates did in the past, but we can control what they do in the future, so our ultimate concern should be what the candidates will do, not what they have done. Put another way, the Presidency is not a reward we give to the candidate whose past we most admire, it’s a job we give to the candidate who we think will do best in the future.

Of course, a person’s past behavior is a pretty good predictor of their future behavior, so Hillary Clinton’s past certainly does inform us of her likely future, and voters should definitely take her past behavior into account.

But it’s important to understand how that past behavior is shaped by opportunity.

I’ve owned house cats for a couple of decades, and I’ve been scratched by them quite a few times over the years. On the other hand, I’ve never been injured by a tiger. Does this mean that I would be safer if I replaced my house cats with tigers?

Obviously not. The difference is opportunity. My cats aren’t very likely to injure me during any given encounter, but because I encounter them thousands of times a year, they still do some damage. On the other hand, I’ve never in my life encountered a tiger that wasn’t kept safely in a zoo, so even though tigers are much more dangerous than house cats, they haven’t ever harmed me because they’ve never had the opportunity.

No one has given Donald Trump the opportunity to do the things that Clinton has done. No one has given him that much power. He’s never harmed national security because he’s never had responsibility for national security. He’s never gotten anyone killed because he never held a position where people’s lives were on the line.

That makes it harder to predict what Trump would do if he won the Presidency, but we can still make some pretty good guesses. For one thing, we can look at the things he says.

If that’s not convincing, we can also look at the kinds of things Trump has actually done with relatively limited power he has:

  • Trump has arranged for his businesses to receive millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
  • When Donald Trump’s deceased brother Fred’s surviving family contested Trump’s father’s will for all but disinheriting them, Donald Trump cut off the health insurance coverage that was paying for their infant’s medical treatment.
  • Trump hired illegal Polish immigrants to work on one of his developments without bothering to supply them with basic safety equipment like hard hats.
  • Trump University scammed working class people into borrowing and spending way too much money for an education in business that never materialized.
  • Trump tried to use eminent domain to force an elderly widow out of her home so he could build a casino parking lot.
  • Trump has done business with the mob.
  • Trump has bankrupted several businesses.
  • Trump has discriminated against black would-be renters of his properties.
  • Trunp hired Roy Cohn — one of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s attack dogs during the red scare — as his lawyer.
  • Trump businesses routinely refuse to make full final payments on bills they owe.
  • When Roger Ailes resigned following allegations of sexual harassment, Trump hired him immediately.
  • Trump runs a charity that is much, much more of a fraud than the Clinton Foundation.
  • The link in that last item also describes Trump’s bribery of a public official.

Trump may not have done some of the bad things Hillary did, but he seems to lie, cheat, and steal at every opportunity. Let’s not give him any opportunities to do even worse.

What if Donald Trump is a Sociopath?

What if Donald Trump is a sociopath?

It’s obvious to me that Donald Trump is a very dangerous person who should not under any circumstances be given power over other people. It’s also obvious that his supporters don’t see him that way. It’s tempting to dismiss them as intolerant bigots — and he certainly has some of those among his fans — but I think there’s a more benign explanation. I think a lot of people (including the bigots) are being conned by a world-class sociopath.

There’s an argument that it’s inappropriate to speculate about the mental disorders of public figures like Trump. After all, I’m not a psychiatrist. And even a professional psychiatrist would be prohibited by the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule from offering an opinion on the mental health of a public figure unless they had conducted an examination and been given permission to issue a statement.

I don’t think that applies here, because I’m not practicing psychiatry. Nothing I say here will affect Trump’s mental healthcare. I’m not violating psychiatric ethics by speculating about his sociopathy any more than I would be practicing medicine without a license if I saw an injured football player on television and speculated that he pulled a hamstring.

Furthermore, sociopathy is unusual among mental disorders in that it’s not the people who have it that suffer from it, but rather everyone else around them. The reason we talk about sociopathy is so we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from them. And that necessarily means learning to recognize sociopaths in the wild.

