The 2020 presidential election will decide either the life or death of America. — John Gartner
I have a list of things I fear — death by fire, a decline into dementia, Pop-Tarts — but I have never feared Donald Trump or his goose-stepping minions. I loathe and despise them, and I fear for the people whom their policies actively hurt (most all of us, really), but I don’t fear them. Neither should you.
However, I do feel a deep apprehension for what Trump might do if and when he loses re-election in November. We all think, hope, pray and anticipate him getting his ass dragged around the block by Biden in November, but there’s a question: what will Trump do in the event he loses?
Psychologist and psychotherapist John Gartner, a specialist in borderline personality disorders, has those same worries. And he feels Trump will go out swinging.
Trump’s bagman Michael Cohen said in Congressional testimony in February 2019:
Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.
I’m not worried about him not leaving the White House, as some do. It doesn’t matter if he acknowledges the loss or not.
If he loses in November, his presidency ends at noon on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, no matter what he and his idiot brownshirts say or do. I like to think that, given Trump’s penchant for belligerent, bullying behavior towards his “inferiors,” there will be plenty of Secret Service agents who are waiting for 12:01 pm on January 20 to put him on the ground and arrest him for trespassing. (Or just beat his flabby ass and throw him out of the front door. I’m good either way.)
Former US Attorney Barbara McQuade agrees, writing for The Atlantic: “[T]he newly minted president would possess … presidential powers. If necessary, [Biden] could direct federal agents to forcibly remove Trump from the White House. Now a private citizen, Trump would no longer be immune from criminal prosecution, and could be arrested and charged with trespassing in the White House. While even former presidents enjoy Secret Service protection, agents presumably would not follow an illegal order to protect one from removal from office.” She doesn’t say anything about the Secret Service beating the brakes off him in the East Room, but I think privately she might get a chuckle out of the idea.
Nor can he just cancel the election. If he does something insane to disrupt the election to the point where it cannot be held, then on 12:01 pm of January 20, 2021, Nancy Pelosi becomes president. Boy, would he hate that…
What Gartner fears is the motivation for vengeance an infuriated Trump would feel in the days and weeks after the November election, should he lose it. You can forget about W’s being pried off keyboards. Trump is psychologically capable of far worse than that.
Since Trump has taken office, he has performed not one action that was taken on behalf of the American people. Not one. He started by lying about the size of the crowd during his inauguration and attacking the media over its inauguration coverage, and in the last several days has recommended that Americans inject themselves with disinfectants to battle the COVID-19 virus, and said he won’t provide federal aid to states who have “sanctuary cities” for immigrants. We don’t even need to go through the list of his criminal and malicious actions in the federal response to the virus alone. We’d be here all day.
Gartner asks a powerful question:
[T]o merely document the Trump regime’s deadly failures in response to the coronavirus pandemic is to ignore the most important question: What were Trump and his advisers’ underlying motivations?
Gartner isn’t the only one asking this question. He cites one of my favorite media critics, Eric Boehlert, who recently asked:
Maybe Trump’s vengeful. Maybe he wants to wreck the economy to create investment opportunities? He’s under the thumb of a foreign entity? He wants to cause panic and cancel the November elections? He’s a fatalist? Who knows. And honestly, the specific “why” isn’t what matters now. What matters is asking the difficult questions and pondering what the Trump presidency is truly about, no matter what lurks in the shadows. … Now the press needs to shift some of its focus and ask the truly alarming questions about Trump and his motives. Because we still don’t know why he essentially ordered the federal government to stand down for the virus invasion.
Gartner’s answer is nothing new. He says Trump is a malignant narcissist. Google the term and you’ll find hundreds of articles, stories and blog posts speculating and asserting the same thing. But Gartner takes it further. What will a malignant narcissist like Trump do when he has the thing ne wants more than anything else — in his case, the presidency — taken away from him?
Gartner’s answer is simple: Revenge.
Trump is a stunted, malevolent, deeply cruel creature. Sadism and violence are at the heart of his being. The author of the Salon article this post is based on, Chauncey DeVega, writes that in Gartner’s view, “Trump is an abuser locked into a deeply dysfunctional relationship with the American people and that, like other sadists, Trump enjoys causing harm and suffering.”
Of course this is true. And Trump was quick to begin using the levers of government, however ham-handedly, to begin rewarding his associates — he has no friends — and hurting his enemies. DeVega writes:
Ultimately, Gartner concludes that Donald Trump is engaging in “democidal behavior” and cautions that the tens of thousands of dead (so far) from the coronavirus pandemic are not simply collateral damage from Trump’s policies, but rather the logical outcome of Trump’s apparent mental pathologies and the poor decisions that flow from them.
The Trump administration’s response to the pandemic — one of the worst crises faced by an American president since the Civil War — is emblematic of Trump’s incompetence, his malevolence, and his deep cruelty. He isn’t just handling the response poorly or making one mistake after another. He is deliverately sabotaging the federal and the state governments’ abilities to respond to the crisis.
