Trump: the Blamer Goes Full Berserker by Marc A. Cirigliano
Image by Evan Vucci/AP Photo from Politico.
A look at Donald Trump's character presents even a casual observer with a disturbing picture of a person who is angry, callous, vindictive, predatory, larcenous, and, to put it simply, mean-spirited.
Trump is brazen about and proud to boast his feelings. As a Trumper told me, "Trump tells it like it is."
I think people confuse Trump's assertive, agressive behavior with "telling it like it is" because he is unusual in his approach.
Lying is not telling it like it is. No, something else is going on here.
It begins with Trump always out there blaming others. Constantly.
Because Trump blames others openly, in an odd way, he comes across as genuine. He offers a sharp and confident contrast to our political koiné, the usual patter of politicians based on the old adage you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. We are inundated with political ads, sound bites based on marketing prinicples designed to get you to buy something. As such, these words attempt to be both appealing and non-offensive. Often, they say little or nothing. That was the problem with Hillary Clinton. A lot of data. Market research, really. Leading to lots of advertising, but no real message.
Trump, on the other hand, had a message. The problem with America, Trump repeated and repeated loudly, was that certain groups of people in the US along with unfair treaties with countries abroad worked to stack the deck against the average American.
Trump was new, fresh and flew in the face of our poltical patter. While a lot of pols tried to be honey, Trump was and still is vinegar.
Trump was and is a real contrast. He makes quick, bold assertions, often accusations, that tie into your feelings that the economy is not helping you as much as you want, that politicians always seem to fight with each other, that the rich always get richer and that someone else is to blame.
Trump's accusations, then, always resonate with those who feel the system is rigged against the average person, that the world is filled with injustice, that we've been promised better, but haven't gotten it.
But, back to our point.
The reality is that Trump lies. But, when he lies, he shares his feelings,. Mostly angry feelings. It would be one thing if he directed them at himself in the sort of introspection and self-examination that most people engage in when they may have made a mistake. You know, that process, "Geez, did I screw up here? Sure I did! How can I get better so I don't do something like that again?"
Trump doesn't do that.
Instead, he is, as Virginia Satir provides us with a way to look at personalities, a blamer personality, always directing his gaze and his simple rhetoric outwards at others, consantly blaming.
The Satir Modes
One sound way to develop a snapshot of a person's personality is to use one of the five categories developed by family therapist Virginia Satir with her Five Satir Modes. Here are the five modes as defined by family therapist John Boesky:
- Blaming - looking for and seeing problems and fault in others, and they tend to boss others around and try to manipulate and control them. Blamers can often be quite narcissistic, and they believe that they are better than everyone else. They do not believe that they are accountable or at cause for any of the problems that they face in their lives
- Placating - tending to engage in behaviors that are designed to please, soothe, and pacify others.
- Computing - tending to detach themselves from their emotions and attempt to respond to situations in their lives in a logical and controlled way that is not influenced by their feelings.
- Distracting - tending to behave and respond in an unpredictable manner that jolts and interrupts oneself and others.
- Leveling - tending to the healthy communication mode of expressing oneself in an assertive manner so that one’s language and behavior is direct, straightforward, and congruent with one’s honest and authentic self.
Trump, to even a casual observer, is a blamer. He sees the world in black and white, either for him or against him. For Trump, in all relationships, in all interactions, there is a winner and there is a loser. There is never a tie. Never a simple meeting between people without casting it as a struggle for dominance.
Trump sees himself as a perpetual winner, not only blaming everyone he deals with, except the most obsequious placters, but also constantly going beyond simple blaming into the aggressive realm of attacking others.
The pattern of his behavior is consistent.
Trump begins by blaming. Then, he escalates by attacking. For example, he doesn't simply say of a fellow billionaire "He's not as charitable with his money as he says."
Trump takes it to another level, with this sort of addition onto his original "He's not as charitable with his money as he says" statement. Trump doubles down on that asserion with something like, "He's a loser. A phoney. He gives his money to P_____ Charity, a group that helps other losers." And, he may add on to that, "P_____ Charity doesn't just help losers. They are corrupt and nobody likes them. I'm surprised they're still in business. Everybody wonders about that."
This is his pattern of attack. 1) Blame. 2) Accuse. 3) Add another accusation on top of that. 4) Tie it something even bigger to make it seem genuinely awful. 5) State that everybody knows what he just said is true.
All to make himself look better and, in the case of an interaction with others, to make himself dominant.
So, in Trump's rhetorical strategy, people aren't just bad, they are apocalyptically terrible. As a politician, then, by delivering one attack that he builds on with sequential exaggerations, Trump engages in scapegoating, "singling out a person or group for unmerited blame and consequent negative treatment," and fearmongering, "spreading of frightening and exaggerated rumors of an impending danger to purposely arouse fear in order to manipulate the public."
With that comes the final piece of Trump's blaming equation: only he has the ability and can be trusted to fix this mess.
