In this paper, I focus on my speculations on why many USA voting citizens support DJT for POTUS. The reasoning for this support is incredibly challenging. DJT behaves like a malignant narcissistic. He is vulgar, bullying, vengeful, greedy, lying, stupefyingly ignorant, and racist. He is unethical, divisive, insolent, despicable, insulting, and abusive. Like many other people, I am grappling with mixed feelings about views about DJT versus desired views about many of his supporters.I assume this got the attention of readers.
I wrote this as a Clinical and Medical Psychologist and past university educator. I taught the following courses: Abnormal Psychology, Stress Management, History of Psychology, Research Methods, Social Psychology, and Biofeedback. I mainly focus on psychological factors
Surprisingly to many friends and family, I was a member of the Republican Party for several decades. Typically, but not always, I voted for Republican candidates, until about four years ago. I still believe in some positions of Republican politicians. I considered myself "center-right." I loathe the extreme right-wing and remained Republican to help fight against the extremes of that Party. I am now an Independent. I have not recently and would not join the Democratic Party primarily because I disagree with the well-meaning but naive and ill-conceived beliefs of too Liberal politicians.
I never liked HRC. Still, I very reluctantly voted for her solely because I viewed DJT as totally unqualified and dangerously pathological for our country. He has repeatedly demonstrated this over the past nearly four years. You might ask why I am noting all of this at the start of the article, thus risking that some readers will stop reading about here. I am hoping that:
Now, to the main thrust of this paper. I have noticed how easily people, including me, can sometimes view D. J. Trump supporters, in his role as POTUS, with extremely disparaging terms. I know that I have harbored and sometimes expressed those views openly. I started this paper with one of many such descriptions.
DJT is the worse and most dangerous POTUS in my lifetime that is 79 years. That viewpoint is stating a lot for me, given some of the prior people in that role. As a citizen, I was genuinely embarrassed during some prior men's terms in their roles as POTUS. I will not elaborate as that would be far from my purpose here.
My intent here is to explore my views of various hypothetical reasons why people support DJT as POTUS. Mind you; I would never vote for him. Still, I am writing this to help me, and perhaps readers, understand some possible and probable reasons people support him. My list is longer than I thought it would be when I first started writing this document. The list is also longer than some readers prefer. The length reflects my views on the complexity of the topic. And yet, the list could be even longer.
Another reason for me writing this document is to communicate to people who intensely oppose DJT, even to the point of ostracizing, alienating, or even "attacking" supporters. My intent and hope are that those people might benefit from considering and incorporating various views and consider them before behaving in ways that they might regret later. It is all too easy to disparage all people who support DJT. That is tempting but ill-conceived, unfair to them, and unfair to oneself.
Before discussing the individual items, I will share some information about me to facilitate "full disclosure" and possible factors influencing my viewpoints. My career as a Clinical Psychologist spans over 50 years. I have Jewish heritage and still am an ardent supporter of Israel. I taught a variety of university courses over many years. I grew up in a Democrat supporting family. I supported only Democrat candidates until I was in my 30s when I began supporting Republican candidates for the next 40 years. I left the Republican Party and identified as an Independent a few years ago when D.J.T. became President.[ii] However, I had thought of disengaging with that identification for a few years before DJT.
I am searching for understanding and hypothesizing factors contributing to people supporting DJT, and I arrived at many factors. I searched as a Clinical Psychologist, prior Medical Psychologist, as a prior Psychology professor, and as a prior Republican supporter. My search reflects my attempt to manage the intense stress and divisiveness created by DJT as POTUS. Adding to that stress and divisiveness is the realization that many millions of our fellow citizens support him. My search for understanding is also my attempt to help myself and others manage intense criticism of his supporters and aggressive thoughts toward them and DJT. I want to disagree and politically combat DJT and his power but do so with tempered, humane, and respectful attitudes toward at least many of his supporters. I am seeking to understand them, to feel and show empathy, and to sympathize with them, but at the same time defeat them politically. I want to gain elements of the famous and desirable relationship between RGB and Antonin Scalia. That was a significant part of my goal, as I wrote this BLOG. To understand and cope with the negative emotions that accompany the intense distaste and anger toward DJT, our country's embarrassment and sadness with him as POTUS. I want to enhance my perspectives and avoid the "hatred" and animosity, the fear and aggressive thoughts so many people feel about DJT, and, by extension, his supporters.
