Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Brittmarie Janson Perez, "On the Informal Powers Trump Brings to the Presidency"

I'm honored today to have an outstanding, timely, minatory (as in, warning us of a threat we'd be foolish to ignore) essay to share with you from Brittmarie Janson Perez, entitled "On the Informal Powers Trump Brings to the Presidency." Brittie's essay follows:

The following analysis shows the power base Donald J. Trump will bring to the White House. It is necessary to resort to psychology to understand what use he might make of these powers. Reputable psychologists have classified Trump as suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), displaying grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and an excessive need for admiration and attention. Because their self-esteem is typically quite fragile underneath the surface, persons suffering from NPD are exceptionally sensitive to criticism or defeat. This is certainly the case with Trump, who is known for taking revenge on those who cross him. Some sources, including Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press," point out that Trump smiles rarely if at all, and that he does not publicly display a sense of humor. These may be other characteristics of persons suffering from NPD. 

The most interesting analysis of Trump's psychological makeup is by psychologist Dan P. McAdams in The Atlantic Monthly.

The "umbrella" which provides Trump with personal protection

1.  Is surrounded by a super loyal retinue: family, businessmen and lawyers who owe everything to him.

2. He has protected himself financially, and endowed himself with the power to benefit handsomely as president, by running successfully as the Republican presidential candidate without disclosing his tax returns, asserting that as president he is above conflict of interest issues.

3. He has protected himself physically by continuing to retain his personal bodyguard staff under Keith Schiller because he mistrusts the Secret Service. Unlike the Secret Service, private security services are unhampered by First Amendment protections of freedom of expression.

Trump's developing power of intimidation and mobilization

1. Has developed a personality cult since his appearance in "The Apprentice" on NBC in 2004. He presents himself as: bold, aggressive, forceful, unapologetic, and unpredictable.

2. As a "master of drama" he has guaranteed himself abundant and free television coverage.

3. Virtually monopolizes public discourse by using Twitter which gives him direct and instant contact with the world, a form of uncensored communication which privileges exaggerations and lies. He has also counted with favorable press coverage with The New York Observer, owned by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Newsmax, a multimedia publishing company, through his friendship with its CEO, Christopher Ruddy.

4. Since August 2016, when he hired Steve Bannon to be his senior counselor and chief adviser in the White House, Trump acquired another powerful means of disinformation, intimidation, and pressure with the media Bannon controls: Breitbart News, with headquarters in Los Angeles and bureaus in Texas, London, and Jerusalem, a daily program over Sirius XMRadio, including a number of vociferous alt-right, anti-feminist, anti-LGTB, anti-Semitic, and fascist groups. He also uses these to make incendiary allegations. For an excellent study of his sources of disinformation and misinformation, see Charley Warzel and Lam Thuy Vo at Buzzfeed.

5. With mass rallies, Trump developed an informal system of manipulating crowds which he has used, not only for mobilizing purposes in the campaign, but also to denigrate and delegitimize the formal institutions which uphold democracy, i.e. the electoral process, the judicial system, and a mainstream media which could puncture his personality cult and expose his lies. In the latter case, he has encouraged supporters to physically intimidate journalists present.

6. With the announcement that as president, Trump will continue his mass rallies and use of social media, including Facebook and Instagram, he has made sure that he will continue to be able to fortify his power base, personality cult, and powers of intimidation. It is also possible that Trump's previously numerous surrogates during the campaign, who defended or cleaned up Trump's most incendiary tweets while adding some disinformation of their own, will add their voices to those of the incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President.

Trump's use of his informal powers

1. Business sector: CEOs are intimidated and at the same time excited by Trump's use of tweets which, as in the cases of Boeing and Lockheed, shows business leaders that he can informally put his finger on the scales against them or in their favor.

2. The Democratic Party, including the minority in Congress, so far is not a current problem for Trump. However, House leader Paul Ryan is trying to prevent any repetition of the streaming of protests on the House floor like the one in June when Democrats protested at Ryan's failure to consider a gun control vote.

3. Conservative Republicans: Resistance to some of Trump's projects might come from conservative Republicans in Congress. However, Trump's informal enforcers have shown how hard they can push back. After Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) observed at the American Enterprise Institute that some of Trump's proposals might not line up well with conservative policies, Breitbart went on the attack, as did Sean Hannity of Fox, and a blogger on the site TruthFeed who, warning Flores on Twitter to "get ready for a shit storm," linked Flores' Twitter handle and Facebook page, even listing his office phone number. Soon Flores was besieged by phone calls and social media asserting that his career was on the line and even threatening his physical safety. The same had happened to Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who got nasty phone calls, letters and tweets after he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in August asking Trump to release his tax returns. Sanford admits that "People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks."

Note: It is encouraging to know that the impressive pressure on congressional representatives against gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics (OGE) recently came from their constituents and civil rights organizations, not Trump's informal "enforcers." Trump's tweets were the last determining factor.


The above data, which do not include the informal powers of Trump's cabinet members, give the impression that — with the formal powers he will gain as president, plus the informal powers he brings to the White House — Trump will have the necessary means to be a "tyrant," i.e. an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution. At the very least, the road is paved for a rampant kleptocracy.

Moreover, at every instance of gross or antidemocratic behavior, Trump has been enabled by his party and even supposed defenders of Christian ethics and morals. It bodes badly for our democracy that Trump's savage verbal attacks are defended by alleging that he is only an extreme and ugly outgrowth of our political culture, or that his breach of established political tradition is allowable because Trump is not a politician.

Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who in "The Cowardly GOP" criticized congressmen who allowed themselves to be intimidated by Trump's enforcers, has noted in relation to Trump's defense of Putin, that the question will be "whether the new commander in chief is intellectually unfit (because his own emotional needs take precedence over the well-being of the country) or whether Trump has financial or personal reasons for favoring the Russian autocrat. Absent his tax returns, the latter remains a possible explanation." Rubin's latest column has been devoted entirely to Trump's inability to tolerate critics.

Trump brings to the presidency the most impressive informal powers in the republican history of the United States. Hoping that he "comes to his senses" is not a plan as individuals suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder do not recover. His administration will be the most severe test of American democracy bar none.

The graphic is by Jeff Danziger by way of Truthdig.

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