Alan D. Blotcky

Clinical psychologist wonders if Trump fans will ever realize he actually hates them

In May of this year, Donald Trump began telling associates that he plans to run for president in 2024 if he is healthy enough. In July, he told dinner pals that he is running. Just this month, he reiterated that he is likely to run again. The twice-impeached ex-president is increasing his media appearances and planning campaign-style rallies in Georgia and Iowa.

Trump's humiliating defeat to Joe Biden — which he refuses to acknowledge even occurred — has fomented a yearning for redemption. Whether he actually runs again remains uncertain, but he wants his supporters to be ready, willing and primed.

As Trump keeps his millions of supporters in suspense, they must answer one difficult question: Do they really want to continue to support a man who despises them and hurts them?

Donald Trump has always abhorred his supporters. He does not feel an ounce of empathy or affection for those who profess their devotion to him. He sees his supporters as weak, stupid and inferior. They are losers to him. He hates his supporters as much as he wants to destroy his detractors.

Actions speak louder than words. Just look at Trump's actions toward his supporters.

The best example is his detached, irresponsible and inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died on his watch. He relied on conspiracy theories, magical thinking, blatant lies and distractions to fool the American public. Trump followers in red states have died in huge numbers because they erroneously and foolishly believed he was the benevolent master of their fate. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was, in fact, an accessory to murder. His supporters' lives meant nothing to him.

Another example is Trump's incitement of the insurrection of the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was willing to overthrow democracy in order to remain in power. So he fabricated the Big Lie, knowing full well that his cult followers would carry out his anti-democratic mission. Was he on the front line with his supporters? Of course not — because he is a coward. He watched it all unfold on television as he cheered them on from the protected and comfortable surroundings of the White House. Trump wanted the election undermined and demanded that followers accomplish that goal. The result was failure, destruction, deaths, arrests and widespread condemnation. Trump has left his followers dangling in defeat. He has taken no responsibility for his incitement and has demonstrated no concern or remorse for his loyalists who face damaging legal consequences. He has thrown them under the bus because he detests them.

Millions of aggrieved Americans have tethered themselves to Trump's fake persona of superiority and strength. They think he is the answer to their prayers. They think he cares about their lot in life. They think he will remedy their grievances. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Trump is a shameless opportunist. He manipulates people to achieve his personal goals, then discards them. He does not care if his supporters are racists, felons, crooks or murderers. He does not care if they are xenophobes or misogynists. He will accept the support of anyone who will blindly follow his lead and put him on a pedestal — after all, exalted status is what he longs for. He desperately wants to be a dictator so that his grifting and corrupt impulses can run wild. And, remember, dictators only care about themselves and loathe people who expect anything from them.

Trump scorns those who are weak or foolish enough to need him. He does not want to be needed — he wants others to serve and satiate his needs. He thrives on their praise, adulation and unconditional loyalty. The whole concept of public service is foreign to him because he perceives every interaction is a transactional game that must be won. And winning, for him, inevitably means defeat and humiliation of the other person. In Trump's psyche, even his supporters need to be humiliated and defeated.

It is puzzling that Trump supporters have not realized that he does not give a damn about their grievances or station in life. His Republican Party literally has no platform or set of guiding principles — all that was abandoned during the 2020 campaign. Nor does the Republican Party have a single substantive policy initiative on the table. Other than conservative judicial appointments, Trump did absolutely nothing for his supporters during his miserable presidential term. Except, of course, to let them be killed by a virus and incite them to a failed overthrow of democracy.

Until Trump is gone and the Republican Party reinvents itself, Trump supporters are all alone to fend for themselves. Their cult leader is an illusion. He is a pied piper leading them only to destruction. He has brought them only pain and suffering and sold them a bill of goods consisting of lies and conspiracy theories.

All because he despises his supporters. That's the best reason why they should dump him now, before he harms them even more.

Vaccine disinformation and partisan politics are literally killing us

More than 615,000 Americans have died during this life-changing pandemic. In recent weeks, the delta variant of the coronavirus has led to a dramatic increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Even with the widespread availability of vaccines, we have not been smart enough, determined enough or strong enough to finally defeat this public emergency. If we could successfully put a man on the moon 50 years ago, surely we can figure out how to eradicate this virus. But we have not.

The first vaccine was rolled out last December. Two more were available soon thereafter. Yet just 50% of all Americans are fully vaccinated as of now. This fact is both alarming and tragic. It is alarming because Americans do not seem to understand the importance of immunization in defeating the coronavirus. It is tragic because this painful and sorrowful pandemic will not be stamped out soon at this rate.

Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to end the pandemic. This is not opinion. This is a scientific, medical fact — a certainty. But it will take reaching herd immunity to accomplish this goal. And, according to public health experts, upward of 90% of Americans will have to be fully vaccinated before COVID-19 in all its variant forms is effectively expunged.

Two major roadblocks have interfered with our ability to win this pandemic war.

First, the pandemic and the vaccines have been politicized from the very beginning. Responses to both have been a litmus test for devotion to a particular political party. Republicans, as a group, have downplayed the pandemic, have undervalued the need for mitigation measures and have been reluctant to get vaccinated. Democrats, by contrast, have acknowledged the severity of the pandemic, have utilized mitigation measures and have eagerly been vaccinated. The best predictor of whether a person has been vaccinated is his or her political affiliation. That is the essence of politicization.

