Unhealthy societies tend to develop unhealthy people. 20th century philosopher Adorno once said, wrong life cannot be lived rightly. One indication of such a wrong life as well as an unhealthy and damaged society, is the existence of people we call psychopaths. Whether at work, in schools, the army, hospitals, universities, and even in politics, ordinary bullies and psychopaths operate around us.
One might argue that many bullies might in fact be psychopaths depicting a mental condition of persistent antisocial behavior portraying impaired or literally having no empathy at all. Their strong egotistical behavior shows no remorse with next to no inhibitions to harm others.
Yet not all psychopaths appear like the typical bully. Unlike the classical bully, the political psychopath charms us with their playful charisma and business or political acumen. Most importantly, virtually all political psychopaths have one thing in common, they don’t have any empathy.
In politics, this, for example, means that the political psychopath shows no interest in cooperative working relationship – thus sees the opposition as the enemy to be annihilated. Instead of engaging in a collaboration, the political psychopath longs for his own political power and glory. This behavior sees the political psychopath squashing anyone who gets in his way. And it is more often his rather than her way as there are more men who are psychopaths than there are women.
Apart from the absence of having any empathy, the political psychopaths has no qualms in destroying opponents, their positions, their jobs, their social network, and their careers. They resent teamwork and fruitful working relationships. Worse, political psychopaths might even annihilate democratic organizations, if need be, and even democracy itself – as long as it furthers their own power and grandiosity.
In the corporate world, for example, former Apple boss Steve Jobs is known to have had a lack of empathy. And in the world of politics, the list dates back as far as to Caligula who was the 3rd emperor of the Roman empire; Russia’s Ivan, the Terrible is a more recent example.
Among them also is Vlad, The Impaler – the historical origins of Dracula. Today’s prime example is none other than Donald Trump– the obvious choice as well as Google’s algorithmic choice – with his name coming up overwhelmingly.
The political psychopath is an Uber-narcissist and a Machiavellian manipulator. At times, the political psychopath is simply labeled antisocial, a toxic person, or a sociopath. Yet, the better, perhaps even correct term is a psychopath. Such a psychopath can be defined through two elements:
- the political psychopath sees other human beings simply as easy prey;
- they also see our world as being full of powerful predators – the goal is to outsmart them, to win.
In 2019, Trump erroneously announced, Hurricane Dorian will impact Alabama. Following widespread anxiety, the US Weather Bureau issued a statement. It contradicted Trump. Yet, the weather bureau assured Alabama that they were – actually – not in the path of the hurricane. As a consequence, Trump then spent an entire week insisting his forecast of the hurricane’s path was correct.
This case could indicate that Trump might simply be an egomaniac. Yet, this isn’t really the correct interpretation of the case. Trump’s mania with Hurricane Dorian was actually not at all about the hurricane itself. For the political psychopath, it is all about proving oneself to be right.
Having to show to be in the right is a classical feature of the political psychopath. Compared to the rather simple egomaniac, the political psychopath is defined through his inability to accept that he could be wrong.
When it comes to political psychopaths, it might be all too easy to shelve a psychopath as simply being an egomaniacal narcissist when in fact they are trying to bend reality to match a decision they have already made.
The political psychopath surrounds himself with loyal lackeys and hence has no feedback loop – particularly eliminating any form of critique. Because of this, the political psychopath never thinks that their – often unilateral – decisions can ever be wrong.
Political psychopaths are convinced that if facts and even reality proves them wrong, there must be something wrong with facts and reality – and none of themselves. Since the political psychopath never trusts anyoneor anything – not even reality – the political psychopath is forced to control even the minutest detail of other people’s work, jobs, and lives.
Yet, their own grandiosity tells political psychopaths – like Trump – to consider themselves experts in almost anything and everything. As an example, Trump truly believes himself to be “the” foreign policy expert. When meeting with Putin, he said that his real estate experience gave him a gut feel for dealing with foreign leaders, even noting that foreign policy is what I’ll be remembered for.
Whether in foreign policy or in domestic affairs, the political psychopath is convinced that he is the lonely shepherd and that he is surrounded by weak and incompetent sheep. Worse, asking a political psychopath like Donald Trump to care about anything else but himself would strike them as utterly absurd, bizarre, and ludicrous.
