The following essay was written by Dr. Karen Weaver, a Child & Family Clinical Psychologist and the former Mayor of Flint, Michigan.
Though I have not seen President Trump as a patient, as a licensed mental health professional, I am compelled to speak to the danger he currently poses. This is neither a partisan issue, nor is it about a stolen election. This is a crisis in mental health for our country. I hope to use my training to explain why I believe our President is unfit for public service and a few ways Americans have been harmed.
In my professional opinion, President Trump shows evidence of genuine psychopathy. The term, “psychopath” should not be used carelessly, even when we disagree with a person, policy, or political philosophy. Psychopathy is a serious mental health condition. One is not a psychopath because one commits sins, breaks the law, is greedy, or has random flaws. President Trump is a psychopath because he delights in cruelty, vindictiveness and violence; lacks empathy; displays excessive, compulsive antisocial behavior; and because he is myopically focused on self gratification, served by a pattern of pathological lying, threats and other manipulative actions towards others. He is a psychopath because he doesn’t understand right versus wrong as healthy people do. ‘Right’ is whatever he desires.
The world is shocked that an American President masterminded a war on his own country, sending an army of thousands to attack our first branch of government. He used tax-funded staffing to carry out criminal activity. His loyalists promised “Trump or war!” They showed up in tactical gear, with maps of the Capitol Building’s layout, bombs and zip ties. Legislators fled for their lives. Five people died, including an officer, who was violently bashed in the head with a fire extinguisher. As the Capitol was overrun, he watched on television, amused. He pledged to his Confederate flag waving supporters that this was “only the beginning of our fight.” He owns this.
Yet, simply leading an army is not a sign of psychopathy. The disorder is in the act of manipulation, lies, lack of restraint, disregard for consequences, gaslighting and amusement in the midst of chaos. The disorder is seen in his inability to tolerate election data which disagrees with his goals. The swift action Wednesday by Twitter and Facebook was an act of corporate responsibility to protect American lives.
That President Trump embraces extremes is no surprise. Wednesday’s coup attempt was one of many actions which demonstrate his inability to put the best interest of Americans ahead of ambition. Throughout 2020, he intentionally misrepresented the coronavirus, dismissing its danger, waving off urgency to take aggressive action, politicizing CDC recommendations, holding large rallies, discouraging the use of masks at his events, and bullying Governors who sought to keep citizens safe. His words have encouraged domestic terrorists to plot to kidnap two Governors who disagreed with him about how to slow the spread of the virus.
Today, the United States leads the world in coronavirus cases. We are 4% of the world’s population, yet 1 out of 5 global COVID-19 deaths is in the U.S. While 76,000, the number of deaths if the nation’s death toll was consistent with the global average, is a tragic number, instead, over 374,000 Americans have died. Victims included Herman Cain, one of his most ardent believers, who contracted COVID-19 after attending the President’s rally without facial covering.
Post election, the President was too busy to focus on defeating COVID-19. As the virus surged, he exerted his influence to reverse the election, even if it meant disenfranchising voters, threatening lawmakers to find votes, and leading a coup against Congress. After 200 years of peaceful transition between administrations, Trump became the weakest link in our democracy. He not only weaponized misinformation, but he monetized it too, with hourly texts sent to Americans, like these:
November 24: “The Fake News won’t report on evidence of voting irregularities! Pres. Trump needs YOU to EXPOSE THE TRUTH! 1000%-IMPACT for 1 HOUR! Act Now”
December 3: “Pres. Trump: I texted you. My sons texted you. Now I’m texting you AGAIN. I’ve EXTENDED your 1000% offer. Will you step up? Donate now.”
December 7: “President Trump: We will not bend. We will not break. We will never give in. We will never give up. We will never surrender! Stand with us NOW”
January 6: “HAPPENING NOW, Congress is voting to certify or OBJECT TO, the Election results. President Trump needs YOU to STAND WITH HIM! 1000% IMPACT. Donate”
President Trump is like a 74-year-old toddler acting out on the world’s stage. He believes that he is entitled to win. He lives by a motto that one can do anything one wants to when one is a star. He told us he was unaccountable when he declared he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not be arrested. He describes ‘good ole days’ as a time when protesters were beaten and dragged. Unconcerned with the Senator’s safety, he joked, “I wonder if Romney enjoyed his flight last night?” knowing the lawmaker had been harassed by Trump believers on an airplane. Fit for the office? No. Donald Trump isn’t able to be loyal to our institutions and traditions. As Messiah of the QAnon ‘Stop the Steal’ misinformation campaign, his loyalty is to himself.
It’s natural to be disappointed with loss considering the time and energy invested in running for office. Yet, the most important person in our democracy is the losing candidate who upholds the people’s will over personal goals, and practices grace in the face of defeat. Peaceful transition is the cornerstone of a stable democracy.
A good leader doesn’t Tweet everytime the wind blows, or ignore a pandemic. President Trump may be a master of marketing, director of disruption, and Pied Piper of chaos. However, he has no ability to keep an oath, or uphold the Constitution of the United States. He is not fit for “public service”. He hasn’t the capacity to understand the meaning of the words, “public service”. Our children are watching. It’s important that we don’t normalize unhealthy behavior.
Dr. Karen Weaver served as Mayor of Flint, MI from 2015 through 2019, advocating for clean water during the Flint Water Crisis. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Michigan State University.
[CC image credit: Thomas Hawk | Flickr]