The Donald Trump Phenomenon.
First of all, before I get going, let me impose the “10 % Rule” on the reader. Otherwise, you will be reading things you already know or may not want to know. The “Rule” is to ask yourself two questions:
1) “How am I like Donald Trump?” Try to find just 10% in you that’s like this man. Some people get the hang of it and find 20%! It’s usually something negative; but self-knowledge is not for the weak. It may be that you are like him in some way only privately, not in public. But that’s not the point.
2) “How could I benefit by being 10% more like Trump?” One person reported that she was too self-effacing and needed to be “more like Trump,” that sort of thing. Another person said that he was too scripted and needed to express himself “more spontaneously,” the way Trump does. Both persons said they didn’t like the man, but that’s not the point of the exercise.
If you’ve passed this test, then you are prepared to hear that Donald Trump is an exceptionally willing recipient of unconscious projections, “good and bad.” People can’t stop talking about him, because he is fascinating. And “fascination” is always a clue that some projection is occurring—causing a charged response, a kind of emotional attachment that won’t let go. As Jung remarked, and I paraphrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you are talking about that matters.” And a lot of people are talking “about” Trump.
Answering the questions I proposed, however, begins the process of withdrawing one’s personal projections onto our current President. That softens the fascination (positive or negative) and returns psychological energy invested in him back to you . . . from where it began. He becomes in your perception more objectively what he is. And you become more independent, speaking or thinking about him as you choose, not involuntarily “all the time.” A highly successful woman I know—sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and generous on a very large scale—said to me when we discussed this dynamic, “Then he hasn’t won.”
Of course, I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. For one thing, Mar-a-Lago is twenty minutes up the road from me, and traffic is unpredictable when he’s in town. For another, I know people who know him who say he really is rude. He certainly is not sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and generous. Those are high values to me, and I am stuck with my values and must defend them. I am not obliged to impose them on others, however, or that would be bullying. I detest bullying and belittling, behavior that Trump displays publicly almost daily.
Yet being a moral reprobate is not really the issue. After all, the “10% Rule” means we’re all somewhat like that. What is indefensible is the psychology: It is simply wrong to berate others for being “crooked” when one’s own attitudes, words, and actions are anything but straight. Analysis does not allow it, nor does one’s own dream life. Let’s call it the “100% Rule.”
So how did this man get elected to represent America? I won’t try to answer that politically, economically, or socially. Others—perhaps you yourself—have explained the matter already very well. You may be a professional in one of those areas. And to answer the question, there are many angles one can take. One angle not often expressed, however, is the psychology of this phenomenon. We have a “representative government,” and it is simply true that a sufficiently large swath of America looks psychologically like Donald Trump and voted for “their” man. He “represents” that swath. And their loyalty is explained by projection (and consequent attachment or identification) that will stick: “Even if I shot someone on Fifth Avenue . . . ,“ as their man said with uncanny accuracy.
Personally, I find that deplorable. And Hillary Clinton was correct (albeit politically foolish) to use the word (especially, since some of her own behavior had been deplorable). Quite a few people in my state started to wear “I’m deplorable” T-shirts—with a smile or a smirk. But they were also owning, defensively and inadvertently, the truth about their attitudes and behavior. This is “shadow” territory. That is, it is an aspect of America that generally resides just on the other side of awareness, in the shadows, but there nonetheless.
From a distance, other nations have always seen it; and our enemies have never been fooled by our conscious self-serving platitudes. Now, we all get to see up front the Ugly American that we also are.
I emphasized “also” because we also are—as Edward Edinger has reminded us—the best Hope of the World. Yes, there is a lot of illusory projection in that “hope” readily dispelled when visitors or immigrants (!) arrive on our shores.
But we really are a sort of alchemical melting pot of all nations, ethnicities, and views (political, religious, etc.). And if we can melt all that into something viable, something possible, then the world has a chance to do so as well. We can survive. From all my travels, I really get the sense that we are being watched as a model. Edinger prompts us to keep in mind our motto, “E Pluribus Unum.” But it requires a bit of education, some sophistication, to understand what that Latin phrase means.
There is a problem with the “melting pot” image, however, since it suggests a melting down into something that does not preserve valuable differences. And I am reluctant to shift to an image of our nation as a “diamond” with many facets. Instead, let us stay with the “pot” and conclude that what was sitting at the bottom has been stirred up in the recent election cycle and has worked its way to the top . . . where it is now visible to everyone. But that stuff, too, will be subject to more stirring, as time goes by, to “blend” more into the whole substance of who we really are, with all its differences. To believe that, as I do, is to trust in something greater than a mere election cycle and to trust that the creative Self of the nation—that does all this stirring—knows what it is doing.
Besides, the “Trump Phenomenon” makes it clear that we are both Beautiful and Ugly. It is always best to admit reality, not to deny one side in favor of another side. It is also true—and this is why “Oneness” can be misleading—that the “opposites” will always be with us, generating the energy of a culture and the energy of the individuals that form it. The ancient Chinese wisdom of “Yin and Yang” says that. And we can see from a distance that modern China’s efforts to be “only one thing” will fail.
America will always be beautiful and ugly, the land of the free and the restrained, brave and pusillanimous . . . but willing, I “hope” along with the rest of the world, to admit it in the long run and to struggle openly with its contradictions, to seek a way to accommodate both sides of every argument. Because there are always two sides! That is why, in our political genius, we have two “opposing” parties, each of which has a point (although in the voting booth, one has to choose which side comes closest to one’s own peculiar set of values). My personal worry is that these political parties will not admit soon enough that the “other side” is also right in some way or to some degree, that they will not sense (with just a bit of wisdom) that they are looking at their own “shadow” across the aisle.
But that brings up the “archetype of the Apocalypse” and the more serious problem of the collapse of cultures. I will have to discuss that in another post.