Second, misinformation about the pandemic and vaccines has been counterproductive to our national response. Millions of Americans still believe the pandemic is overblown. Millions of anti-vaxxers hold the belief that our vaccines are untested, unsafe or ineffective. Misinformation has been largely promulgated by Republican elected officials and by right-wing news outlets. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have also allowed dangerous misinformation to spread. Science and medicine have been cast aside. Public health experts have been ignored.

That combination of politicization and misinformation has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, a wrecked economy, widespread anxiety and depression and a lack of accurate understanding of the usefulness of vaccines. We now have an undefeated pandemic and a coronavirus variant that is spreading like wildfire among the unvaccinated. If we do not reach herd immunity soon, vaccine-resistant variants are all too likely to emerge and kill millions more. The lambda variant, for example, may be vaccine-resistant.

We are calling for a coordinated effort by political and medical leaders to address these two problematic influences in our country. All political leaders need to make clear in their words and deeds that vaccinations are not a partisan issue. Elected Republican officials need to encourage their supporters to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Medical experts need to continue to inform the public about the safety and effectiveness of our vaccines. Herd immunity is a concept poorly understood by many Americans — but it's absolutely crucial, because we must reach that level of nationwide immunization that will finally end this pandemic. That is an achievable goal. But to achieve that goal in the shortest amount of time, vaccination mandates in our states, cities, schools, colleges and businesses are almost certainly necessary.

Our country has an illustrious history of vaccinations, and we shouldn't forget that. Over the decades we have successfully eradicated smallpox, diphtheria, polio, measles and mumps. They have effectively been wiped out. We were only able to get rid of these diseases because the American people accepted vaccines and were immunized in sufficient numbers to reach herd immunity. Vaccines were not an instrument of partisan politics, and not surrounded by so much disruptive information.

What we know is that 615,000 deaths and counting is unacceptable in a powerful and prosperous country. It is inconceivable that we continue to witness this kind of death and destruction. It is absolutely within our grasp to turn the tide and defeat this pandemic. But doing that requires eliminating partisan politics and deliberate misinformation from our national strategy. Our attitudes and behaviors must be guided by science and medicine. If that seems a daunting challenge at the moment, we must recognize that nothing short of that will work.

No, Trump's not delusional — it's actually much worse than that

Agrowing and prevailing view is that Donald Trump has become delusional. His fixed and intractable obsession with his Big Lie is seen as proof of his psychosis.

But Trump is not detached from reality at all. He knows exactly what he is doing. He knows the difference between truth and a lie — he just doesn't care about that, if a lie gets him what he wants. He is devious, conniving and hell-bent on satisfying his needs, wants and desires at any cost.

Trump's "delusion" is simply a conspiracy theory that he thinks has gained the most traction with his millions of supporters. His "delusion" is purposeful and intentional: The election was stolen from him; he will be reinstated as president in August (or at some other time); he could run for speaker of the House in order to impeach President Biden; he is likely to run for president again in 2024. He holds onto his "delusion" because it has successfully kept him the cult leader of the aggrieved and the victimized. His "delusion" has made him the pied piper of the Republican Party.

Calling Trump psychotic misses the point. It creates an excuse for a man who deserves none. Trump is a fearful, vindictive, anti-American megalomaniac. It is this combination of features that accounts for his "condition" or "state" since leaving office on Jan. 20.

Trump is terrified because he is looking down the barrel of a long list of potential criminal charges. The empaneling of a grand jury in New York has intensified his worries. He thinks that if he is somehow returned to the presidency, he will be protected from the indictments against him. So he is seeking a way to have the November election reversed through "audits" and spreading the fiction that he will be reinstated to the presidency in August. This is not a delusion. It is the wishful thinking of a humiliated and disgraced ex-leader who, it turns out, may be a criminal as well.

Trump thrives on destroying people who have been disloyal to him. He is actively trying to tarnish the reputations of Republicans who have not supported him. Look who he hates now: Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Liz Cheney — and the list goes on. His vindictiveness is a far cry from delusion. Who he hates can change instantly, depending on how he perceives the transaction of the moment. McConnell was almost his buddy at one time.

Trump proved he was anti-American by inciting the insurrection against our government on Jan. 6. He does not love democracy and does not care about the will of the people. He wants to be a dictator, pure and simple. Disregarding the Constitution and overthrowing our government are nothing to a man desperate for the continued taste of power, greed and adulation. Nothing about that is a delusion.

Trump is a megalomaniac who thinks he is smarter, richer and stronger than anyone else. Everything he says and does is aimed at fortifying his grandiose and superior persona. He never admits to a mistake. He never acknowledges a loss. He always doubles down on a position. He does not care a whit about the people of this country. Grifting others is his sport. Despite being impeached twice and losing the national election by 7 million votes, Trump marches on with his false self of grandiosity. That is not a delusion — it is his psychic machinery of self-preservation.

It is a mistake to consider Trump psychotic. That would be to assume that psychiatric medication might alleviate his delusional thinking. But medication cannot fix a psychopath with malignant narcissism. Medication cannot fix a manipulative and exploitative opportunist. Medication does not affect shamelessness and lack of a moral compass. Medication cannot make a self-serving "delusion" disappear.

Trump remains a grave risk to democracy. He will throw anyone and anything under the bus to save his own hide and to advance his personal power and greed. If democracy gets in the way, he is more than ready to smash it or flick it away. Do not forget his glee as he watched the attempted coup against our nation our on television. He thought Jan. 6 might be his de facto coronation as dictator. That was his plan all along. He is an authoritarian, not a psychotic.

