Mass Psychology in the Age of Trump

Trump is not the first-ever Republican President with right-wing followers. However, he and his Presidency elicit a visceral response from liberals, both in the United States and abroad. This article in Democracy Journal takes a detailed look at why this happened.

Mass Psychology in the Age of Trump


“What precisely is it about Trump that drives liberals to these cataclysmic views? The answer has to do as much with liberals as with Trump himself. First, there is the nature of liberal ideology itself, which—because of its peculiar characteristics and internal contradictions—contributes to the present situation. Second, there are psychological factors, the dispositional tendencies of those who are drawn to liberal ideology. These two elements are related because there is a close and reciprocal connection—what Max Weber called an “elective affinity”—between psychological needs on one hand and the philosophical contents of an ideology on the other.”

A mad social scientist could not have devised a character who is more antithetical to the liberal worldview than Donald Trump—even a staunch conservative with a more disciplined commitment to right-wing ideals. Trump is unique in his ability to provoke, upset, and irritate those with liberal sensibilities. No doubt this is part of his appeal to a certain segment of the population—the ones who have been told since Nixon that “liberal elites” were laughing at them.”

We are now equipped to answer the question: Why does Trump—even more than other conservatives—make liberal brains go haywire? It is because he makes it impossible, in practice, for liberals to be tolerant (egalitarian), rational, and optimistic about human nature—three things that are essential aspects of liberal ideology and liberal psychology. Trump makes it preposterous, in other words, for liberals to be “liberal” in the usual sense.

Like a spoiled, spiteful, indifferent king, he makes no pretense of listening to or representing us—half the nation—in any way. In this respect, he is worse—more personally contemptuous of liberal norms, traditions, and accomplishments—than Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. If Trump were more religious he would resemble a pre-Enlightenment figure; it would be difficult to find a less scientifically informed member of the upper class. And yet the whole country, it seems, is held hostage to his narcissistic wounds, authoritarian rants, and Twitterstorms.

“In a preface to The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich wrote that “‘fascism’ is only the organized political expression of the structure of the average man’s character.” The fact that authoritarian inclinations are so mundane and quotidian means that they are a constant danger—and a constant source of anxiety for the liberal. It would be foolish at this historical moment to suggest that fascism has come to America. It has not. But to many of us, it feels as if we are closer to it than we ever thought possible.”

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AbdulMajeed Abid

I am a medical doctor by profession, specializing in Pathology. I have been writing about Pakistan's political history and Islamism since 2011. I was the Assistant Editor for Pakistani blogzine, Pak Tea House for a couple of years. I have written for various Pakistani publications (both Urdu and English) since. My writings can be accessed at 1. 2. 3. 4.

4 thoughts on “Mass Psychology in the Age of Trump”

  1. Trump is partly post modernist, partly left, partly socialist, partly liberal, partly moderate, partly conservative, partly reality TV star, partly Hollywood, partly charisma, partly megalomaniac, partly narcissist and partly just plain weird. Trump continually changes his mind on everything minute by minute. A non ideological unpredictable pragmatist.

    The combination drives all sorts of people mad. Trump can’t be pigeonholed into anything. Can’t be accused of anything. Trump can instantly point out the many ways he agrees with anyone and everyone on many/most of their core issues. And to top it off underneath that thick skin of continuous self promotion and oddness there is a heart, and a shocking amount of emotional authenticity (shocking in our fake virtue signaling world). Trump actually sees the American people kind of like his nephews, nieces, grandkids, mentees and employees. Albeit Ivanka is still his favorite.

    There are many honest things Trump has said that almost no other Americans have ever dared to say in public. Including that the rest of the world is rising and that America’s share of global income, wealth and power has fallen sharply. Including the myriad of ways foreigners are smarter than American policy makers and politicians; and frequently take Americans for a ride. That America has far too much crime and a rotten K-12 school system filled with too many spineless virtue signaling post modernist teachers who refuse to exemplify and teach values. None of this isn’t widely known; but it wasn’t spoken out load before Trump. We can’t solve problems before acknowledging them. Trump is the first prominent American to acknowledge America’s problems in generations. Trump leads the most humble America in generations ironic though that might seem.

    Yet all the same his fierce harsh way of speaking worries his supporters to no end. How can anyone justify calling Senator Ted Cruz’s wife what Trump called her; accusing Senator Ted Cruz’s dad of complicity in the assassination of JFK, and demanding Senator Ted Cruz’s birth certificate, and demanding President Obama’s birth certificate? Who can justify the way Trump treated little Marco and low energy Jeb? Does America want an president that allows their raw emotions to flow through them and control their actions with few filters?

    If President Trump committed adultery, how can that be justified? There is something a little unsettling about a married sixty year old with what appears from the outside to be a perfect wife and perfect children committing adultery with young woman he should be lovingly and respectfully mentoring as daughters and nieces.

    And yet President Trump might do things that greatly benefit America and the world. President Trump might yet support moderate (LBGTQ, femnist, agnostic, atheist) Sunnis, minority muslims, ex-muslims more than any President in US history. But then he might not. President Trump is unpredictable. President Trump is an enigma.

    1. “If President Trump committed adultery, how can that be justified? There is something a little unsettling about a married sixty year old with what appears from the outside to be a perfect wife and perfect children committing adultery with young woman he should be lovingly and respectfully mentoring as daughters and nieces.”

      This is only if these allegations turn out to be true. They might not be true and I don’t want to malign or impugn people falsely.

      1. The President and a self identified prostitute get the same coverage is a reflection of the times we live in.

    2. Senator McCain has decided not to ask President Trump to speak at his funeral. There is no justification for the way President Trump personally attacked Senator McCain (and many other individuals) and President Trump is reaping what he sowed.

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