Cognitive Psychology

The Psychology of Trump’s 2020 Presidential Campaign

We’ve long known that frightened people tend to vote conservative; thus, the outside demagoguery in conservative campaigns. We also known that white was the original identity politics because group identity and threats against that identity drive people to act in very predictable ways.

Psychological threat is the key to understanding the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s appeal to the rank and vile rural Christian white voter. As the threats to identity are ratcheted up, people react along two lines:

  1. They take steps to regain control over their lives.
  2. They take steps to prove to themselves that they have moral worth.

As we explore the effects of psychological threat, we’ll see how each explains some of the weirdest most destructive and polarizing behavior of folks identifying with the right.

Psychological Threat

Psychological threat is the behaviors and mental processes that result from experiencing fear and anxiety concerning identity. These threats can include existentialist threats concerning the death and dying; economic threats concerning the financial well-being; or interpersonal threats concerning the continued acceptance by a larger group or an important individual.

I understand if you’re reacting by thinking that all of this is way too nuanced for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber. He’s more of a smash and grab them by the pussy kind of guy. You’re right. It’s just that he has an uncanny knack for zeroing in on the hot-button anxiety issues of who ever he is targeting for his abuse. And, boy does he have middle class white men down to a tee. Well, at least, down to a t-shirt, amirite?

The Lost Children

Here’s the theory in a nutshell. When people feel anxiety and fear from a threat to some aspect of their identity, they look for ways to exert control over their lives and improve their feelings of moral worth. They try to achieve these things in several predictable ways: (1) They look for someone to scapegoat. Well, doesn’t that sound familiar? Muslin ban, anyone? Immigrant abuse and hysteria! Demagoging MS-13 gang members! LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality fearmongering! And, women! All of whom are the targets of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and his radically incompetent judicial appointees. And, (2) they use stigma reversal. More about that later.

Quick fun aside #1. Also, liberals have increasingly come under attack as causes of the nation’s problems. It is one reason that the GOP has become so authoritarian. If you believe that the other side is so wrong as to pose an existential threat to the continued existence of the country, then you’re justified in anything you do to cancel out their influence, including suppressing the vote of their supporters and soliciting foreign interference in the election. It’s your get out of jail free card.


You can bet that scapegoating the crap out of all his favorite targets is going to be high on the agenda during the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s re-election campaign. He’s behind in the polls and impeachment has left a foul taste in everyone’s mouth. He’ll be out for revenge and blaming everyone but himself — and you know why! — because he’s a narcissist. If you thought the increase in hate crimes and white violence was bad during the first four years of the New Cruelty, you ain’t seen nothing yet. He’s about to dial it up to 11.

The more conservatives can promote a feeling of everything spinning out of control among their shrinking white rural base, the more likely they are to blame some Other in order to feel more in control. It’s a neat trick: reducing a complex set of problems to one group of people to restore that sense of control over one’s life. Dehumanizing a group so that your supporters can feel better about themselves by abusing them is a sick way to maintain control and a grip on power. It is like building your house on a seaside cliff, you’re just waiting for the inevitable collapse as the support is eroded out from under it.

But, hey, today’s modern conservative is all about the short-term pay off. With climate change and the inevitable demographic changes, it is grab with both hands before the feed trough dries up.

Quick fun aside #2: Mass shootings in schools and workplaces are an extension of scapegoating someone or a small group of people. It is the ultimate solution for feeling back in control of your life. If you can walk into that group and start blowing them away, then, for those few seconds, at least, you are in absolute control. That’s fucking chilling. Between now and next November, we should expect an increase in mass shootings by lone disgruntled white men as an increasingly desperate Ol’ Pussy Grabber and his Repube comrades try to improve their chances of winning by ratcheting up feelings of existential, economic, and social identity threat to white America. Great. Have I mentioned how fucked we are lately?

Stigma Reversal

Guilt and being a good person plays an interesting role in conservative politics in general and in the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s campaigns in particular — that’s the 2016 and 2020 campaigns. Many conservative white people complain that they are being blamed for the problems that systemic racism and misogyny have caused people of color and women, and they are sick and tired of it! They want PoC’s and women to lay back and enjoy it. Can’t they see how much their demands for equality and fair treatment hurt the feelings of those white people? If they had any kind of soul, they’d be grateful for being tolerated in the good Christian company of white society. They’d curb their excesses like wanting to escape poverty and equal pay for equal work and wanting to work, anyway.

This smug conceited condescending refusal to feel guilty for the pain and suffering that they’re social norms and morays are inflicting on Others is called stigma reversal. It is the rejection of the view that white people are immoral and stigmatized because of the historical injustices inflicted on others by their forebears and continued by them.

To counter the feeling of guilt that thoughts of white privilege brings them, they invoke the by now familiar idea of white victimization. This is why we get people insisting that it is a violation of their religious rights to have to issue marriage licenses to gay people as part of their government jobs, to fill birth control prescriptions for single women, or to make wedding cakes for gay marriages. We should not be imposing our morals on good Christians just because they want to participate in the market place. White people is as oppressed as any of the blacks, browns, womens, or LGBTQ+’s are! Whites needs their own advocacy and protections, too, dangnabit! We should be free to be as discriminatory and prejudiced as we wanna be. If this explanation is too subtle and nuanced for you, let me know in the comments, and I’ll really spell it out plainly.