Trump Kicks Off His Presidential Campaign with Serious Accusations
Trump was unusual for a presidential candidate in that he came out directly to say that he was so rich, really rich were his exact words, that he would not owe any lobbyists or fat cats the sort of corrupt favors that all previous presidential candidates and presidents did. Instead, he promised to use his billionaire immunity to to ignore the rich elites who govern for their own gain and actually represent the average American. He was going to be a people's President.
As Trump kicked off his campaign on June 16, 2015, his core arguments were:
...The America we love will continue its decline because Washington is broken. We will never fix Washington from the inside unless we send someone to Washington from the outside. It is time for government to be run efficiently and effectively. It is time to get things done, and by done I mean properly done!
This is our time to once again make our government a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That is why today I am declaring my candidacy for President. I will Make America Great Again!
We will change Washington together and defeat the special interests. I am not a politician. I can’t be bought. I won’t be running around the country begging people for money for my campaign. I won’t owe anybody anything. I won’t be beholden to anyone except to you, the American people, if you elect me to serve as your President...
Lofty words, indeed.
"Washington is broken."
"We will never fix Washington from the inside unless we send someone to Washington from the outside."
"This is our time to once again make our government a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That is why today I am declaring my candidacy for President. I will Make America Great Again!"
And, the key point that Trump emphasized:
We will change Washington together and defeat the special interests. I am not a politician. I can’t be bought.
That's the plan.
The first major problem Trump deals with in his annuncement speech is immigration. Trump blames the Mexicans. But, as Trump points out, only he has the insight to see the scope of the problem, for he quickly adds other groups into the equation to create a false sense or urgency that the United States is being overwhelmed by an invasion of undesireable foreigners.
It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.
In other words, there is a problem of monumental proportion that the US goverment --inept, stupid and corrupt--cannot solve. They are letting in Mexicans, Southern and Latin Americans and Middle Easterners to harm our citizens and damage our country.
This is the pattern of his patter. Let us look at some other examples, because they reveal even more about his character.
The Pattern of Trump's Attacks
Trump's public attacks trace a disturbing pattern. Here are some of his most notorious attacks.
Trump had a heckler thrown out into freezing winter cold after having his security take the fellow's coat. During a campaign rally on Janaury 8, 2016 in Burlington, Vermont, 20,000 people signed up for a rally that could only hold 1400. Trump's security decided to pare down the numbers by only letting in those people who would vote for Trump. Nonetheless, some hecklers got in and started to boo Trump.
Regarding one heckler, Trump responded with, “Keep his coat! Confiscate his coat! You know it's about 10 degrees below zero outside." He commanded his security team, "You can keep his coat. Tell him we'll send it to him in a couple of weeks.”
Seriously, throwing someone out in the heart of a Vermont winter without his coat?
What about free speech? Assault and battery? Theft?
No one who’s followed Trump in the past several months was surprised that he booted the protester from his event with such prejudice, seeing as he’s done the same to other protesters, journalists, more protesters, and more journalists.
Then, there is the example of Trump mocking a person wth disabilities. As CNN reports in this video:
Besides a lack of manners, bad taste and a general inhumanity, Trump's mockery ignores the fact that, according to the CDC, 61 million people in the United States live with a disability. People with disabilities are protected from discrimination by law. The struggle to bring people with disabilities into mainstream society as equals was long and arduous. In fact, people with disabilities were the object of scorn and extreme misunderstanding:
In the 1800s, people with disabilities were considered meager, tragic, pitiful individuals unfit and unable to contribute to society, except to serve as ridiculed objects of entertainment in circuses and exhibitions. They were assumed to be abnormal and feeble-minded, and numerous persons were forced to undergo sterilization. People with disabilities were also forced to enter institutions and asylums, where many spent their entire lives. The “purification” and segregation of persons with disability were considered merciful actions, but ultimately served to keep people with disabilities invisible and hidden from a fearful and biased society.
Trump's misguided indignation towards people with disabilities, then, fits with his pattern of constant blaming, attacking and exaggerating.
Trump continues to tear into Mexicans. At the same time, Trump says he has a great relationship with Mexicans and Mexico. However, he immediately follows up with "Mexico is not sending their best." He builds this into his issue, his revelation, by adding that it is Mexicans who are rapists, who are bringing immense quantities of heroin into the United States.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” [Trump] said. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. 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.”
This can only be solved by building a wall all along the US border with Mexico, and that Mexico will pay for the wall.
Yes, Trump exclaims, "We are going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it!"
Just for analysis' sake, let us look at Trump's accusations here in list form so that we can see the snowballing effect of his negative rhetoric:
- Illegal Mexicans.
- The cause of America's heroin epidemic.
- We need a wall all along the border to stop the flow of Mexicans, rapists, heroin, etc.
- Mexico, who is at fault for all this, will have to pay for the wall, which "just got ten feet higher."
That is six things that are wrong here, according to Trump. Not one. Not two. But, six!