How long will we continue to enable this dangerous ex-leader? How long will the GOP remain lost, wandering through the wilderness of his psychopathic mind? How long will democracy be on the chopping block? When will a new, fresh Republican leader come forward?

These are the pressing questions of the day. Not whether Donald Trump is delusional. He is not. He is something far worse.

Here's the dark lesson Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and the entire GOP learned from their former master

Sen. Ted Cruz is a proud disciple of Donald Trump's legacy to America — his weaponization of alternate reality. In recent days, Cruz has been positively Trumpian in his betrayal and lack of empathy regarding his family's getaway to a beach resort in Mexico while his state was paralyzed by a catastrophic winter storm. To make matters worse, Cruz championed an alternate reality by concocting different versions of the "truth" with a web of lies and shifting blame to his children. For now, his alternate reality appears to have won the day.

Sen. Ron Johnson claims that the mood among the demonstrators at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was largely "positive," and that there were "fake Trump protesters" in the crowd. In proclaiming this blatant falsehood, Johnson is egging on the millions of Trump supporters who still believe that the election was stolen from their leader. Alternate reality lives on.

At the conclusion of Trump's second impeachment trial, h was acquitted for his role in the insurrection at the Capitol. Despite being presented with mountains of audio and video evidence from that fateful day, 43 out of 50 Republican senators voted to exonerate him. It was not just cowardice or foolishness that led to their votes. No, they made a purposeful decision to follow their cult leader into the abyss of his alternate reality. According to Trump, his speech that morning to the escalating mob was "totally appropriate." Alternate reality triumphed over observable truth on center stage.

Trump has created his alternate reality to bolster his fragile ego and to advance his political fortunes. He has used it to cover up his evident character defects and to persuade others to believe in his greatness and superiority. His "reality" consists of "big lies," small lies, conspiracy theories, misinformation, propaganda, false narratives and violence. He is masterful — although deeply corrupt — at blurring and even shattering truth for his political advantage. In Trump's fantasyland, there is no oversight, no accountability and no laws that apply to him. The means justify the ends. Anything he says or does is acceptable as long as it brings him attention, adoration, profit and power.

Unfortunately for our country, Trump's use of alternate reality has become the ideology of the Republican Party and nearly half of all Americans. This explains why most of the party and legions of followers still support a man who has been impeached twice, botched the deadly coronavirus pandemic, crashed the economy and incited an insurrection against our government. This is what happens when a demagogue promulgates a "reality" that carries the weight of the presidency but is inherently toxic and pernicious.

A large swath of America has adopted and internalized Trump's use of alternate reality. Millions of Americans have been brainwashed into accepting his distorted reality. They view Trump as their cult leader who possesses the qualities of greatness. They believe in his alternate reality — even his blatant lies, his outlandish conspiracy theories and his provocation of violence. And now, they believe that the use of alternate reality by both politicians and followers is smart and effective strategy.

Trump's alternate reality is wholly malignant and dangerous because it undermines objective truth. It is a myth. It is an illusion. Trump is a salesman, a carnival barker, a con man. He has no interest in people, policy or public service. All he cares about is selling himself — his personal and commercial brand — through his lies, his conspiracy theories and his propaganda. Anything is fair game, even an alternate reality that is nonsensical and poisonous.

Trump's use of alternate reality is antithetical to democratic principles and the Constitution. He does not love democracy and he does not love America. He wants to destroy it. He is an authoritarian at heart. He orchestrated and incited an insurrection against our government, intended to overthrow the will of the people. His singular goal was to maintain his power at any cost. If that had happened, his alternate reality would have lived on and flourished. We would have become a country of lies, conspiracy theories, propaganda and violence — also known as an authoritarian state.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are the antidotes to Trump's alternate reality. They function within the context of facts, the truth and science. They have not constructed an alternate reality that is self-serving and virulent. They cherish democracy and understand that its sustainability requires observable and transparent truth.

The solution is for Trump to be marginalized and purged. Even now that he is out of office, he has hit the airwaves to continue to spread the "Big Lie" that he won the election. He will never accept or understand that his alternate reality is destructive to the well-being of our people. Nor does he care. He still thinks it is his sure-fire ticket to success. After all, he became president and came close to winning re-election by convincing Americans that his "exceptionalism" could be theirs too — and that their lives would be better for it. Please tell the families of the 500,000 dead Americans that their lives are better. Please tell the millions of Americans who are jobless, broke and frightened that their lives are improved.

Americans must stop being lazy and complacent about figuring out the observable truth. They cannot let partisan bias allow their thinking to be hijacked by an alternate reality. Cable news networks and social media platforms must make truth their sole vehicle of communication. Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, Facebook and other entities must take responsibility for promoting truth over fiction, facts over lies and critical observation over conspiracy theories.

Trump's weaponization of alternate reality must be repudiated once and for all. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and other congressional Republicans need to rebuke Trump's alternate reality — and must stop creating their own for purely selfish and political reasons.

There is only one truth — the objective truth. What Donald Trump and his cohorts do not want you to know is that truth is the one "real" ticket to success in a democracy based on freedom, rule of law and the will of the people. History shows that our country has never been divided by alternate reality versus the truth in such a stark and destructive way. It would be so much easier for us to govern ourselves if we could make objective truth our top, shared priority.

The use of alternate reality by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, or anyone else — including millions of Americans — is unacceptable, anti-democratic and venomous to our way of life. Observable, verifiable and transparent truth is what our democracy is founded upon. Without that, all is lost.

