I wasn’t a great student at Middlebury College but I managed to learn a few things. For instance, in Professors Swift’s Psychology 1 class, I learned about a concept called “Projection”. For simplicity and space limitations, we will use the current Wikipedia definition of “Projection”. “Psychological Projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.” With relatively few exceptions, psychologists uniformly claim that projection is the result of a variety of personal experiences including genetic and chemical issues that have sown deep furrows of self-doubt and insecurity in those who practice it. There is also a growing body of research that shows its impact on the behavior of those who are the objects of projection. The subject has been exhaustively studied by many respected practitioners and scholars for well over a century and even more urgently in this age of bully awareness. In my layman’s view and in the opinion of more appropriately-trained others Donald Trump shows many of the textbook signs of projection.
Here’s what Mr. Trump is doing. First, the reason he brings up things like “Crooked Hillary” or “Rigged Elections” or “Health Infirmities” as imminent dangers and qualities in others is because all of them define who Donald Trump consciously or otherwise knows he embodies. He is crooked and routinely dances around the edges of ethical and legal practices and has done so for most of his adult life. It is not unlike the person who says, “I’m an honest guy.” Anyone who feels the need to say it probably isn’t. Similarly, Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks on Mrs. Clinton’s honesty, is just a way to take your eye off Mr. Trump who some people would mistakenly think must be honest because he criticizes another person’s alleged lack of honesty. If Donald Trump wasn’t at his very core, dishonest and conniving, he would not have felt the need to brand someone else as “crooked”. Ask any of the hundreds if not thousands of people who have been financially burned by him, workers, investors, contractors and students. By calling out Hillary or anyone else as “crooked” his political opponents spend most of their efforts on proving him wrong by focusing on Hillary’s or their own background and in doing so they are forced to call attention to those very items that Mr. Trump has targeted and even some that he hasn’t mentioned. In the presidential arena, Hillary’s defense team does the dirty work of scouring the Hillary landscape for him because they think he may likely mention a possible flaw at some future time.
Mr. Trump’s attacks on Hillary’s health is another projectile launch. Despite his claims of being robust and in great shape, he isn’t. At over 236 pounds given his height listed at 6’2” in earlier accounts and 6’3” more recently the apparent result of a mysterious late-in-life growth spurt, he would be rated as obese by most medical (BMI) standards. If he doesn’t exercise regularly (which he doesn’t) and if he didn’t eat fast food which everyone knows is the worst kind of diet (clogged arteries and elevated blood pressure), he could easily be classified by many respected physicians as a coronary event waiting to happen. Ordinarily one might think it would not be the best idea to make health a key issue in a Presidential campaign. But his ongoing attacks on Hillary’s health obscures his own far more dangerous health issues and inner fears from the minds of most voters. That’s really smart if you are a fundamentally nefarious soul. And even if someone else brings up the Trump health profile, he knows how to let his health information trickle out to the public in ways that will muddle anything resembling a straightforward picture of his state of well being. But because Hillary has actually gotten sick and has revealed her medical record warts and all, Donald Trump can “skate” because he raised the issue and for many that somehow gives him a pass when it comes to following the full-disclosure demands he made of his opponent.
Early in the campaign following his nomination, Mr. Trump brought up the possibility of a rigged election, an issue that no one took seriously. But he did that for a reason not only because he has spent a lifetime finding ways to circumvent laws and common practice but because he knew that something was afoot with Russian hackers and maybe others to do just that. He knew that by bringing it up as a tactic attributed to the other side, he could avoid any suspicion that he and his likely Russian connection could be the actual perpetrators. Moreover, since he was the vocal champion of no rigged elections, if his Russian hackers delivered the goods by delivering the election, he could again “skate” as the vocal champion of fair elections. Donald Trump is up to his eyeballs as a facilitator of Russian hacking activities simply through his very public statements of unbounded admiration for his paragon-of-leadership model, Vladimir Putin. I would be astonished if that didn’t embolden the bad guys.
The list goes on. “Senator (fill in the name) is weak.” It could be said that a Trump charge like that merely covers up his inner self and his own failings caused by an overwhelming sense of weakness and self-doubt. Failure to honor two sacred marriage vows and counting suggests that something profound may be amiss in the Trump psyche. It may be that every charge that Mr. Trump levels so freely and usually unsubstantiated may be a revealing window on his dark inner persona marked by an abundance of self-doubt, fear and probably a fair dose of self-loathing.
Nope, here in the projection booth, the air is getting really foul. It oozes corruption and it offends the senses in every way. If the delusional Mr. Trump conducted his campaign in front of the mirror he too would be terrified. He would be facing someone who is as fundamentally unqualified and morally bankrupt (as well as actually bankrupt) and probably as legally and maybe physically vulnerable as any presidential candidate in the history of this great nation.
Donald Trump’s supporters, many of whom know this stuff, may want to ask, “Why do I like this guy so much?” A better and far more important question is “What is it about my own character and value system that makes me admire such a flawed human being like Mr. Trump and what is it about the idea of a free democracy that I find so abhorrent that I am willing to voluntarily give him the reins of this incredible, one-of-a-kind nation?” If you need answers, you may want to check out a couple of volumes about world history from the late 1920’s through the outbreak of World War Two. The answers and the outcomes are all there for anyone who can read.
For those of us seeking a cure for what ails this nation, Mr. Trump is seen by some as an elixir. But his medicine is different and dangerous. Let’s pretend that your child is ill and you have two medication choices. One container has the FDA stamp of approval and a track record of the medicine’s curative powers along with all of the ingredients clearly listed on the label including a narrative of possible side effects which are attention grabbing but far from lethal. The other bottle devoid of FDA approval carries an undocumented claim of a rapid 100% cure rate with no ingredients and no side effects listed anywhere on the glitzy label. Which would you choose for your child? This nation is the child of all of us.
Evaluating the candidates using something other than a medical metaphor and knowing what you already know about Mr. Trump’s business past, consider this. If you suddenly inherited some money or received a huge bonus at work and you had an opportunity to invest it for your retirement or as a legacy for your family would you invest it in a Trump enterprise or would you choose to look elsewhere? The answer is obvious. But in a real sense that is what is at stake in this election. We are all being asked to place in trust all of what we have and all of what we want our children to have in essentially a contest between two people, one with a clear record of public service spanning four decades and the other with no public service and by any standard a checkered business and personal past that is still kept in the shadows by a failure to fully disclose key details prior to the election. It is between one whose past is a matter of an endlessly scrutinized record and the other with a complex personality that ascribes to his opponents the worst in him as attributes of anyone who opposes him. The world awaits our judgment and with it rides our moral and ethical standing among the nations sharing this precious blue planet.
Postscript: On September 16th, Mr. Trump proposed that we disarm Hillary Clinton’s security personnel to “… see what happens to her”. An utterly twisted, irresponsible statement like that would suggest that Mr. Trump’s mental issues may extend far beyond mere projection. Mr. Trump went beyond crossing a line. He took a full-body plunge into a cesspool of stomach-churning swill. You don’t need me to unravel what his words imply. They speak for themselves and represent a clear call to action for every American of all political allegiances who value the nation and its future more than a political party, an entity that is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution of the United States of America. And beyond that, any citizens who abhor and are embarrassed and disgusted by Mr. Trump’s presence as a legitimate candidate for the highest office in our beloved land should join hands with all citizens on that noble non-violent path to redemption that simply requires the deployment of any democracy’s most powerful weapon, the ballot. Use it!