So I admit I can’t offer a definitive diagnosis that Donald Trump is a sociopath, but if he is a sociopath, here are a few things worth thinking about:

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then he has no empathy for other people. Their suffering doesn’t produce an emotional response in him. A sociopath might see a pedestrian hit by a car and go over to take a look. Standing there, staring at the broken body writhing in pain, he wouldn’t necessarily find it upsetting, and it might not occur to him to offer first aid or call for an ambulance. When Trump responded to Khizr Kahn’s criticisms, it never occurred to him to acknowledge the loss Kahn had suffered when his son, an American soldier, was killed in combat. When Trump was confronted about this, he countered that he too made sacrifices in building his business empire.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then his lack of empathy would mean he effectively has no conscience. Unable to feel empathy for other people’s suffering, he would have no reason to avoid a course of action that makes others suffer. In fact, whether or not other people suffer wouldn’t even enter into his thinking. A sociopathic manager might keep his employees working long hours away from their families to meet a deadline before the holidays and then fire them all without a thought because he doesn’t need them any more. Trump dismisses concerns about his multiple bankruptcies by pointing out that business ventures go bankrupt all the time, but it never occurs to him to express concern for all the people who lost money by trusting him to pay his bills.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then his lack of a conscience leads to what might be called a very pragmatic view of ethics: It doesn’t matter what’s right or wrong, it doesn’t even matter if he gets caught. All that matters is whether he can get ahead by doing it. Trump businesses routinely refuse to make full final payments on bills they owe. If they know the unpaid amount isn’t large enough to be worth a long lawsuit, and if they know they won’t need that contractor again in the future, then as far as they’re concerned, there’s no point in paying the bill. This is classic sociopath thinking.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then he divides people into two simple categories: People he needs something from, and people who don’t matter. And once he gets what he needs from someone, they stop mattering. The transition can be shockingly abrupt. A sociopath pursuing sexual conquest will lavish attention on a woman, charming her for hours or days until he gets her into bed…and then dump her immediately after sex because he got what he wanted. This is why many of us expect Trump to pivot away from the extreme right — he got their primary vote and he’s done with that, so now he’s ready to move on to the next group he needs to manipulate.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then he will engage in one-on-one manipulation of the people he needs something from, with no need to be consistent. A sociopath will tell his wife he loves only her, and then he’ll tell his girlfriend he’s planning to leave his wife. A sociopathic manager will tell a subordinate that he’ll recommend them for his job when he moves up…and then he’ll tell all his other subordinates the exact same thing.

Trump obviously can’t manipulate voters one-on-one, but he does flip-flop on issues all the time, depending on who he’s talking to and what he thinks they’d like to hear. As I write this, after more than a year of promising mass deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump told a group of Hispanic advisors that he might not do that after all, and now he’s wavering all over the place on the issue (and meeting with the Mexican president today). Trump has been courting the white supremacist vote, but I think they’re just another group he’s manipulating, to be abandoned without hesitation if he no longer needs them.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then all that matters to him is saying whatever will get him what he wants. Notions of truth or consistency are irrelevant to sociopaths. They tell unending streams of lies. There is some evidence that the speech centers in the brains of people with sociopathic personalities are organized a bit differently than those of normal people, allowing them to decouple speech from logic and memory. The technical term for speaking without regard for truth is bullshitting, and Trump seems to do it a lot.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then any appearance of caring for other people is just an elaborate act. Sociopaths don’t feel empathy, but they can learn from watching how other people behave. They can express concern when something bad happens, and they can even cry real tears. But when faced with a novel situation for which they haven’t learned the normal response, their hollow emotional interior gives them no guidance, and they might do something that reveals them for what they are. I know a sociopathic business owner who, within minutes of the planes striking the towers on 9/11, told all his employees to start researching which insurance companies were going to lose money so he could short their stock.