Donald Trump is still an attention addict — his appearance at CPAC will offer the latest proof

There is no rational or reasonable explanation why Donald Trump is even considering another presidential run in 2024. He has no agenda. He has no real ideology other than his self-aggrandizement and greed. He had a dreadfully inept, contentious and fractious term as president from 2017 to 2021. He is probably facing imminent civil and criminal legal charges. He is in financial dire straits. He lost his last election by 7 million votes.

Trump's upcoming appearance at CPAC this weekend, however, clearly signals that another presidential campaign may be in his sights. A return to private life may not be enough for him. There is a longstanding tradition that ex-presidents retreat into the background so the new president can shine. But that does not fit Donald Trump's psyche. Just the opposite is true: He wants to spoil Joe Biden's time in the sun by stealing as much attention away from him as possible.

The real explanation is that Donald Trump is an attention addict. He is addicted to the attention that national political life brings him. He is addicted to running for president and to being president. It is all about satiating his needs and wants — and cravings. Attention is his psychic oxygen. He feels like he is dying mentally when attention is not forthcoming. He does not differentiate between positive attention and negative attention — either will do in his jonesing mind. As with an oppositional child, even negative attention makes him feel energized and powerful.

Trump's attention addiction was in full force during his presidential term. He held more than 80 pep rallies so that he could bask in the glow of the attention from the masses. And his almost nonstop tweeting — late into the night and distressingly early in the morning — showed that he was addicted to instant attention.

The fact that Trump is an attention addict is hardly a reason for us to allow him to run for president again. We would not let a known heroin addict be mayor. We would not let an opioid addict become governor. We would not let a benzodiazepine addict be a senator. So we should not let an attention addict be our president.

Why? Because all elected officials take a sworn oath to protect the public's safety and well-being. An attention addict, by definition, cannot possibly meet that obligation. The public good is of no concern to an addict whose sole mission in life is to consume more and more of the sought-after prize.

Trump has already proven that his addiction interferes with his capacity to be a public servant. His addiction kept him from solving the existential crises that our country faced: a deadly pandemic, a crashed economy, racial and economic inequality, domestic violence, immigration and many others.

He could not even facilitate the orderly and peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden once he lost the election. He had to incite an insurrection of our government in an attempt to hold onto power — and attention. This just shows you the lengths an addict will go to maintain his addiction.

Here's why expulsion is the only remedy: Insurrectionists in Congress must be rooted out

"We fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."

These were the words of then-President Donald Trump as he addressed a large, hostile crowd in front of the White House on Jan. 6, 2021.

It has now been more than a month since Trump and his congressional allies incited and supported the insurrection against our country's democracy. It was an attempt by a mob of violent seditionists to attack the Capitol and stop Congress from affirming the Electoral College victory of Joe Biden. This was planned and orchestrated by the sitting president with the hope that he could remain in power against the will of the people. Five people died. Dozens of police officers were injured. Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were in grave danger of being seized and murdered. It was an unimaginable and indescribable scene of terror. Many of the insurrectionists had tactical gear and communications equipment. They roamed the halls with zip ties hunting for Pence and Pelosi. They built gallows and chanted death threats. They beat a police officer with a pole bearing the U.S. flag. And let us not forget that President Trump chose not to intervene when the violence began. With the resources at his disposal, he easily and rapidly could have.

Never in our 245-year history has our democracy been actively sabotaged by a sitting president and his congressional sycophants. The events of Jan. 6, 2021 will be highlighted in all history books going forward. The insurrection of our election will never be forgotten. Its significance is on par with Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor Day).

Donald Trump was quickly impeached — for the second time — for his incitement of this insurrection. At this writing, he is about to stand trial in the Senate. He is refusing to testify. Trump's behavior in the insurrection is easily explained by his psychopathic personality and his unrelenting desire to remain in power, despite losing both the popular vote (for a second time) and the Electoral College vote. Those of us who are mental health professionals predicted his pathological and violent response to his election defeat. No one should be surprised by the depth of his crass, repugnant and anti-democratic behavior. After all, everything is about Trump — the welfare of the country and its people be damned.

The Republican Party has been complicit with Trump for four years and counting. It has enabledhis quest to obtain absolute authority, politicize the Justice Department in his behalf, grift the American people and break norms, rules and laws with impunity. Republicans have been walking side-by-side with Trump every step of the way during his march to transform democracy into his own brand of authoritarianism. The insurrection was to be Trump's final accomplishment in his mission. He failed — but it was a close call. It was a bungled coup attempt that matched the ineptness of his past four years in office. A more intelligent and capable man might have pulled it off.

It is unlikely that Republican senators will have the insight and courage to convict Trump during his impeachment trial. Their complicity will continue. Their support of Trump's insurrection is crystal clear. They have tried to distract us by saying we must "move on." They want us to deny the objective reality of their full-throated endorsement of Trump's self-serving conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from him.

Congressional Republicans who supported Trump's overthrow of the democratic election must be rooted out. On the morning of the Capitol attack, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado tweeted, "Today is 1776."

Some congressional Republicans had reportedly given tours to the insurrectionists on Jan. 5. Eight Senators and 139 representatives supported at least one objection to the already-certified Electoral College vote. They promulgated false and fake conspiracy theories about how the election had been stolen from Trump, and cast their votes to support an authoritarian president who wanted to remain in power in defiance of the Constitution. Their entire scenario was a lie — the Big Lie — but they maintained their allegiance to their cult leader even though an insurrection against our government had occurred just the day before.

