'He is a malignant narcissist': Expert explains the psychopathology that 'underlies' Trump's dictatorial and autocratic preferences

'He is a malignant narcissist': Expert explains the psychopathology that 'underlies' Trump's dictatorial and autocratic preferences
President Donald J. Trump walks into the East Room of the White House to address his remarks on Operation Legend: Combatting Violent Crime in American Cities Wednesday, July 22, 2020, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

I’m not being hyperbolic or melodramatic when I say that democracy itself is on the line on November 3. Donald Trump has been on a mission to subvert our democracy and to push it toward an autocracy. No president has ever disavowed democracy like Trump. No president has ever wanted to change our democratic way of life like Trump.


Trump has shown little interest or intent in following our Constitution. He is not abiding by the emoluments clause. He breaks norms and rules at will. He does not recognize that the three branches of government are co-equal. He operates as if the executive branch has total power. Our democracy is not based on the executive branch having absolute power. It requires that the three branches have separate powers in a check-and-balances system. Trump impugns democracy because it limits his power and requires him to be held accountable.

Trump has crossed boundaries and politicized the Justice Department. He has finally “hired” an attorney general who functions as his personal attorney rather than the top judicial official for the country. Trump has done this so that he can stop any criminal investigations into his behavior. This allows his corruption to run rampant. That’s not how the judicial branch of government is intended to function in our democracy. It is designed to be independent with its own power. But not according to Trump.

A free press is guaranteed in the first amendment of the Constitution. But Donald Trump has systematically tried to undermine our free press from the beginning. The press’ role is to be a watchdog of government and to provide information to the public. Trump hates the press because he does not want to be watched, examined, scrutinized, or challenged. Whenever he does not like a story, he calls it “fake news” in order to minimize its importance to the public. Trump hates journalists, calls them “the enemy of the people,” and believes he can jail them. A free press is critical in a democracy. It keeps our elected officials earnest and honest. That’s why Trump is so disdainful and dismissive of the press. The irony is that it is the free press that helped to elect him in 2016.

The right to peacefully protest is protected in the Constitution as well. Violent protests are against the law, but non-violent protests are a part of our country’s heritage and are clearly protected In the first amendment. I wish Congressman John Lewis could once again talk to us about the importance of peaceful protests in the civil rights movement. But Trump has not be able to tolerate peaceful protests against him or his policies. In fact, he has sent federal troops into American cities to provoke aggressive conflicts with protestors so that he could flex his presidential muscle. The right to peaceful protests must be protected at all cost in our democracy. Trump has disowned that part of our Constitution. He just cannot personally endure a protest against him; it shakes his fragile ego and triggers his hostile urges.

Presidential corruption is antithetical to our democratic way of life. Trump’s associates and cronies are now convicted felons because of their activities in his administration. Trump himself is an unindicted co-conspirator. He is facing other criminal charges after he leaves office. Criminality in our president chips away at our democracy. It must not be tolerated. Let’s not forget that Trump was impeached in late 2019 for his corrupt behavior.

We live in a representative democracy. We elect our representatives at the voting booth. Trump is up for re-election on November 3. He has condoned and fueled a campaign of voter suppression that is anti-democratic in its intent. All Americans have the right to vote. But Trump is in favor of limiting polling booths, having restrictive rules, and not allowing mail-in voting. Trump’s voter suppression tactics are unconscionable in a democracy. And, again, an irony is that Trump votes by mail.

Finally, Trump floated the idea of postponing the Nov 3 election because of the pandemic. That, too, would be contrary to our Constitution. And it would be disruptive and unacceptable because it would be solely for Trump’s political and personal advantage.

Trump has spent the past four years attacking our democracy for his own personal and political gains. He is a malignant narcissist with antisocial leanings. His psychopathology is what underlies his dictatorial and autocratic preferences. His psychiatric disturbance won’t just disappear magically. Its influence is severe and constant.

As my colleagues and I have written, Trump in a second term would feel empowered and emboldened to erode democracy even further. The result would be a dictatorship in an autocracy if it is left up to him. That is Trump’s intent. Do not be misled or fooled by his words. Look at his deeds.

Make no mistake about it, Donald Trump is attacking our democracy like no president in the past. Please don’t ignore it or minimize it. It is a full-frontal assault that will have disastrous consequences for decades and even generations to come.

Vote on Nov 3 for our democracy. It is on the ballot.

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