The U.S. president elect, Donald J. Trump, has surprised many people with his appointments, appointing Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, Ben Carson as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Rick Perry as the Secretary of Energy. But should we really be surprised by these appointments? Probably not. Throughout Trump’s campaign he has exuded classic narcissistic characteristics, including a sense of insecurity (obsessing over people insulting him and the size of his hands) and a strong sense of self grandiosity (believing that he knows more about terrorism than military generals and that “nobody knows more about debt” than him). In light of Trump’s propensity for egocentric behavior, it is reasonable to make predictions about Trump based not only on his past behavior, but also on the narcissistic personality.
Overview of the Narcissistic Personality
A key part of the narcissistic personality is splitting, seeing things in more of a black and white view. Things cannot be somewhat good or somewhat bad, one or the other is the only option. Trump exemplifies this by vilifying entire groups of people. For instance, Trump once said, in regards to Mexicans, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump has also taken hard line stances on most issues, failing to acknowledge that several political issues, such as international trade, have both positives and negatives.
Narcissists also create an enhanced self-image to cope with their own insecurities. Some of Trump’s insecurities are obvious, such as his insecurities over the size of his hands. In fact, when a magazine published something about the size of Trump’s fingers, explaining Trump as “a short-fingered vulgarian,” Trump repeatedly sent photos to the publication in order to explain that his hands were not “abnormally stubby.” Trump’s insecurities are also exemplified in his interactions with the media. For example, in regards to the scrutinization and satirization that politicians often go through, Trump has shown an uncanny ability to take the satirization and scrutinazation as personal insult, similar to authoritarian leaders. An example of this is Trump’s behavior towards Saturday Night Live and other satirical outlets.
What We Can Expect From Donald Trump
Due to Trump’s need for reaffirmation, to build up his grandiose self, Trump will likely surround himself with sycophants. Surrounding himself with people that tell him what he wants to hear has already been happening, evident in Trump’s political appointments. Why would Trump choose Rex W. Tillerson as Secretary of State instead of Mitt Romney? One reason may be that Romney has a history of disagreeing with Trump, which means that Tillerson is more likely than Romney to tell Trump what he wants to hear. We can expect the same behavior from Trump in the future; political positions are most likely to go to the sycophants not the most qualified.
It may also be tough for Trump to communicate diplomatically with other political leaders, considering that Trump may see adversarial leaders as purely bad, which could lead to increased military activity. Increased military activity seems more likely when taking into consideration the amount of military generals appointed to Trump’s cabinet. Additionally, foreign policy may become increasingly reactionary, meaning that Trump may react more strongly and negatively toward specific behaviors, such as terrorism and anything seen as an attack on him or his fellow Americans. Glimpses of these reactionary policies can already be seen. For example, Trump has advocated torturing the families of terrorists and banning Muslims, two policies that can actually increase terrorist recruitment rates.
Trump will certainly be different from previous US presidents. The biggest difference may not be that Trump had a career as a business man or that Trump has no experience in politics, it may be Trump’s psyche, which seems to be further down on the narcissistic side of the scale than many past US presidents. However, only time will tell what Trump will actually do, but I would be very surprised if Trump switched emotional course and became less egocentric.
Image Source: Time Magazine