Sen. Ted Cruz supported the insurrection and actually engaged in fundraising during it. At least three newspapers in Texas have called for his resignation. Sen. Josh Hawley was in full support of Trump's efforts to remain in power despite the will of the people. He cheered on the mob attackers with the now indelible image of his raised clenched fist. Newspapers in Missouri are calling for his resignation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has talked out of both sides of his mouth about Trump's role in the insurrection, and has refused to disavow the dangerous conspiracy theories about a stolen election. Sen. Lindsey Graham has voiced his disapproval of the impeachment of Trump for the insurrection. Sen. Ron Johnson is blaming Pelosi for the mob's actions. Rep. Matt Gaetz traveled to Wyoming to rile up supporters to punish Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican House whip, because she supported Trump's impeachment. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a newcomer to Congress, has been an outspoken supporter of Trump's efforts to remain in power. Rep. Mo Brooks has gone on the record to support Trump and his fake conspiracy theories about the election. The list goes on and on. But Congress, the media and historians need to do what has been started here: List the seditionists by name and call out their treachery.

Since the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Republican Party has degenerated and gravitated to the fringe of the extremists, showcased by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and others. Their support of Trump is stronger and more irrational than ever — despite the fact that he has been defeated and disgraced.

There are some reasonable Republicans who have spoken out against Trump and the insurrectionists. Sens. Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Lisa Murkowski have led the way, yet their words have been drowned out by the loud voices of the Q party who are doubling down on their blatant lies and conspiracy theories.

We have just witnessed an attempted coup against our democratic election. If the insurrectionists had been successful, Donald Trump would still be in high office and our democracy would be in shambles. We would no longer have open and free elections. We would no longer have three branches of government, the rule of law and a free press. Lies, conspiracy theories, violence and authoritarianism would prevail. Our country would be transformed into the psychopathic image of Donald Trump.

Accountability must be our mantra as we try to recover from the trauma of Jan. 6. Sticking our collective heads in the sand will not help us maintain and renew our democratic experiment. Reprimand and censure are far too weak for the offenses at hand. An attempted overthrow of our democracy requires nothing short of expulsion. There is no more egregious and reprehensible offense an elected official can commit.

It is time for us to clean house of all seditionists and traitors. We cannot allow them to remain in the sacred halls of Congress. They are a cancer that has metastasized. They are anti-democratic and anti-American outliers. Their voices and their influence must be stamped out decisively.

Please remember that not one of these congressional Republicans has shown an ounce of regret or shame for their actions on or before Jan. 6. Not one has apologized to the American people. If anything, they have fortified their position and their resolve. They continue to support Donald Trump and his abortive insurrection. They have not learned a thing. This is a collective lack of conscience shown by a large group of seditionists.

They leave us no choice: The only way to save our democracy is through expulsion, banishment and lasting shame.

Here's why so many Americans still follow Trump — despite all that's happened

The persistent Trump "base" and the Republican members of Congress who maintain fealty to Donald Trump do so for a variety of reasons. They are not a monolithic body but a loosely associated conglomeration of supporters with their own individual or group reasons for remaining loyal to the twice-impeached ex-President.

"Membership" in the Trump base may include entry into one or more of the following categories.

  1. "All-in" isolationists, ultra-nationalists, white supremacists, racists and insurrectionists Arguably all those who marched in Charlottesville in summer 2017 and many of those stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 are openly racist, and have felt liberated by the rhetoric and policies of the Trump era. For them, Trumpism represented an enticing outlet for perceived slights or a platform upon which to boost their identity, sense of meaning or being, and self-importance.
  2. Opportunists and political chameleons Those who fall into this category recognized that the Trump train presented itself as a vehicle by which one could achieve fame, success, ambition and political or personal gain. Those with political ambition watched Trump's tactics, saw its success and made the decision to be a Trump sycophant and copycat. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, mediocre members of society who had the financial means to run for Congress, are noted Trump exampled who will ride this train until it throws them off (and even then will continue to chase it). Fox News talking heads fall into this category as well. Following opportunity often requires suppressing any logic, rational thought or independent notions. This is a key factor behind the flip-flopping of politicians like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (who has vacillated in his defense and indictment of Trump and his insurrection), Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (two former Republican rivals to Trump who were mercilessly dragged by him only to become full-throated supporters), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for whom every Trump-related decision comes with an eye on the next election cycle. These are the political chameleons who will change as needed to survive.
  3. Narrow-minded, limited information input and vulnerable to cultism This group of followers is either actively or passively limited in the information that they receive through on-air and online media outlets. As a result of their "soda straw" approach to Republicanism, conservatism or Trumpism, they are simply not exposed to the damning evidence that exists to show Trump and the GOP's unethical, immoral and likely criminal behavior. This is the consumer of a steady diet of right-wing sources such as Fox News, OANN and Newsmax. One cannot discuss this group without referring to the concept of shared omnipotence, a cult leader tactic by which followers are repeatedly told that the leader will take them to a "promised land" (e.g., a place of increased wealth, no immigrants or people of color, world superiority or dominance, protection from death) and if they don't follow, the result is certain doom.
  4. Voting with their pocketbook Members of this group are totally focused on individual and family wealth. They voted for Trump twice because of his tax breaks for wealthier Americans. They may be repulsed by Trump the man, but they feel compelled to vote for him because they are profiting from his policies. They are one-issue voters and they will not be deterred by any of Trump's antics, lies or dishonesty.
  5. Hold your nose and vote Republican These group members are cousins of the previous group. This faction is diehard conservative Republicans who are unwavering in their support of the GOP based on years of support and the hope that this period is an aberration that will correct itself soon. Sen. Mitt Romney is one of the remaining stalwarts of this group.
  6. But he and I are Christians! In many ways an outgrowth of the latter group, these followers maintain their identity and faith as evangelical Christians. They have consistently voted Republican for a widely varying set of reasons, the abortion issue first and foremost among them. Now, electing and supporting Donald Trump, who is arguably the embodiment of sin, requires resolution of a huge case of cognitive dissonance. To accept Trump and Trumpism requires that a "true" Christian must fit this obviously square block into a circular halo. Attempts to reconcile this dissonance include pairing Trump with known Christian leaders and evangelicals, citing scripture that appears to validate this choice, or projecting Christian values on to Trump and Trumpists.

