Diagnosing Donald Trump, and His Voters

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From The New Yorker: In a new book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a group of mental health experts warn the public of Donald Trump’s troubling mental state. Their work raises questions about whether diagnosing and evaluating the mental health status of political leaders may endanger democracy.

“No one of sound mind would suspect Trump of being a visionary. But is there an objective, value-free way to draw the very subjective and generally value-laden distinction between vision and insanity? More to the point, is there a way to avert the danger posed by Trump’s craziness that won’t set us on the path of policing the thinking of democratically elected leaders? Zimbardo suggests that there should be a vetting process for Presidential candidates, akin to psychological tests used for ‘positions ranging from department store sales clerk to high-level executive.’ Craig Malkin, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and the author of ‘Rethinking Narcissism,’ suggests relying on ‘people already trained to provide functional and risk assessment based entirely on observation—forensic psychiatrists and psychologists as well as “profilers” groomed by the CIA, the FBI, and various law enforcement agencies.’ This is a positively terrifying idea. As Mark Joseph Stern wrote in Slate in response to last December’s calls for the Electoral College to un-elect Trump, it ‘only made sense if you assumed as a starting point that America would never hold another presidential election.'”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent analysis and rebuttal of the book. The last paragraph which mentions questioning his voters’ mental health requires addressing. Repeated surveys from Gallop report that Republicans have higher rates of mental wellness than Democrats. Even when demographic factors like race, income, and educational level are controlled for, right-wingers report being happier than lefties and utilize psychiatric services at lower rates. So which side is crazier? Can’t we just admit that different folks have different values and that doesn’t make them crazy? Selfish perhaps but not crazy. Trump’s voters voted for the guy who said he’d bring jobs back, bring God back, and make America great again. They looked beyond his behavior and voted in what they believed were their best interests. FWIW, a lot of Clinton voters overlooked all the flaws Bernie Sanders illuminated about her/establishment Democrats during his campaign and they voted for her in their own self interests. It’d be nice if we could focus on the fact that Trump is a bad man instead of maligning him as a mad man. It’d be nice if this means to an end crap would stop. Anyone could be psychiatry’s next target. It’s up to all of us to stop the stigmatization of those with altered experiences and instead focus on holding individuals accountable for bad behavior.

    • Ditto on all that. I’m wondering if all this “shrinks vs. Trump” stuff might backfire on them, as there’s a lot of room for ridicule here. It certainly shows that “mental health” is not a politically neutral concept. Why no shrinks marching against Clinton, who has far more blood on her hands?