(As I was writing this, news came out that African American basketball player Dwyane Wade’s cousin was shot and killed in Chicago, and rather than express condolences for this tragedy, Trump tried to use it to promote his candidacy by tweeting “Dwyane Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!“)

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, then all his one-on-one manipulation will result in everyone hearing a different set of lies, and to keep his lies working, he’s going to try to keep people from comparing notes. In ordinary settings, sociopaths try to break up relationships around them, to discourage people from talking to each other. A sociopathic manager who doesn’t want subordinates comparing stories might tell each of them that the others are jealous of their success and trying to sabotage their career. Trump can’t keep people from talking about his highly public political campaign, but a desire to keep people from comparing notes would explain why Trump is so angry with the press all the time: They tell people what he’s been saying, often at a time when he’s switch to saying the opposite.

In the end, if Donald Trump is a sociopath, he will leave a trail of destruction behind him. His manipulations will make him the center of attention in anything he gets involved in. Some people will be conned into doing his bidding, and others will waste time and resources fighting against him. Either way, he will make everything about him. His presence will be a whirling maelstrom that cannot be ignored, and he will grind down every person, institution, or social structure he encounters.

Just look at how much time we spend talking about what Donald Trump is saying. This election could have been about so many things — healthcare, taxes, gun control, cyber security, police reform, foreign policy — but instead we waste time talking about Trump and how to respond to him. (E.g. I’m writing this rather than something else.) Trump has been involved in thousands of lawsuits. He has dumped two wives, bankrupted four of his own companies, and hurt a lot of investors and small business owners that made the mistake of getting involved with him. He destroyed the United States Football League, and he seems to be destroying the Republican party.

Donald Trump is a sociopath, and we need to stop him from becoming President before he destroys a lot more.

Confuse the Record

Hillary Clinton is the secret love child of Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow who became the brain-eating zombie Queen of planet Zorg before traveling back in time to marry Bill Clinton and kill Vince Foster with her retractable poisonous fangs because he was about to reveal that she was conspiring through a private email server to use her speaking fees to raise funds for terror attacks in Benghazi to distract us from her plan to have the Clinton Foundation use climate change as a cover for to enslaving humanity for her Muslim overlords.

Come at me bro.

 

#ByeAnita

For several months now, I’ve kind of been planning to vote in the Republican primary here in Illinois, just so I can vote against Donald Trump. As the day finally approached, however, I gave it a little more thought and realized there was a better way to use my vote. (It may not be worth much, but I might as well maximize its impact.)

While the Presidential elections have been getting all the news coverage, a different election has been attracting attention here in Chicago. That’s the vote to replace Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, a movement that has grown massively, ever since the video from the LaQuan McDonald shooting by a police officer was released to the public in November.

This seems to have been driven on the ground by a mostly grass roots movement (except for support from a few key criminal justice reform supporters) led by a collection of mostly black community organizations like Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters, and Black Lives Matter Chicago, although I get most of my news about if from following Prison Culture. I can’t go an hour on Twitter without seeing the #ByeAnita hashtag floating across my screen. Especially on this election day.

Bye Anita Selfie

To be honest, I don’t think Anita Alvarez is the sole reason police in Cook County seem to be getting away with murder. It’s a nationwide issue, and I doubt Alvarez is much worse in that respect than many other chief prosecutors. But the folks running the #ByeAnita campaign decided to make sure that she faces the consequences nonetheless.

And she will.

Don’t Make History

Today is Super Tuesday, which is a pretty big day in the primary election season. And if you’re in one of the states where people are voting today, you have a chance to make history. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

I think we’ve seen a lot more noise than usual from the alt-right, including the misogynist wings of the men’s rights movement and GamerGate, neoreactionaries who don’t like democracy because it’s not going their way, those white-supremacy-lite folks who say “cuck” all the time, resurgent anti-immigrant bigots, “racial realists” worried about the white man, and whatever the hell it was that happened to the Hugos last year.

And just in the last year we’ve seen the rise of Donald Trump, a lying, narcissistic, nationalist who preaches isolationism and blames foreigners and immigrants for everything he thinks is wrong with this country. He’s a thin-skinned bully who picks fights with everyone but can’t take criticism and threatens the press. He puts down minorities, insults women, and seems to sincerely believe that he is so awesome he’s the solution to every problem.