Not all Trump supporters are alike. It is inaccurate and wrong to lump them together. It misses the point and undermines any chance for reaching out to supporters in order to reinvent a Republican Party that is reasonable, more moderate and hinged to our American democracy.

Short of convicting and repudiating Trump at his upcoming impeachment trial — which appears highly unlikely — we will be left with the task of disambiguating and understanding his followers and what motivates them, and connecting with as many of them as possible. The future of our two-party democracy, and our entire country, will hang in the balance.

Trump's radicalized followers must be forced to see who he really is

Donald Trump is gone. Jan. 20 has come and gone. Joe Biden is our 46th president and Kamala Harris is our vice president. Celebration has been on display and our democracy is breathing easier.

But our glow of hopefulness will inevitably be dampened by the penetrating darkness of the past four years. The aftermath of Donald Trump is before us. And it cannot be avoided. For example, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and several other members of the "sedition caucus" are still in Congress and stand as a constant reminder of how much accountability and healing must still occur.

Many of us are at high risk for the development of trauma, stress-related and anxiety-related symptoms (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD). We have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse by the now-departed president. The sickness and death associated with the coronavirus pandemic has been catastrophic. Our crippled economy has created widespread depression and anxiety. Trump's racism, xenophobia, misogyny, nativism, white supremacy, violence and incitement of insurrection have all been traumatic forces as well.

Post-traumatic stress symptoms are increasingly evident among us: distressing and intrusive thoughts, anxiety, worry, fear, flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, disturbed sleep and more. These symptoms occur most notably in those with close proximity to the horrific nature of the deadly disease, such as first responders, medical providers and friends and families of victims. All are due to the impact of a cruel and corrupt leader who harmed us after swearing to be our protector. Much like a domestic abuser, Trump deceived, betrayed and mistreated us.

Beyond that, millions of Americans continue to view Trump as their beloved cult leader — even though he has been defeated, disgraced and repudiated. Trump's followers have been radicalized by the cumulative effects of his lies, conspiracy theories, magical thinking and fake narratives. Americans were bombarded with misinformation and propaganda. As a result, there are many passionate supporters who, at least until now, have refused to allow facts and the truth to shape their perceptions of their leader. Trump's demagoguery and fear-mongering has worked.

Donald Trump is a proven traitor — at least in the colloquial sense, and perhaps the legal sense as well — who spent four years disavowing the Constitution, attacking our democracy and abusing the public. He must be prosecuted and punished for his misdeeds and malfeasance.

We know that victims of abuse are better able to recover their self-esteem and hopefulness when abusers are held to account and victim safety is assured. Victims often feel unheard, misunderstood and unloved because their horrific experiences are minimized or not believed altogether. Prosecution of the abuser can go a long way to validate the intrinsic worth of the victim, and to help recapture positive mental health.

So, in a very real way, prosecution of Donald Trump is necessary for individual Americans to heal from their psychological distress and trauma and to feel liberated and positive going forward.

In a similar vein, the radicalization of Trump supporters can be deprogrammed if they see him being prosecuted and punished for his nefarious acts. He must be exposed for who he is — a con man whose cruelty, indifference and anti-democratic leanings were unleashed on the public. The realization of Trump's menace might help sweep away the false view of him as an esteemed leader. For some, this realization began last Wednesday, as President Biden was sworn in and Trump's supporters realized that their delusional belief in an ongoing Trump reign was shattered.

Dealing with the maliciousness and destructiveness of Donald Trump has begun. His oxygen of attention has been taken away. He has been banned from social media platforms. He is being ostracized and purged in most circles. But more than that, he must be prosecuted and punished for his transgressions against America and its people. He cannot simply be given a free pass because he is finally out of office. This would convey a dangerous message. We cannot stick our heads in the sand when abuse and radicalization have run rampant.

It appears that Trump is already considering another presidential run in 2024. Such is an unfathomable proposition in light of his past four years of abuse, death and insurrection. His lack of shame and remorse is appalling — but in no way surprising.

Trump must be convicted in the Senate for his second impeachment offense. He must be banned from future elected office as well. We must send a clear message to him and to all other future or potential presidential candidates that corrupt and criminal behavior will not be tolerated. We will not be abused all over again.

It will take time for us to heal, but that will happen more quickly and completely if prosecution and punishment is meted out to Donald Trump. In a democracy, no person is above the law. We must all be held accountable for our actions. Especially someone who misused and debased the highest office in the land, and whose reign of terror has traumatized us all.

Donald Trump is the now biggest loser in US political history

For four years we have heard that Republicans are afraid to stand up to Donald Trump because he will insult them and humiliate them into submission. They could not handle his childish taunts. They shrank from his barbs and slights, delivered largely on Twitter, the social media platform that has now evicted him permanently. Trump took advantage of their cowardice. He was like the big bully on the playground at school who intimidated smaller and weaker kids, then boasted about his easy conquests.

