Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

The Presidential Campaign That Astounded the World: A Psychohistory of Donald Trump and the 2016 American Election

Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

The Presidential Campaign That Astounded the World: A Psychohistory of Donald Trump and the 2016 American Election

Article excerpt

Democracy can be diminished by demagogues. Historian Henry Adams (1838-1918), who wrote The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma and other works, worried that American political culture was in decline. "The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence to upset Darwin" (Adams, 1918, 410). And now we have President Trump, a man who has tapped into things unsettled, unsettling and dangerous in himself and his supporters. How would Henry Adams compare Trump to Grant, let alone Washington? Candidate Donald J. Trump appealed to prejudices and stereotypes, was uninformed on the details of policy, had a wild disregard for facts, and made dreadful tweets and statements about most anyone who criticized him, including that his Democratic opponent should be jailed, called her the devil, and alluded that others might assassinate her.

Given the uniqueness of the 2016 Presidential election, it is important to place the campaign in historical and psychological context. As Trump displayed the excesses of his personality for all to see, how these were overlooked by so many voters, raises the question of what in our politics, history, and culture allows such a candidate to be elected President. This paper examines Trump's fitness for the nation's highest office and what enabled him to become politically prominent and win in the Electoral College.


First, are Trump's actions that raised questions as to whether he was qualified to be President.

He is the first President in American history without prior government experience. During the campaign, he was not interested in obtaining the requisite knowledge a President needs. When a CEO of a major company offered to present a report of over a hundred pages on China to him, Trump said send either three pages or do it orally for, "I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability." He claimed to be so busy he had no time to read books, though others who had more demands than he did manage to stay well informed (Kranish and Fisher, 2016, 347).

He gave few speeches with detailed proposals; nor were many policy statements displayed on his website. His focus was on political rallies, slogans, branding and demeaning his opponents, speaking off the cuff, and tweeting at all hours. At campaign appearances and in Presidential debates he made provocative and false statements, which pleased his supporters but led many former senior foreign policy and intelligence officials to state Trump was unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.

His claims were often not factually accurate. According to The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, "Trump spreads lies the way terrorists plant bombs: one goes off, and when the first responders rush in, there's a second, or even a third" (Davidson, 9/20/2016). Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact kept a scorecard of Donald Trump's statements. They found that over 29% were true, mostly true, or half true, while, over 70% were mostly false, false or "pants on fire" (Politifact, 2016). In September, Trump spoke one untruth every 3.25 minutes, according to tracking of his remarks by Politico, and in the 33 days following September 15, 2016 journalist Daniel Dale counted 253 false statements by Trump (Cheney, et al, 9/25/2016, Dale, 10/19/2016). Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns examining the same week as did Politico found that Trump's various remarks were peppered "with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random-even compulsive." There was a reason behind these falsehoods. "Virtually all of Mr. Trump's falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction" (Haberman and Burns, 9/24/2016). He also specialized in denying what he had distinctly said. As when he claimed to have been against the Iraq war from the beginning, or his assertion that he had not tweeted about an Alicia Machado sex tape when it is in black and white that he did. …

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