Or at least he thinks people will believe that he’s the solution to every problem, just because he tells them they’re great and that he hates the same people they do. The worst part is, it seems to be working, especially with the alt-right. For some reason, this asshole is on the brink of being on the ballot for President.

I realize I’m exaggerating. Not all GamerGaters are misogynists, and not everyone who opposes free trade and immigration is a bigot. And unlike traditional populist demagogues, Trump hasn’t gone after academics all that hard, and he seems to have Muslims playing the role usually reserved for the Jews. A lot of much, much worse people have been given power in crises. But…

This kind of situation — rough economy, warfare, lots of disgruntled folks flocking to a charismatic strong man for leadership — this is the kind of thing you read about in history books, usually in a sections titled “Why the Republic Fell” or “Causes Of the Civil War.”

So please don’t vote for Donald Trump. Trust me, you don’t want to live through a time that will get a big section in the history books.

Down With The Donald: A Manifesto

As I was writing this post, I happened to receive an email message that began this way:

From: Committee to Restore America’s Greatness
To: Mark Draughn (Windypundit)
Subject: Donald Trump Needs Your Help

DONALD TRUMP NEEDS YOUR HELP

THE WASHINGTON DC INSIDERS, SPECIAL INTERESTS, LOBBYISTS AND A HANDFUL OF SELF-INTERESTED BILLIONAIRES PLAN AN ALL-OUT PAID MEDIA ASSAULT TO DESTROY THE CANDIDACY OF DONALD TRUMP. WILL YOU HELP US STOP THEM?

The short answer is fuck no. Or if you prefer, FUCK NO. The long answer is the rest of this post.

I don’t believe we have a general duty to denounce all evils. Yet for some reason, I feel I should say something about Donald Trump. Maybe it’s because I tend to like non-establishment candidates, and I don’t want you to mistakenly think I’m a Trump supporter. Or maybe I should just blame it on a couple of recent Facebook posts by D.C.-area criminal lawyer Mirriam Seddiq. In the first one, she wrote:

The other day my Yonas came home from his Bibi’s house and said “Mama, I watched Donald Trump on TV and I almost started crying. I was thinking of Matthew and my other friends and how I would never see them again if he kicks me out of the country. I don’t want to leave.”

Mirriam is just about the only Muslim person I know. I’m sure there are others, but it seems inappropriate to ask. Mirriam, on the other hand, talks about her background all the time. So when I think of American Muslims, I think of Mirriam. She and her lovely family were the first people I thought of when when Trump started talking about banning Muslims from entering the country, and it makes me angry that Trump is upsetting her children.

I initially dismissed Trump’s popularity as one of those flash-in-the-pan political phenomena that appears out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. The polls have proven me wrong, but I’ve still been ignoring most of the Trump phenomenon, except to enjoy some of the terrific comedy material he’s inspired. Then a couple of days ago Mirriam posted this:

I honestly wonder right now how many Germans thought Hitler was brave and doing what no one else had the balls to do. I mean he wasn’t entirely PC either was he? This isn’t something I would normally say, but when a potential leader has the power to instill fear of losing a homeland into millions of people, maybe you white folks should stop and think that this isn’t as funny to us as it is to you.

Mirriam was exaggerating for effect, but she’s got a point. So let me take some time to explain why I think Donald Trump is a bad person and would make a bad President. In no particular order:

