Poor Chuck Todd! He’s just coming to realize something some of us realized years ago. He, and most other journalists, have been involved in an abusive relationship with Donald J. Trump and the Trump Party.
Todd, a powerful decision-maker in political journalism as moderator of Meet the Press and Political Director for NBC News, acknowledged in a Rolling Stone interview that perhaps how the media is covering the Trump Party is not really doing us any favors. He is recognizing at long last that these blatantly manipulative, lying, gaslighting, and conniving people are, in fact, manipulating, lying, gaslighting, and conniving when they go on TV. Shocking, right, Chuck!? Who knew?!
Now, this is a difficult time in the recovery process for abuse victims, as they are often loaded with self-shaming and blaming — “How did I not recognize these abusive behaviors sooner? How could I have been lied to and duped by these con artists? How did I not react to these evil, deceptive, and manipulative people with any sense of moral outrage? How did I enable these immoral people to get away with such blatant disinformation and lies on national TV?” (Or, at least that’s what I might be thinking…)
Now, it would be easy for some of us to gloat and say: “I told you so!” Especially those of us who for nearly four years have been writing regularly about Trump’s abusive, narcissistic and sociopathic personality since March 2016. Especially those of us who are experts on the subject and wrote an entire chapter entitled “In Relationship with an Abusive President” in a bestselling book called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” Dangerous… Abusive… Hmmm….
But I will try not to be frustrated that the warnings of expert psychologists and psychiatrists were ignored, causing a tyrant to come to power and causing great damage to the country, the democratic functioning of our government, and the mental health of the citizenry. I will try not to be frustrated that the major broadcast networks gave Trump millions of dollars in free air time during his campaign to sow propaganda and falsehoods without any kind of filter. (This is one of the reasons I cut my cable subscription three years ago — because CNN had become Trump TV and the guy’s voice makes my skin crawl.)
Nevertheless, we must find compassion for naive, trusting people who believe the best in their fellow human beings and have not yet discovered that some people are, in fact, not to be trusted.
Look, I commiserate, Chuck. I was once in an abusive relationship myself. I was naive because I had been raised in a Christian household and told to believe the best of everyone and that everyone has good intentions. But, clearly, that’s just not true. Some people, because of their unfortunate and traumatic childhoods, grow up to be immoral, mean, vindictive, selfish, criminal, self-aggrandizing jerks (See: @RealDonaldTrump). Now, we’re all flawed and can engage in not-so-nice behaviors at times, but when it reaches extremes (See: @RealDonaldTrump), these people are DANGEROUS. I cannot stress this enough. I see the results of their dangerous behaviors every day in my therapy practice. They destroying the self-worth of their victims, commit numerous types of crimes, and lie and cheat their way through life.
Todd says he believed the Republicans were acting in good faith when they talked to the media. Well, here is a brief explainer about this type of personality: Many call them narcissists or sociopaths, but I’ve labeled them “Other-Blamers” because when they experience shame or perceive they might fail or be humiliated, they engage in deflecting and defensive behaviors to relieve them of the experience of embarrassment. They lie, blame-shift, name-call, gaslight, bully and intimidate, threaten, con, bluster, play the victim, excuse, avoid, deny, deflect, etc, etc. (See: @RealDonaldTrump). They do this to protect their fragile self-worth and in extremes, they do this without regard for the effect of their behaviors on others. (Again see: @RealDonaldTrump). They lack empathy, kindness, compassion, reciprocity and regard for social norms. In other words, they will never act in good faith in a relationship. Expecting them to do so is like expecting an elephant to be able to text you on a smart phone.
Other-blamers also feel entitled and above the law, because this permits them the ultimate escape from accountability — “The laws don’t apply to me!” Narcissists want to gaslight victims to get them to feel destabilized about what is reality and truth — so the victim does not challenge the narcissist’s version of the “truth.”
In the Rolling Stone article Todd is surprised that the right-wing politicians enjoy attacking the press for no reason at all. Again, consider that the Other-blamer personality does not like those who can hold them accountable. They instinctively want to systemically weaken a person or organization that can speak truth to their power. This is why dictators always attack the news media, because these are organizations with the power to call them out on their corruption, immorality, treason, deception, criminality etc. (See: @RealDonaldTrump).
Todd is also surprised that the GOP lies, even though they must know that their lies will be uncovered or noted poorly in history. Again, Todd and others like him do not understand the emotional power of shame. Other-blamers will often go to extremes to avoid being told they were wrong or made a mistake, because they so fear the experience of shame and unworthiness. So they will lie blatantly, because in that moment in assuages their fear of experiencing a feeling of inferiority. This is another behavior that I see repeatedly in therapy. A wife will be very angry because she has evidence of her husband’s affair or gambling problem, but he will blatantly lie about it, which just excerbates her distrust of him and serves no purpose in repairing the marriage. It does, however, serve his short-term need to feel better about himself.
Lessons That Need to be Learned: Narcissists Do Not Act In Good Faith
The lesson is this: To go into a relationship with a narcissist or Other-Blamer and expect them to act with mutuality and respect is just foolish. Because they truly believe the laws of altruism and reciprocity do not apply to them. You are setting yourself up to be played for a patsy at best and to be emotionally abused or even physically harmed at worst.
If this were just an individual abusive relationship, enabling the behavior of the abuser would have limited repercussions. But when a severe sociopathic narcissist is in the White House, enabled by an entire party and millions of cult followers, the inability of Todd and other journalists and political pundits to recognize this basic psychological fact is a major problem.
As Heather Cox Richardson wrote on Facebook on December 26, 2019: “The upshot is that, three years later, Trump’s base is divorced from reality, while other Americans are so tired from incessant gaslighting we have lost faith that we can still perceive reality. This is why gaslighting is effective propaganda: having lost confidence in their own perceptions, people are so eager for peace they are willing to accept a strong leader who will promise to create stability.”
Richardson also notes that Todd’s “naivete” is inexcusable: “Even more, it has been very clear that today’s Republican Party has risen to power by rejecting facts and creating its own reality. After World War Two, Republicans and Democrats both shared a belief that the government had a role to play in regulating the economy, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure. Indeed, that belief about government was so widely embraced it became known as the ‘liberal consensus.’”
She notes that in 2012 Thomas E. Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics…It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
Those of us well-versed in narcissistic personality traits read that last sentence describing the GOP and recognize that this is exactly how we would describe narcissistic personalities. To protect their fragile egos and avoid shame, they are extreme in their beliefs and behaviors (“I am always right and you are always wrong. I should never be held accountable for any of my behaviors, no matter how heinous they are. I can hold extreme beliefs and you have no ability to challenge them.”) They scorn compromise, because in compromise they might have to admit they made a mistake in judgment — experiences that Other-Blamers cannot tolerate. They do not like to believe facts, because facts can be used to prove them wrong. And they are dismissive of anyone who opposes them, because they do not like to be challenged and found wrong, so they negate and “other-ize” their opposition to weaken them right out of the gate.
I wrote in May 2018 that the GOP was a party of narcissists and sociopaths, and my opinion has only solidified since then.
Everyone must learn to recognize this personality type and go into relationships with them with their eyes wide open. The time for naivete about abusive personalities is over. Please, national media, read “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” read my blogs, open your eyes to the abuse we are all suffering.
You may also enjoy my three-part blog: Shame: The Emotion that Drives Trump’s Behaviors and Causes Tyrants, Narcissists, and Sociopaths.