“I believe JR really loved Sue Ellen
And that things sound better when you’re yellin’
I believe that the Devil is ready to repent
But I can’t believe Donald Trump Is president”
Not The Nine O’Clock News circa 1980, edited for 2016″
The song “I Believe” was a parody American folk song from British satirical comedy programme which mocked the election of Ronald Regan to the office of president. The election of former B-movie actor, Regan was not as absurd as might at first appear, since at least he had held political office as Governor of California for 10 years eschewing his previous identity as an actor. By all accounts he was a pretty skilled politician with a past when he entered the White house in 1981. Comparisons between Trump and Regan should end there. The incredulity of his many in his electorate and those of us in Europe however will not go away as easily.
2016 has been a year of the unexpected in democratic terms. Firstly, in June the Brits voted to divorce themselves from Europe and now this month, Trump, whom everyone thought of as a Joke has been elected 44(5)th president of the United States, arguably the most powerful democratic office in the democratic world. Next year, if the surprise lurch to what was considered electoral margins continues, stalwart of European politics, Angela Merkel will be ousted, and in France, darling of the right, Marine Le Pen will do something her father in his extremism could only dream of, be elected president of France.
We live in uncertain times. The pace of change has increased to that which we as human beings can’t hold on to (as demonstrated by the many iterations of the presentation “Shift Happens” an original representation from Arapahoe High School in 2006). This itself causes a kind of mental pain which Alvin Toffler termed “Future Shock”. Add to this mass migration (Europe, Syria and North Africa) and an employment market which has been stripped of “traditional” “working class” jobs, combined with a lack of security in employment for the “lower” middle classes (clerical and administrative) who have suffered proletarianisation with stable jobs being off-shored to Mumbai or stateless organisations such as Elance and Upwork.
For those who have additional sensibilities, depite the shrinking of the Ozone Hole above the Antarctic, global warming is killing off polar bears and our addiction to all- things palm oil is causing orangutans and their neighbours to verge on the borders of extinction. Modern life is scary.
Wizzie Of Oz
So we want the Wizard of Oz. The wizard of Oz was authoritarian, offering certainty, a mere man who gave gifts of sawdust, plastic and oil to help those who were afraid manage the uncertainties of their existence. Trump and Farage offer the same and in doing so offer their narcissism in exchange.
The Diagnostic and statistical manner describes narcissists as having an exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements). The confidence of politicians such as Farage, Trump and Le Pen, compensate for our lack of certainty and it doesn’t matter to us whether they are right, merely that they believe they are .
Trump’s speeches focussed on the phrase “It’s going to be great”. Trump names everything after himself and lives on a “Golden Tower” which in metaphorically speaking, not unlike the “Emerald City” both Gold and Emeralds have powerful symbolism in our culture. His confidence and sense of self-importance, I think, are a lot more secure for us than the intellectual maybes of Obama and Merkel.
The second characteristic of a narcissist is a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love. To those of us stuck in our mundane, ordinary lives of flatulence, failures and personal falling downs can be swept away by the self-belief of these politicians. Nigel Farage has “resigned” from the leadership of UKIP (The United Kingdom Independence Party) at least twice. Each time making bold statements about it being time for someone else to take on the leadership mantle, only to return when the party cannot find anyone as brilliant as him to take it on.
Never fear, Nigel is here and his grandiose sense of self-importance can only be inflated by his relationship with Trump, but a certain element in the English electorate love him and take comfort from his confidence on the world stage, however short lived it might be.
Take Advantage of Others
Narcissists too are said to selfishly take advantage of others for their own ends. What most politicians want is power, to that extent it could be said that they are all alike. What sets the current cadre apart from those of the past is their exploitation of the electorate for their own ends and not out of any sense of service. Insecurities about employment and the failure of governments to provide ready and quick answers have been set upon and turned into phrases with mantra-like qualities: “Its going to be great!” or “I want to take our country back” wonderful sounds full of “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
Hilary and the remain camp had no way of arguing against these meaningless but powerfully expressed ideas and I suspect Merkel and Hollande will similarly fall like ten pins in the months to come. Even the very public accusations of sexual harassment levelled at Trump and charges of racism at Farage did not diminish their appeal.
Whilst these politicians demonstrate contempt for us be overly simplifying the difficulties we face in the 21st century. We lap up the patronizing attitude of these narcissists because it is more palatable than uncertainty we live in. We want to burn up fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow; to have cheap consumer goods and services without losing our jobs; to be slim and eat junk food; not to pay taxes but for all the services we need to be always there for us; to live in a world which has forgotten the answer to the question “who is my neighbour” and for it all to be OK just like the endings of a thousand blockbuster movies. Child-like people need to believe in the Wizard of Oz and his or her booming voice but what happens when the curtain falls away to reveal a little man from New York who knows little and understands less?