  • Start with where I first remember hearing of Trump, when he tried to use eminent domain to force an elderly widow out of her home so he could expand one of his casinos. His justification is typical Trump: “Cities have the right to condemn for the good of the city. Everybody coming into Atlantic City sees this terrible house instead of staring at beautiful fountains and beautiful other things that would be good.” He has consistently advocated the use of eminent domain to take properties from private owners and turn it over to developers. People like it that Trump builds things, but also wants to steal them.
  • In the fall of 2014, when Dr. Kent Brantly and his assistant Nancy Writebol were infected with Ebola while fighting the epidemic in Africa, Trump opposed letting these heroic Americas return here for treatment, saying things like “People that go to far away places to help out are great — but must suffer the consequences!” That’s not the kind of thinking that will ever make America great. That’s not the kind of thinking we want in a commander who will send soldiers into battle. Speaking of which…
  • Trump mocked Senator John McCain for getting captured in Vietnam, saying “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Thus Trump showed that not only is he an asshole, but he also doesn’t understand why McCain is considered a war hero.
  • During his official announcement that he was running for president, Trump made a point of trashing Mexican immigrants, saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. […] They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” It’s hard to tell if he’s only talking about illegal immigrants, as some contend, but it’s pretty insulting either way. And does he think Mexico actually sends people?
  • In that same speech he also claimed that Japan and China were somehow “beating us” economically, and that our last quarter GDP was “below zero” which is impossible. (He probably meant the GDP growth rate, but this is typical of his economic idiocy.) The American economy is better off than either of those countries.
  • Speaking of economic idiocy, he once proposed a plan to pay off the national debt with a one-time confiscation of 14.25% of the assets of rich people, an idea so awful that government leaders just talking about it could harm the U.S. economy by discouraging investment.
  • Trump stuck to his nonsense claim that he saw thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrating after 9/11, and he wants the U.S. government to block future Muslim travel to this country, track all Muslims already here, and forcibly close some mosques.
  • Not only does Trump want to build the wall at the border with Mexico, he also wants to deport millions illegal residents and their American-born children.
  • He wants to close parts of the internet…somehow…because “We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet” or something. It doesn’t actually make any kind of sense.
  • Donald trump is a birther.
  • There’s his frequent denigration of women he doesn’t like or that simply annoy him, not to mention the creepy way he talks about his daughter.

If you’re like me, you’ve got to wonder what the hell is wrong with this guy. Is there anything that ties all this craziness together? Is he for real? Or is he just trolling us? I can’t help but think of this pair of quotes:

“A lot of people sit down and discuss their lives, things like are they happy, but it’s not like that with me. I don’t think positively, I don’t think negatively, I just think about the goal. But it’s not like I sit down and write goals. I just do things.”

— Donald Trump, Master Apprentice, 2005 (source).

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just…do things.”

— The Joker, The Dark Knight, 2008 (source).

Trump isn’t just a guy with bad policy ideas, he’s an awful human being with bad policy ideas. Pete Suderman discusses that in a recent piece at Reason:

Trump frequently declines to propose anything that resembles what most would call a policy to resolve the problems he identifies, but even when he does, the legal and practical mechanisms by which he would implement those policies are almost always left unstated. He describes the effect he hopes to produce, but not the path by which he would get there […]

One reason for this is that Trump often seems to have no idea what he is talking about, and frequently appears to be making it all up on the spot. […]

Indeed, most of his answer is just rambling, in which he lobs insults, vaguely insists that the solution merely requires identifying the right people (the best, most brilliant individuals that only Donald Trump knows about) and putting them in charge, and dismisses out of hand any concerns about freedom of speech and other individual liberties. Trump’s answer does not tell us much about his plans for the Internet, but it does tell us something about Trump, and how his mind works.

He clearly has no idea what he is talking about, yet even in his incoherence, he gravitates toward insults and power grabs while insisting that anyone concerned about freedom must be ignored.

In other words, Trump’s response when he does not know what he is talking about, which is often, is to engage in a kind of brainfart fascism.

I think those “fascist brainfarts” are a symptom of the kind of person Donald Trump is. Consider some of Trump’s personality traits:

  • glib and superficial
  • egocentric and grandiose
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • lack of empathy
  • deceitful and manipulative
  • shallow emotions

That’s not my attempt to describe Trump’s personality. It’s a list of the emotional and interpersonal traits displayed by psychopaths, according to Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Dr. Robert D. Hare, a leading expert on psychopathy.