Add to this toxic mix the fact (according to Gartner) that Trump is a sexual sadist. This is scary enough when we’re watching psychopathic killers on shows like Criminal Minds or Mindhunter, but to have a sexual sadist in the Oval Office is a wholly different order of threat. Trump gets gratification — sexual gratification — from hurting people. And as president during a time of pandemic, he can hurt a lot of people. He’s doing so deliberately, because it makes him feel powerful, and, frankly, because he gets pleasure from it. Gartner says:
Professor of psychiatry and psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg called that phenomenon “omnipotent destructiveness.” The bullying, the violence, the destruction, frightening people, humiliating people, getting revenge and the like — such behavior is what Donald Trump has done his whole life. It is who Donald Trump really is. Unfortunately, too many people are still in denial of that fact.
Gartner takes it further:
We are being abused by him. We know that Trump is lying. We know that he’s doing nothing to help us. We feel helpless to do anything to stop him. It is causing collective mental despair. In this way Donald Trump is inducing feelings of rage and outrage — and he keeps doing it. It is not that all Americans are suckers or dupes, it is that Trump is a master at such cruel and manipulative behavior. Donald Trump knows exactly what he is doing to the physical and emotional health of the American people.
Gartner then takes it further than even I had speculated. Trump, he writes, is a “democidal maniac.” Democide, as the link above shows, is “murder by government.” Trump will use his power as the American president to kill thousands — many thousands — of Americans. He is already doing it, having helped kill 63,861 Americans from COVID-19 as I write this. The numbers will be higher by the time you read this.
There is no mystery behind Trump’s affection for dictators and democidal maniacs like Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and others, and his reciprocal hatred of democratic leaders like Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau. Gartner notes: “If you look at human history there is one trait that all malignant narcissistic leaders have in common: They kill mass numbers of their own people. Why would Donald Trump be any different?”
Trump intends to go down in history alongside “leaders” such as Pol Pot, Josef Stalin, and Adolf Hitler. This is not exaggeration. Gartner observes: “Malignant narcissists like Donald Trump view other human beings as kindling wood to be burned for their own personal enrichment and enlargement and expansion.”
Gartner says that the specific actions Trump will take as his presidency winds to a close are not predictable, but they can be analogized to the actions taken by a domestic abuser. What does a man who has spent years raping, beating and abusing his wife do when she finally takes the initiative and begins to leave him?
She has her keys in hand and is opening the door of the house or apartment to finally leave. What happens? The democidal maniac Donald Trump will attack us, badly. Make no mistake. Donald Trump is going to find a way to attack and cause great harm to the American people if he believes that he will lose the 2020 election.
We need to be ready for anything.
Update: A Daily Kos article appeared today, titled Donald Trump’s Sadism Isn’t Sexual — It’s Far Worse. The author cites Gartner’s work, and says, “While it’s obvious Trump has a sadistic streak, it’s important to understand that it is not sexual.” I think the diarist is wrong, because he doesn’t accept the sexual aspect of Trump’s need to dominate. Any survivor of rape by a sexual sadist will agree that the rapist’s need to dominate is as important as their need to inflict pain. The DK author gets this right, more or less:
The one thing that seems to link all of Trump’s efforts is that they are aimed at gaining him primacy. In every transaction he must come out ahead, which can best be proven by hurting the other parties. A sexual sadist relieves his sexual tension and the urge passes for awhile; if he wants to live among other civilized people he finds a way to direct his urges in relatively harmless directions with consensual partners or fantasies. But Trump’s need for primacy can’t be sated.
However, he doesn’t seem to understand that the need for primacy is inextricably intertwined with his need for sexual release. The one feeds the other. Young Trump fed his insatiable need for dominance not only in the boardroom, but in innumerable consensual and non-consensual sexual encounters with any woman he found desirable, whether it be 14-year old models or the trophy wives of his business rivals. Now, being president gives him a whole raft of new opportunities to assert dominance and inflict pain. He may not get direct sexual satisfaction as the death toll rises, but, as the author of the DK article and I agree, he enjoys it, and he wants to do more of it.
Short version: he is a sexual sadist, but he is more complex — if we can use that word with Donald Trump — than a “mere” oafish sexual predator who attacks women in his orbit when he isn’t drinking beer, eating pork rinds, and watching wrestling.
I agree with what the author of the DK article wrote:
With the coronavirus he will have the best death toll ever, and while he will blame everyone but himself he will take a secret rush of pleasure (which he probably won’t hide very well, because unlike a typical sociopath he has no ability and little inclination to hide his real feelings) that he showed all those people who was really in charge.
and maintain that if and when he loses re-election, and thusly is poised to lose his access to the tools he can use to inflict vast pain and suffering on huge numbers of people, he will do something to vent his rage and sate his dark-hearted needs in one last orgy of cruelty. Whether he can pull it off is another story. But minimizing his need to hurt — well, everyone, really — is foolish. He will try something calamitous, on a grand scale. As Rachel says, watch this space.