An element that shows that Trump cared only about himself lies in the fact that he was the most litigious presidential candidate ever – and before becoming the president, Trump was involved in over 3,500 cases.
Post-office, he continues to face rafts of lawsuits– again, more than any other former presidents. Not only do Trump’s illegal activities and disingenuous and deceptive statements border on madness, the political psychopath – and this includes Trump – tends to erase previous failures from his memories.
This also extends to any memory of having made someone else frightened and fearful. The political psychopath does not record this as a bad experience to be avoided. Worse, the political psychopath will do exactly the same thing the next time – or will do it even worse.
It encourages him – including Trump – to carry on. All in all, the political psychopath is extremely resentful towards others. Whatever 19th century philosopher Nietzsche wrote on resentment, the political psychopath is your man.
The political psychopath also believes that virtually all other human beings are simple livestock to be manipulated – for the psychopath’s political benefit, of course. The leader makes all decisions while followers go where they are pointed to go. Any recalcitrant and disloyal follower will receive an extremely angry comeback. Disloyalty is punished by being isolated from the in-group.
Meanwhile, one of the dire consequences of being a political psychopath is that the longer the political psychopath runs a democratic institution, the less likely it is that administrators and civil servants will remain in their appointed position.
Those who can, will leave and those who can’t, will do the absolute minimum required to keep their position. Unsurprisingly, Trump’s staff turnover at the White House was truly shocking.
Political psychopaths like Trump lie all the time – continuously and consistently. While Trump is not the first politician to have lied – the sheer volume of his lies is mind-numbing. There have been 30,573 lies during his presidency.
In politics, there might be small lies and there might be big lies, but for the political psychopath, lies are a necessity – even for the utmost unnoticeable gains and unsurprisingly, they have no shame about lying.
They also have no shame in general. A good example is that of Trump snubbing to give an apology for his grab ‘em by the pussy secret video. The political psychopath shows he cannot be shamed into realizing that he committed immoral and offensive conduct. Worse, with getting away with it, gives them a license or right to carry on – potentially worse than before.
The political psychopath will say and do whatever gets him an immediate advantage. They do not have any concern for potential consequences. This even includes probable damage to their reputation. In other words, the political psychopath hardly knows any boundaries.
To be able to do all this, the political psychopath is a true master of creating the right impressions, appear in a favorable light, and run the perfect political campaign. One might even argue that the political psychopath has spent his entire political life hiding in plain sight.
To maintain a charismatic façade, the political psychopath insists on loyalty – even at the expense of competence. They always prefer flattery over truth and they long to hear the yes, minister!
In other words, if the political psychopath wants you to print something on a single-sided paper rather than double-sided, you do it, no matter how stupid and wasteful you think it is.
Meanwhile inside democratic institutions, the political psychopath drains the trust from political organizations. Yet, in also drains trust from democracy itself – perhaps even creating something called “pathocracy”.
The political psychopath destroys trust in others, in democratic institutions, and in democracy. As a Machiavellian operator, the political psychopath may not even understand the idea of democracy. For him, democracy is no more than a tool to further his advances.
At the same time, in one-on-one situations, the political psychopath keeps up his charm sufficiently enough to fool most of us. But inevitably, the mask of the political psychopath will – most likely – slip whenever a truly empathic response is required.
Despite all this, the political psychopath never takes responsibility. He always blames others. He loves to blame the victim – whether migrants (Trump’s Mexican rapists) or otherwise. Simultaneously, the political psychopath isn’t able to believe he has done anything wrong.
To the political psychopath, other people’s shortcomings, weaknesses, and mistakes are only useful as potential tool to be used against them.
All in all, the political psychopath is a callous manipulator who is only interested in himself and his own personal advances. Everyone around him is seen as a fool and a loser to be manipulated for the political psychopath’s own benefit. But this is not even the worst part.
The political psychopath operates in complete disregard of what we call humility and in total rejection of what we call humanity. He lacks any understanding of either one. To him, claiming humanity is just tools to be used.
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