But no one should be afraid of Donald Trump now. After all, he is the biggest loser in U.S. political history. Indeed, he has relinquished the right to be feared.

Trump's record distinguishes him as the worst president ever. He has lost the popular vote in two national elections. He has been impeached twice, with conviction still possible in the second case. He has been an accomplice to the mass murder of over 400,000 Americans and counting due to the coronavirus. He has caused a massive economic crash. He has incited an insurrection against the government of the United States. He played a corrupt game of footsie with the president of Ukraine, and has been oddly but consistently subservient to the president of Russia. He has grifted the American people out of millions of dollars. He has pardoned associates and acquaintances who could implicate him in crimes. He has been incompetent, indifferent, lazy and vindictive. To top it all off, he has rushed to execute 13 people before his term is up — the most by any president in 120 years.

Trump intimidates via bullying, name-calling, threats and loud exclamations of bravado. His sense of grandiosity and superiority is enhanced when he is successful at embarrassing and humiliating others. To be sure, intimidation is his modus operandi. He rose to the top of the national political ladder through his use of intimidation. It is his only "skill."

But he is a total coward. He hides behind his lawyers and lets them do his "dirty work." He cannot fire people in person. He sent a bodyguard to deliver his letter of dismissal to former FBI Director James Comey's empty office. His specialty is to incite others to action and then deny any responsibility for their behavior. Ask Michael Cohen. Ask Rudy Giuliani. Ask the thousands of attackers at the Capitol. Trump did not have the guts to march with them to the Capitol — but he had no trouble sending them off into battle for his sole benefit.

Trump's political life has been based on lies and propaganda. His most egregious lie is that the election was rigged and stolen from him. It has been dubbed the "Big Lie." The truth is that the election was the most open and transparent in history. Joe Biden won fair and square. Trump lost by 7 million votes. He has lost more than 60 lawsuits in contesting the results. His lie about the election led to his seditious rhetoric and to his incitement of the insurrectionists.

Let us be clear: Trump actively tried to undermine and overthrow our democracy. He was fomenting a coup. He has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he does not love our democracy and does not love our country. He is addicted to power, adulation, grift and corruption — and would rather overturn democracy than give up his addictions.

Trump must be finished as a political figure. It may take some time, but his political clout will wane gradually but assuredly into oblivion. He will try to hold onto his supporters by promulgating his conspiracy theories and his victimhood, but both will be disproven as we return to a world of observable facts and truth.

His gravitas is evaporating. He has become a pathetic and tragic joke. All the major leaders in the world are ecstatic at his upcoming exit from the scene — except perhaps Vladimir Putin, who has enjoyed having Trump in his back pocket.

Trump is already kryptonite. Social media platforms have banned him. Banks will not lend him money. Lawyers are hesitant to defend him against impeachment. Corporations have paused their financial contributions. Even the PGA has yanked its 2022 championship from his New Jersey golf course. His standing will continue to drop as he is further ostracized and purged from American public life.

Trump must be punished for all his federal and state crimes. His supporters need to understand the depth of his criminality. He is a bad actor who will soon face the consequences of his malfeasance. Nothing can erase power and adulation faster than prison. But not even prison can reverse the abuse and trauma inflicted by Trump upon the American people.

His reign of corruption and incitement of insurrection was fueled by his belief that he would not be punished for it, that he could break laws with impunity. This is exactly why his prosecution is required. He must face swift and firm consequences so that others will understand the reality — that Trump's corruption is a part of his DNA. He has been compromised all his adult life. Until now, his corruption was confined to the state of New York and the Trump Organization. In 2016, thanks to his flukish election victory, he started sharing his criminality with the entire country.

Trump has been living in his alternate universe of lies, conspiracy theories and magical thinking for so long that he is unable to face reality. But his alternate universe is crumbling. And Americans are becoming acquainted once again with facts, science and truth. In 2016, Trump told the Republican National Convention and a national television audience, "Only I can fix it." But he could not fix our country because he exacerbated and capitalized on our grievances for his own personal and political gain. That is the playbook of an authoritarian.

There is encouraging news, however. In recent polling, nine out of 10 Americans frown upon the insurrection on Jan. 6. Seven out of 10 Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the violence. Fifty-six percent are in favor of Trump being banned from future elected office. His approval rating now stands at 29%.

Right-wing extremism was present long before Trump. Cultural and economic resentments have been brewing for years. Trump has seized upon these resentments and made them more mainstream through his radicalization of his supporters. Hopefully, right-wing extremism will recede as Trump's voice is silenced. Citizens who engage in political violence must be rooted out. Trump's unforgiving act of insurrection has shown his true stripes as an authoritarian who does not give a damn about anyone other than himself. Authoritarianism is antithetical to our representative democracy — and must be stamped out at every opportunity. And Trump has given us opportunities.

No one should be afraid of Donald Trump now. He is defeated, disgraced and repudiated. This is the trifecta of the biggest loser in U.S. political history.

This is our chance to show we have finally conquered our fear of that bully on the playground at school.

A psychopathic president's last act

Donald Trump's attempted coup against our government was predictable. He had it all planned out. He would incite thousands of supporters to attack the Capitol, disrupt the proceedings of the Senate and find a way to maintain his grip on power. He knew full well that his violent insurrectionists had blood on their minds and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence were in harm's way. He knew there was a chance that both Pelosi and Pence could be kidnapped or murdered. He did not care one whit. He was partying and celebrating as the attackers formed and began their deadly march. He was inciting an insurrection against the United States for his own personal gain. Democracy and human life were of no concern to him.