The book goes on to list six more social deviance symptoms of  psychopathy, some of which also seem to apply to Trump:

  • impulsive
  • poor behavior controls
  • need for excitement
  • lack of responsibility
  • early behavior problems
  • adult antisocial behavior

Trump certainly seems impulsive and he doesn’t seem to be able to behave himself. Although his golfing hobby isn’t very exciting, I think his reality TV show and series of Presidential campaigns probably count as a need for excitement, and I think multiple corporate bankruptcies indicate a lack of responsibility. His father described him as “a pretty rough fellow when he was small” and sent him off to a military academy, so I think counts as early behavior problems. And I think much of the way he conducts business counts as adult antisocial behavior.

Dr. Hare points out that psychopathy is a mental health diagnosis, and even trained mental health professionals can’t diagnosis someone on television. So I can’t say that Trump is a psychopath in the clinical sense. But that’s okay, because I’m not planning his treatment or committing him to an institution. I’m just some guy on the internet expressing an opinion about a candidate for public office. And my opinion is that Donald Trump is at least a little psychopathish.

(In the unlikely event that Trump discovers this post, he’s welcome to prove me wrong by releasing the results of a PCL-R assessment done by a qualified and neutral mental health professional who’s not a paid hack like his doctor. I was going to suggest prominent forensic psychologist J. Reid Meloy, but it turns out he may not be unbiased when it comes to Trump. In any case, normal people tend to score between 3 and 6 on the 40-point PCL-R scale, and you have to score at least 30 to be diagnosed as a psychopath. I’ll bet Trump scores closer to 30 than 6.)

Psychopaths have no conscience. They don’t feel bad about people being harmed, not even if they’re the ones doing the harm. In the worst case, they are shockingly violent criminals, committing despicable acts for money, sexual gratification, or personal amusement. They also have poor impulse control, hurting other people (or even themselves) on a whim. A psychopath will stab a guy to death in a bar over an insult, get out of jail fifteen years later, and promptly day stab another guy to death in a bar.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are “successful” psychopaths who avoid a life of violent crime and choose instead to pursue careers in business or politics. One of the reasons they can do this is because (unlike many criminal psychopaths) they learn from their mistakes. And one of the things they learn is how to fake it as a normal human being. Psychopaths are spectacular liars.

They aren’t good liars in the technical sense: They often tell implausible stories that are relatively easy to disprove, and they make little effort to keep their stories consistent when lying to different people. But they make up for that by being very good at selling their lies. They are very good at figuring out what people want to hear and telling them things they want to believe, which seems to be Trump’s campaign strategy.

Psychopaths have no empathy. They don’t feel your pain, and they certainly don’t care about your happiness. At best, they’ll pretend to like you for exactly as long as you are useful to them. Every person in their lives is a means to an end, every interaction a manipulation. They want you to like them because that’s another way they can control you. We may wonder whether Trump sincerely believes the crazy stuff he says, or whether he’s just trolling us, but I don’t think he worries about the difference. He’s just saying whatever helps him manipulate people.

The psychopath’s lack of empathy cuts both ways. Because they don’t care for other people, they focus instead on physical sensation and material wealth, on status and power. They keep score by money and fame, and they see women only as sources of sexual pleasure. Again, who does this remind you of? Trump loves to boast how rich he is, and he talks about women like they’re only valuable if they’re sexy.

As Suderman points out, Trump talks a lot about the problems he’s going to fix to “make America great again” but he can’t explain how he’ll implement his ideas because he doesn’t think he needs to. Trump offers his followers “buttfart fascism” because buttfarts are all he thinks he needs to get what he wants, and “fascism” it just another way of saying he wans to be in control.

Psychopaths can seem like normal people, but they are aliens among us. Their disguise is often excellent — good enough to fool teachers, girlfriends, investors, judges, mental health professionals, and corrections officers. However, they lack the instinctive empathy that normal people have, so they slip up in situations where they haven’t yet learned to fake normality. Trump says terrible things, and then he’s genuinely surprised that people are shocked.

(You might think I’m overstating the degree to which psychopaths are different from normal people, but I’m trying to counter the usual mistake people make with psychopaths, which is to assume they can’t really be that bad, they’d never do something so nakedly awful, that this time you’ve gotten through to them, and this time they’re really trying to do better…)

It’s no defense of Trump to point out that other politicians have done the same things Trump is doing. That just means a lot of other politicians also have psychopathic tendencies, which doesn’t surprise me. A lot of business people have those tendencies too. It turns out that focusing on your own goals with utter disregard for the welfare of others is a common route to some forms of success. From a distance, it can even look a lot like confident leadership.