In summary, I propose the following factors and combinations of factors influence and account for support for DJT. Details are beyond this paper's scope.The items on the list are not mutually exclusive. In many, probably most cases, multiple list items characterize the people supporting DJT. Furthermore, these are not in any order.
Israel is another heart-rending and vital issue that influences supporters of DJT. I strongly supported DJT's positions and actions supporting Israel. There are small but vocal factions in the Democratic Party that now seek to oppose some of Israel's policies and actions. Many Evangelical Christians in the USA strongly support Israel's strengths and accomplishments and support DJT's actions. Evangelicals do not seem to care whether DJT's other behaviors are antithetical to being an ideal POTUS. For them, the POTUS must be more supportive of Israel than the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, that which is in the best interest of my country is ridding us of DJT as POTUS. That is clear to me, and I cannot allow a single issue, even one as crucial as Israel, cloud, or interfere with that decision.
I am uncomfortable criticizing people simply because of their psychopathology. I can and do forgive the seriously mentally ill. I can try to help them in all contexts except when they support and fight for politicians that threaten needy, innocent Americans, or me or those people I cherish. I believe that severe psychopathology contributes substantially to the support of DJT. My attitudes toward them are not caring for a patient with my typical "unconditional positive regard," but rather as someone who requires a different approach. My goals include avoiding trying to "help" and diverting my energy to minimally "defeating" them in an election.
Noise (2020) reminds us that intelligence is different from anti-intellectualism, and even smart people embrace ignorant ideas. All humans are prone to influences that interfere with critical thinking. Multiple forces in our society promote anti-intellectualism, and this contributes to them appearing ignorant. So, separate from limitations, apparent ignorance is due to many factors. Nevertheless, for whatever reasons, ignorance and anti-intellectualism appear prevalent among DJT supporters.
Noise, D. (2020). Are Americans Just Stupid? Anti-intellectualism has little to do with intelligence. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-humanity-naturally/202010/are-americans-just-stupid
Hassan, S. (2019). The Cult of Trump. New York: Free Press/Simon & Shuster.
Hofer, E. (1951). The True Believer. New York: Harper Collins.
So, how does this relate to supporting DJT? Ignoring and avoiding using face masks and social distancing and attending social and political events, there are risks for COVID-19. Of course and emphatically, I do not believe that "passive suicide" features are unique to Republicans or supporters of DJT. Nor is the avoidance of face masks and similar protective behaviors the only or primary examples of possible "passive suicide" behaviors in my speculations.
I also discuss some related concepts. Perhaps the main item could be something else like "risk-taking." I chose "passive suicide" because I thought of it first, and it is more important. Related concepts subsumed under this heading include excessive risk-taking, "defying death," and beliefs in "destiny" or "fate."
Serious risk-takers may be sensation seeking or trying to reassure themselves. They seek to "cheat" death, convince themselves of being "invincible" and invulnerable. They might be believing in "destiny" and "fate" or other external, rather than internal, controls over their lives. Thus, the concept of internal-external control (http://psych.fullerton.edu/jmearns/rotter.htm) is also a source of hypotheses here. External locus of control includes the belief that what happens to a person is primarily due to luck, chance, randomness, or other forces beyond one's control.
The purpose here is not to pass judgment nor imply that one is necessarily harmful and the other beneficial. In medical and psychological testing, it is better to have false positives than false negatives. Thus, if we are going to make an error or mistake, it is better to be more careful than less careful. It is better to err on the side of perceiving a danger that is not there or less risky than is accurate. In science, this is a "Type I error." It is not wise to minimize or err by anticipating there is no threat when, in fact, there is a threat. In science, this is a "Type II error." Humans often use different ways of facing and managing various potential and real threats in life. If a threat is realistic, then blunting is a disadvantage compared to monitoring. I think this is more characteristic of supporters of DJT.