But his efforts failed. The Senate was not overtaken. Joe Biden was certified as the next president. Pelosi and Pence were both safe. The attackers are being hunted down one by one and arrested. Trump has now been impeached for the second time, with 10 Republican members of Congress joining with every Democrat. Pence apparently contemplated the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment (although he has now said he will not do so). The majority of Americans believe that Trump should be removed from office immediately for his treasonous behavior.

After last week's insurrection attempt, Trump is now trying to act as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. What is the big deal if some looters swarmed through the Capitol? As he has always done, Trump relies on lies, denials, conspiracy theories and fake bravado to skirt through life and through his presidency. But rhetoric and actions are observable truth. And Trump's clear incitement of insurrection means he is a traitor. It means he disavowed the will of the people and the rule of law. It means his personal gain is more important than the Constitution and his oath of office.

This all makes sense because Donald Trump is a psychopath. He is fueled by his narcissism, his sadism, his paranoia and his antisocial proclivities. We have been eager to ignore these things, but Trump's sadism and violence have been front and center in his psyche the entire time. This is the man who separated young children from their families at the border. This is the man whose inaction has killed 372,000 Americans due to the coronavirus. This is the man who has tried to encourage violence multiple times at his campaign and presidential pep rallies. And this is the man who glorified violence in Charlottesville and in other cities.

We should not be surprised that Trump's sadism and violence boiled over in response to his humiliating election defeat. He has been hell-bent on hanging onto power at any cost. He has been willing to throw anyone and anything under the bus to ensure his self-preservation and his survival. So a violent insurrection in the sacred halls of the Capitol was the perfect plan in his mind. A few deaths would be palatable, even entirely acceptable, if it meant he could remain in power.

What should now be clear to everyone is that Donald Trump does not love democracy or our country. He is an authoritarian. He wants absolute authority and control over people. He loves adulation. He is a greedy opportunist. He is a master of demagoguery. He is corrupt and criminal. He is a traitor of the highest order. He was virtually the worst possible person to become president because everything about him is antithetical to our nation's principles and ideals. Being president is so much more than being rich. Personal character, love of democracy and love of country are far more compelling attributes.

Trump is a cataclysmic problem that will be solved soon. He will be booted out, or simply leave. Social media platforms have banned him. Companies are halting their financial contributions to his party and his supporters. The PGA has pulled its 2022 championship tournament from his New Jersey golf course. More and more Americans are rejecting him by the day. His mantra as a traitor is beginning to take hold. Ultimately, it will be set in stone.

Millions of supporters followed Trump for four years as if he were the pied piper. They did not realize or understand that he is a con man who thrives on hoodwinking and exploiting others. He lies every time he opens his mouth, and uses conspiracy theories and fear-mongering to seduce the allegiance of citizens who believe in him for various largely irrational reasons. Trump is no public servant, no brilliant businessman, no rich savant and no political leader. He is a fraud, a failure and a coward who ran for president in the first place to enhance his brand and make money off the public. Once in office, he became enthralled with power, adulation and grifting. He realized that being an authoritarian leader would allow him to express his sadistic and cruel tendencies — and that being a dictator would allow his racist and xenophobic and misogynistic impulses to run wild, without oversight or accountability. In the end, Trump decided that he wanted to remain in office so that he could establish an endless regime of Trumpism — all in his psychopathic image.

Americans should have realized back in 2016 that Trump was a bad actor who had nefarious and cruel intentions. He did not want to protect and serve the people. The oath of office was a bunch of isolated words that had no meaning to him. It was all a big lie and a big con from the beginning. Trump believed he could pull it off because he had spent his entire life promulgating a kind of alternate universe, with the help of enablers and a host of lawyers.

Trump's lies, conspiracy theories, magical thinking and corruption rapidly became normalized in our country, such that millions of Americans were radicalized. Fantasy and blather became more important than truth. Trump's alternate universe seemed to replace the real one. Our Constitution and the rule of law were corrupted. Our democracy was threatened. A psychopath was threatening democracy, and the media pretended not to notice. The opinions of mental health experts were rejected.

Ultimately, the judicial system and our Constitution stood tall throughout this presidency. Elected Republican officials did not. They either drank the Kool-aid or saw loyalty to Trump as a vehicle for personal political advancement. Either way, the Republican Party has been complicit and anti-democratic. Some of its members, perhaps most of them, want to carry on the mantle of Trumpism despite its malicious and destructive impact on our democracy. They will face their reckoning in due time.

Many of Trump's supporters will have a rude awakening when they realize that their esteemed cult leader was nothing more than a fraud. Once they see him prosecuted for his many crimes, they will understand his destructiveness to them and to our democracy. Truth will again become important. We will all be able to agree on observable facts. Negotiation and compromise will once again be central to our politics. Tribalism will gradually melt away as our interest in unity and cohesiveness expands.

Yet in many ways Trump has been a symptom rather than the sole cause of major divisions in our country. Racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, misogyny and other extreme forms of hate have been simmering in this country long before Trump. But these harmful and demoralizing issues will be easier to grapple with without a national leader who is psychopathic, anti-democratic and anti-American in his mental DNA.

ALAN D. BLOTCKY

Alan D. Blotcky, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama.

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