Which brings me to the thing about Trump’s campaign that is perhaps most disturbing, the thing that I suspect worries my friend Mirriam the most: What if Trump is right? If he’s so successful because he’s telling people what they want to hear, then why do so many of my fellow Americans want to hear such awful things? If Donald Trump is appealing to, in words of Fox host Shepard Smith, “the worst, darkest part of all that is America,” then shouldn’t we be worried that polls say he appeals to so many Americans?

I’m inclined to say we shouldn’t be too worried. I think I still buy Nate Silver’s basic argument that at this point most voters aren’t really paying attention to politics yet, so the people being polled are basing their poll answers on random bits of information about the candidates that they picked up in passing. Trump goes off lots of different directions — promising to stop terrorism, attacking Hillary Clinton, railing at the media — and so he’s appealing to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, but I don’t think they know that much about him, and I don’t think they represent a cohesive force in politics.

Further evidence of this comes from a recent poll showing that a substantial minority of Americans want to bomb the fictional city of Agrabah, including a whopping 41% of Trump supporters. It’s funny to think that this shows how stupid Trump supporters are, but I think you could argue that it shows how little thought people give to answering poll questions from random strangers.

I’d like to think we’re still a country that is more or less (on good days) freedom loving, tolerant, inclusive, and smart enough to reject the awfulness that is Donald Trump. I hope that when it comes down to the election we are no more likely to elect Trump than we are to bomb Agrabah.

Who Will Run With Trump?

I still believe in Nate Silver’s argument for why Donald Trump will almost certainly not be the Republican nominee for President (basically, if he doesn’t blow up his own campaign, the party establishment will do it for him), but the strength of my belief has been shaken by the Donald’s surprising staying power in the polls and by the big-time professional political operatives who have gone to work for him. It’s getting a bit scary.

This raises the question of who Trump might pick for Vice President if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee. It’s fun to speculate, because the usual rule is that the running mate has to be crazier than the main candidate, and who that heck would that be?

Michele Bachmann seems to be auditioning for the role with some of her recent remarks (the satirists are already giving her the job), and former pro-wrestler and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura has indicated he’d be interested. And in breaking news, so has Charlie Sheen, who certainly meets the requirement, but I think he’s kidding.

The thing is though, the usual rules don’t apply to Donald Trump. The reason for picking someone crazy as a running mate is so they can act as the campaign attack dog, savaging opponents while allowing the presidential candidate to assume a dignified position above all the dirty fighting. But Trump likes the dirty fighting. In the Trump campaign, Trump is the attack dog.

I suppose it’s possible that Trump will follow the measured and careful advice of his high-priced political operatives and pick someone who balances out the ticket and helps with votes in critical states. But if Trump was the kind of guy who played it measured and careful, none of us would know his name. Trump is going to do something outlandish.

When he was sniffing around the presidency in 1999, Trump famously announced that he would fix U.S. trade policy by appointing himself as the country’s Trade Representative, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s thought of running for both President and Vice President.

That probably won’t happen. But at the same time, Trump loves the attention, so it’s hard to imagine him sharing the limelight with anyone else. Still, I think he’s got to pick someone, so who will it be?

Trump has a giant ego — the biggest, classiest, best ego — and he thinks he can run the country like he runs his company, so my prediction is that his second-in-command for the nation will be his second-in-command for his company: Donald Trump Jr. Because why wouldn’t he pick his eldest son to take over if he dies?

His other children, Ivanka and Eric, are too young to meet the presidential age qualification, but I expect that regardless of whether Junior gets the VP nod, if The Donald becomes The President, he’ll want some of his kids in the White House with him, if not in the Cabinet. Because that’s just how he rolls.

And in the unlikely even that he ever comes across this post, his honest response would probably be, “What’s wrong with that?”

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