It is interesting to compare Trump's apocalyptic view of this problem with a contrasting investigation from the reporting of Simon Romero, Manny Fernandez, Jose A. Del Real and of the New York Times, where it is revealed that many think there is no problem with the border and with Mexicans:
“There is no border problem, except for ones we are causing,” said the rancher, who said he had not had any problems with illegal border crossers on his property and who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution from strident supporters of Mr. Trump’s planned border wall. “There’s no need for a bigger wall. There is not a border crisis down here.”
Trump also goes after Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas. Actually, Trump labels that Elizabeth Warren is the "fake Pocahontas" who traded on her fake heritage to get ahead in her education, her career as an attorney and as an elite law professor at Harvard.
According to the report, Warren’s test results show that she is of “primarily European descent,” but also that she has at least five genetic segments that are “Native American in origin at high confidence.”
One of these segments is larger than the others, spanning about 4.7 million bases, and further analysis indicates this DNA chunk has a genetic signature one would expect from a person having European and Native American heritage. The total length of all of Warren’s Native American-assigned segments is about 12.3 million bases, which the report states is about 12.4 times greater than the average in the Great Britain reference population, and 10.5 times greater than the average in the Utah population. Bustamante concludes there is “strong evidence” for a Native American ancestor roughly six to 10 generations ago.
As McDonald reports, "The new findings support Warren’s claim that she has at least one Native American ancestor, although they cannot reveal whether that individual was a member of any specific tribe." In fact, this is what Warren has said, that, according to her mother, there was a Native American somewhere back in the family tree.
This story of Warren's family lore goes deeper, though, because she did list her race as "American Indian" on her 1986 State Bar of Texas registration card.
Warren has since apologized for this, but independent verification has shown that, contrary to Trump's and the conservatives' assertions, Warren did not advanced her career using a Native American classification. As William Cummings writes in USA Today:
Trump and other conservatives have accused Warren of using her claim of minority status to benefit her in her academic and professional life.
But after a review of her personnel files from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, and more than 100 interviews, The Boston Globe concluded in September that, "It is clear that Warren was viewed as a white woman by the hiring committees at every institution that employed her."
So, here are, in list form, Trump's accusations against Elizabeth Warren's claim that she has lied about her heritage and used that lie to get unfair advantages throughout her career:
- Trump claims Warren says she is Native American. (Warren said her mother told her there is a Native American in the family tree.)
- Mocking this claim, Trump calls her Pocahontas. (This fits with Trump's discrimination against Native Americans.)
- Trump apologizes to the real Pocahontas and then lables Warren as "The Fake Pocahontas."
- He challenges her to take a DNA test and will pay her $1 million dollars if she is Native American. (She did, the test proved she had Native American blood, but Trump refused because, as one might expect, he claims the test was "bogus.")
- Warren benefitted in her career from lying about being Native American.
According to Trump, the overarching accusation here, then, is that Elizabeth Warren is a liar, a phoney and cannot be trusted. She lied to get sympathy from liberal groups for her political campaigns and to advance her career through affirmative action. Yet, it is Trump who has lied, exaggerated and claimed Warren did things that investigations have shown she did not.
Trump blames people. All the time.
He is the berzerker of blamers.
He then builds the blame into an accusation that reveals the guilty person, group or organization has committed a sequence of false and/or illegal acts that pose a threat to Americans, to the safety of American society and to the security of the American homeland itself.
Let us take a moment and consider the Trump's solutions to the problems we have discussed. In each case, Trump's solutions are extreme, cruel and abnormal, especially given that there are normal solutions at hand.
At his Burlington campaign rally, the solution would have been to heckle the heckler back. This is what any competent comedian or good public speaker would have done. Instead, Trumps goes the theatrical route abusing his political power by violating a person's human rights in having the heckler thrown outside into the freezing night without a coat.
With the disabled journalist, any normal response would have been just that: respond the what the journalist said. Instead, Trump mocks him as if we are back in the 17th or 18th centuries, a time of superstition, bigotry and cruelty.
With the immigrants at the border, the best solution would be to work with the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the like to help them improve their societies, their rule of law and economic opportunity so people would feel safe, secure and welcome in their respective homelands. Instead, Trump arrests Mexicans and other Latinos at the border, separates the children from their parents and puts everyone in cages. Bear in mind that illegal immigration is only a misdemeanor offense.
If there is a subtextual link in all of Trump's blaming, accusations and exaggerated claims of damage when there is, in reality little or no damage, it is this: Trump is a bigot, a bully and a sadist who goes after people of color, LGBTQ folk, the disabled, foreigners, immigrants, women, and, to save the worst for last, children. On the last one, of taking children from their parents and putting them in cages, just see below. The Frontline documentary shows us the cruel human rights abuses of Trump's boarder policies..
Watch the full Frontline documentary Separated Children at the Border here.
Yes, the blamer has gone full berzerker.