Trickle-down economics has never worked and is still not. Many American workers are angry the only thing that has trickled down are wage-cuts, upside-down mortgages, underemployment, personal bankruptcies and disappearing pensions. The 2016 election the Republican Party cloaked the neoliberal policies in declared concern for ‘the little guy’ – it was necessary to create popular grassroots illusions about its regressive agenda and character. This manipulation of populism by elitism involved sense of powerlessness concocted by the right-wing elite and their corporate sponsors. Emotions play a dominant role in decision-making because the connections from the emotion systems to the reflex systems are stronger than those from the reflexive system to the emotion systems. According to LeDoux, while conscious control over emotions is weak, emotions can flood consciousness. This explains why it is easier for emotional information to overwhelm our conscious thought than for us to gain conscious control over our emotions.1
Herman Broch (1886-1951), an Austrian writer, observes, “Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillations between flight and longing.” A great deal of your decisions are informed by your emotional responses because that is what emotions are designed to do: to appraise and summarize and experience and inform your actions. Emotions are not particularly sophisticated or precise, but their speed and utility make up for what they lack in sophistication and precision. Emotions, when they are not disordered, provide information about your circumstances in a simple, quick way that does not involve a lot of cognition (thinking about it). So, they attempt to tell you if a situation is optimal or not aligned with your goal, and how you might approach it. Elizabeth Gilbert notes, “Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions”
Emotions serve a purpose, informing you, the operator of your body, what to do. We’re constantly faced with an abundance of information that we must process – a lot of stimulation to reflect upon. You do not have time to process all information in a reflective fashion but your brain processes it passively and unconsciously. If your brain comes across something it appraises as a “red flag,” you’ll be sent a general, vague alert in the form of the feelings and thoughts that are created by an emotion. This somewhat imprecise signal alerts you to pay attention. In this way, your emotions serve as a cueing system – an attention directing system associated with physiological changes that can prepare you to take action. But it is also not a very smart system because it has many false alarms. There are emotional misfires. Thus, you need to evaluate your response to see if it is appropriate.2
Emotions are behind many complex dynamics in business and personal relationships. For example, a personal or professional relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality characteristics can trigger a consuming emotional response in you. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. The well-known self-centered tendencies of the person with narcissistic personality traits lead them, so we are told, to make rash decisions that ignore the hard facts. Their belief that they are “special” leads these individuals to ignore the reality of a situation and figure that no matter what, they will come out ahead. As a result, people high in narcissism may engage in risky behavior such as gambling, spend money recklessly, and fail to take the more critical view that can benefit sober decision-making processes. Even though they may not live up to their own inflated expectations, they continue to see themselves as more capable and intelligent than others.
All humans have emotions – even narcissists. It is how we choose to relate to our emotions that matters. The narcissist tends to repress them so deeply that, for all practical purposes, they play no conscious role in his life and conduct, though they play an extraordinarily large unconscious role in determining both. He does not empathize with other people’s feelings. Actually, he holds them in contempt and ridicule. He cannot understand how people are so sentimental, so “irrational” (he identifies being rational with being cool headed and cold blooded). Often the narcissist believes that other people are “faking it”, merely aiming to achieve a goal. He is convinced that their “feelings” are grounded in ulterior, non-emotional, motives. He becomes suspicious, embarrassed, feels compelled to avoid emotion-tinged situations, or, worse, experiences surges of almost uncontrollable aggression in the presence of genuinely expressed sentiments.
Donald Trump has three main enablers. The Republican Party has long played the race card – charging Democrats with coddling black “welfare queens” and being soft on black crime. Denying facts preceded Trump – includes carbon emissions cause climate change, and tax cuts cause deficits. Once elected, there is minimal push back on Trumpism. The second enabler has been the media. Trump’s outrageousness generated an audience, which in turn, created big profits for the media. This created twice as much free coverage for Trump compared to Hillary Clinton. The third enabler has been the Democratic Party. The Democrats once represented the working class. In the past three decades the economic elite have taken over the fund raising and the philosophy of the party. Christopher Hitchens complained to Bill Clinton about, “the manipulation of populism by elitism.” While Republicans played the race card to get the working class to abandon the Democratic Party, the Democrats simultaneously abandoned the working class – clearing the way for Trump.
Gaslighters/narcissists create an enemy and crisis, then “solve” that same crisis. They then demand accolades after that crisis (that they created) has been resolved. Why do they do this? It creates support within their base. And with 2020 elections right around the corner, Trump knows the importance of manufacturing an enemy and then portraying himself as the only person who could “conquer” this manufactured enemy. Trump instinctively understands how indispensable his own individual persona is to his ultimate goal of grasping and maintaining power. Amidst his string of business failures, Trump’s singular talent has been that of any con man: the incredible ability to cultivate a public image. This is where the media comes in: Trump has finessed his situation (being the president) into a situation where media have no real moves left. The press engages in the battle for eyeballs, and can’t just ignore the guy in the White House, so they have to report on the circus.
The 2020 voters must become aware of aggressive maneuvers of the administration on progressive values. These include rollbacks on Obama health care provisions, civil rights and human rights, and federal environmental rules and regulations. The Republican Party carries water for the fossil fuel industry and other big business. They have over 80 environmental rules and regulations to be rolled back or reversed. The list includes: twenty-two on air pollution and emissions, eighteen on drilling and extraction, thirteen on infrastructure and planning, ten on wildlife control, five on toxic substances and safety, and seven on water pollution. The consequences of these changes will be a significant in greenhouse gas emissions, and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor quality air each year. Voters must be careful of rumors and hoaxes about the voting and polling places – false stories, misleading ads and suspicious mailers are an unfortunate feature of most modern political campaigns.
Narcissist politicians somehow think they “deserve” to game the system. After all, from their self-interested perspective, isn’t that what the system is for? Machiavellian narcissists like Trump have mastered the art of one-upmanship as they try to show their superiority while steamrolling over everyone else’s feelings and opinions. You must understand that reacting is giving away your power while responding is empowering yourself and not getting caught in the narcissist’s trap. A reaction is instant. It’s driven by beliefs, biases, and prejudices of the unconscious mind. A response on the other hand comes more slowly. It’s based on information from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind. The narcissist wants your outrage, your disbelief; they want you to be appalled at what they say. Remember the part of the brain that makes decisions is also the part of the brain where emotions come from.
No one equivocates or dis-informs with greater conviction than the narcissist-politician, whose blatant disregard for facts can at times be mind-boggling. Trump’s opponents must beware explaining and defending against the narcissist leaves you open to more abuse. When you address the content of what is being said and explain and defend your position, you endorse Trump’s right to judge, approve, or abuse you. Your reaction sends this message: “You have power over my self-esteem. You have the right to approve or disapprove of me. You’re entitled to be my judge.” People must appreciate how important emotions are in making decisions that impact on making a better world. People tend to overestimate their emotional intelligence – the ability to read, understand and respond to emotions in ourselves and others. Voters need to focus on the roll backs of previous progressive legislation, and not be overwhelmed by the manipulative rhetoric of the front man for the economic elite.
1 Shahram Heshmat. (05 May 2017) Who Is Actually in Charge When We Make Decisions? https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/science-choice/201705/who-is-actually-in-charge-when-we-make-decisions
2 Mary Lamina. (31 Dec 2010) Like it Or Not, Emotions Will Drive the Decisions You Make Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201012/it-or-not-emotions-will-drive-the-decisions-you