Moral Worth

It is also the reason that conservatives have promoted the moral social issues of abortion, gay marriages, and gun rights (Yes, guns have feelings and rights, too. They is human, after all, ain’t they? It says so right in the Constitution!) It is the literal embodiment of the thought that I’m a godly person, so I am good, so everything I do is good. I hates me some abortions because I am so damn godly, so I’m a good person. I hates me some gays because I am so damn godly, so I’m a person. A godly person can’t be bad, so everything they do is good. By embracing these radical moral stances and trying to force them on the rest of the country, they are enhancing their own moral worth and staving off their feelings of guilt for having inflicted so much unnecessary pain on so many.

This is one reason that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is going to some fascist force all womens to be pregnant and have babies rally. He needs to wrap himself in this false morality to make up for the impeachment. If he were impeached, he might be a bad person, but if he forces women to have all the babies, he’s got to be good, right? If he advocates the death penalty for LGBTQ+ people, then he’s got to be good, right? If he makes life so painful for black and brown asylum seekers that they stop wanting to come to America, he’d be doing Jesus’ work, so he’s good, right?

Acquittal and Coming Storm

Narcissists End Game Options

Once the Repubes in the Senate acquit him be prepared for the backlash to play out along all the lines of stigma reversal with large heaping helpings of righteously indignant moral platitudes. If you thought the wars on women, immigrants, PoC, Muslims, LGBTQ+, and liberals have been bad up until now, you’ve not seen anything yet.

When a narcissist suffers a narcissistic wound, and make no mistake impeachment and the trial have been narcissistic wounds of Himalayan proportions, he lashes out. He has to destroy those who have injured him. His goal will be to erase everyone supporting impeachment from the face of the earth, and he has not been shy about using the organs of government to strike at his perceived enemies.

The one saving grace is that narcissists can’t learn, and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is likely dyslexic or has some other learning disability, which he just won’t try to overcome, so it’s taken him this long to figure out what our government does and how to start using it. Remember, he did lose an entire carrier group in the first months because he didn’t know how to use the chain of command.

The Repubes, especially that damned degenerate #MoscowMitch, are probably sensing that 2020 isn’t going to go there way — they still think they’ll hold on to the Senate, though — so they’re going to try to dismantle as much of our democracy as they can before November and transfer as much of our wealth to the 1% as they can and sow as much chaos and confusion as they can. They’ve been trying to undo all of the progressive achievements of the past 90 years (that’s back to FDR for all y’all who aren’t going to do the math), so look at plays for all of the entitlements and Roe v. Wade and buying the retirements of Thomas, Alito, and Roberts like they did with Kennedy so they can have five 40 something SCOTUS judges when the Ol’ Pussy Grabber leaves office.

Have I mentioned just how fucked we all are? Well, we’re fucked.

Image Attribution

The feature image was found with a Creative Commons search. Image is by Gerd Altmann and found on Pixabay. The image is licensed by Pixaby as free for commercial and non-comercial use.

20 replies »

    • Howdy James!

      Congrats on the op-ed. It’s quite the achievement. And, a well written piece with many a good turn of phrase. I especially like the rhyming phrases and lines.

      At the beginning of Trump’s term that chaplain used his opening invocation to chastise Trump and his GOP supporters and to appeal for civility and bipartisanship. I was hoping for more of the same during the impeachment, but it was not to be. I was hoping that there would be guest imams and rabbis leading the opening, but it was not to be.

      We can only work for better tomorrows.



    • Howdy Margie!

      We live in a scary time. It is scary for two reasons: first, the GOP wants to hollow out our democracy leaving a thin veneer of the branches and organs of our government disguising a true autocracy. And second, because Trump will stop at nothing to be re-elected. He will sell our national security to foreign powers. He will set American against American and promote violence. He is laying the ground work for genocide by scapegoating and dehumanizing immigrants and PoC’s. It is a scary time. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and pull us back from the brink that Trump is willing to drive us to.


      Liked by 1 person

  1. I will make a prediction. Without doubt, if, as expected, Trump is acquitted, he will declare his intention (or, at least, his desire) to prosecute the impeachers for treason, or perhaps (If he can be toned down by AG Barr and other lawyers) some lesser charge like criminal conspiracy. He has already called them traitors. He will certainly do this on Twitter and at rallies. He may even do it in the State Of The Union speech. He may also suggest that they are the reason the Second Amendment exists. In short, he will clearly prove that the acquittal was a huge mistake, perhaps even to enough Republicans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      I’m afraid you may be right. To the degree that any persecution is pursued by the DoJ — like the investigations of Wray and Crossfire Hurricane — will be the degree that we’ve turned the corner to autocracy. The least he will do, is rail on Twitter and rallies and promote violence. He’s already done it, so it will be shocking to hear him promoting violence against sitting representatives, but it won’t be surprising.

      I doubt even a DoJ investigation or appointment of a special prosecutor will prompt the GOP to curb him. It’s a bit like the proverbial frog in the pot. Slowly raise the heat, the frog won’t notice. The frogs in the GOP will go along because it is easier to do that than start opposing him now.

      It is a sad sorry time we are living through.


      Liked by 1 person

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