Accepting the reality about Trump’s disordered personality is important and even essential. For one thing, it will help us to better react to Trump’s freak show.Even now, almost a thousand days into his presidency, the latest Trump outrage elicits shock and disbelief in people. The reaction is, “Can you believe he said that and did this?”
To which my response is, “Why are you surprised?” It’s a shock only if the assumption is that we’re dealing with a psychologically normal human being. We’re not. Trump is profoundly compromised, acting just as you would imagine a person with a disordered personality would. Many Americans haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that we elected as president a man who is deeply damaged, an emotional misfit. But it would be helpful if they did.
Among other things, it would keep us feeling less startled and disoriented, less in a state of constant agitation, less susceptible to provocations. Donald Trump thrives on creating chaos, on gaslighting us, on creating antipathy among Americans, on keeping people on edge and off balance. He wants to dominate our every waking hour. We ought not grant him that power over us.
It might also take some of the edge off the hatred many people feel for Trump. Seeing him for what he is—a terribly damaged soul, a broken man, a person with a disordered mind—should not lessen our revulsion at how Trump mistreats others, at his cruelty and dehumanizing actions. Nor should it weaken our resolve to stand up to it. It does complicate the picture just a bit, though, eliciting some pity and sorrow for Trump.
But above all, accepting the truth about Trump’s mental state will cause us to take more seriously than we have our democratic duty, which is to prevent a psychologically and morally unfit person from becoming president.
The office is too powerful, and the consequences are too dangerous, to allow a person to become president who views morality only through the prism of whether an action advances his own narrow interests, his own distorted desires, his own twisted impulses. When an individual comes to believe his interests and those of the nation he leads are one and the same, it opens the door to all sorts of moral and constitutional devilry.
Whether or not his disorders are diagnosable, the president’s psychological flaws are all too apparent. They were alarming when he took the oath of office; they are worse now. Every day Donald Trump is president is a day of disgrace. And a day of danger.
PETER WEHNER is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.