Garssen, B. (2007). Repression: Finding Our Way in the Maze of Concepts. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 30, 471–481.
Miller, S. (1987). Monitoring and blunting. Validation of a questionnaire to assess styles of information seeking under threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 345-353.
What to do?
We can extend our psychological, insightful, empathetic, and positive features toward these people who seem so misguided and burdened with one or more features that propel them toward supporting DJT. Some of these people were unwilling "victims." We can understand, be compassionate, patient, and empathetic and even forgiving for at least some of DJT followers. These people could be neighbors or friends. Some of these "victims" are close relatives. Trying to do the above is challenging but doable in some cases. Yet, in many cases, I think it is impossible to extend ourselves this way.
The best choices for us are to avoid the topic and perhaps avoid them. In another Blog, I wrote I suggested some options for managing situations and family relationships with people with other offensive beliefs. Some of the options apply here too. So, one can cognitively restructure your interpretation of them without agreeing with them. You can forgive them without agreeing with them. You can avoid allowing their "problem" to become your problem.
You can also ignore them, especially when they start talking about their support for DJT. I don't recommend debating and arguing with them unless you "love" that sort of interaction and get some pleasure from the process. You can use the opportunities with them and your thoughts about their beliefs to explore your thinking and stress management strategies. For example, you can practice "unconditional positive regard" despite their "anomalies." I suppose that you might "join" them in their beliefs. No, I am not recommending that, but it is an option. You have that right.
But, at some point, you and we may choose to and even need to decide to do whatever it takes to "defeat" them and their beliefs regardless of who they are in your life. That also is your right. Life presents many challenging choices.
 I am a Clinical and Medical Psychologist and have been for over 50 years. I now have a private practice for the past 15 years but for 37 years I was on the staff of a highly credible medical institution. I also have a Jewish heritage and upbringing I have been and still am an ardent supporter of Israel. I consider myself spiritual but also prefer atheist views about deities. I taught the following university courses several times: Abnormal Psychology, Stress Management, History of Psychology, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Personality, Biofeedback, and History of Israel and the Israel-Arab conflict (mid –late 1970s). Although raised in a Democrat supporting Jewish family and supported only Democrat candidates until I was in my early to mid-30s, I switched to the Republican Party and supported Republican candidates for about the next 40 years. I withdrew from the Republican Party a few years ago and identified as an Independent where I will remain for the rest of my life.
[i] Original title was ABT (Anybody But Trump). I used that to attempt to catch attention of readers but that does not accurately reflect the content or my beliefs.
[ii]By discussing additional questions below, albeit briefly, I at least am on record and disclose my bias and position.
Why did I leave the Republican Party? After belonging to the Republican Party for several decades and typically voting for Republican candidates, I emphatically resigned a few years ago primarily because of the increasing dominance of the Right-Wing branch and the spreading support of Donald J. Trump. I liked some other Republican candidates, but after DJT, they faded away. The Republican Party has dissolved into ideas, politicians, and supporters that I don't appreciate or respect anymore.
Why would I not join the Democratic Party? Why am I registered as an Independent? Extreme Left-Wing of the Democratic Party is as much an anathema to me as Right-Wing Republicans. I understand much of their thinking, and I believe that they usually mean well. Still, I have long considered them very naïve and misguided.
Why I support the Democratic nominees in 2020, although I oppose parts of their beliefs? Nearly all of my reasoning is DJT and much of what too much of the Republican Party has become. I can't entirely agree with several policies and viewpoints of Democratic politicians and constituents. For some of the extreme Left-Wing, I dislike them as people. However, except for a very few who represent views such as being anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, I do not detest them as people. However, I cannot say the same about many Republican politicians and supporters who I have learned actually to abhor as people. Yup, I said it!