What Motivates Trump

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What motivates trump? Certainty not ideology. The Trump strategy is driven by  Winning. “He believes in power and strength, and he believes in himself. So that becomes his philosophy,” Dan P. McAdams. Perhaps this is why he flips on issue after issue, NATO, China, Russia and Syria.

Months before the 2016 U.S. presidential election took place, Dan P. McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, set out to better understand Donald Trump. This was reported in The Altlantic January 29, 2017:  In his article “The Mind of Donald Trump,” McAdams concluded that the then-presidential hopeful is extremely extroverted, extremely disagreeable, narcissistic, and filled with anger.” McAdams suggested that Trump is a fighter, but that, apart from a desire to win, it is not clear what motivates him to fight. “It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation”

After Trump was elected McAdams, in an Atlanic interview,  made several observations, quoted here in part:

The first is that I would double down even more on the idea that what you see is what you get when it comes to Trump. … Now that Trump has won the election, we’re seeing this dynamic continue to play out. He’s still fighting, even though the election itself, and the battle that was the campaign is over. Most candidates want to win the election so that they can become president, but it seems like Donald Trump wanted to become president so that he could win the election. It’s all about winning, but even now that he’s won he can’t seem to let go of the fight.

The second thing I would emphasize more is the theme of authoritarianism. I think what we have seen in the last six months—and now that he is president—is that Trump really doesn’t know how, or want, to work within the typical institutional structures of democracy. Like an authoritarian leader, he wants to transcend that and connect directly to the people. He does that through Twitter, by going around the press, or by making it sound as though the world is an extraordinarily dangerous place and positioning himself as a sort of authoritarian leader, savior and strong man who will deliver the country from “carnage,” to use a word he used in his inaugural address.

[concerning a question about lying and deceit] The lying has gotten more extreme now that he’s in the Oval Office, and I didn’t think it would get this bad. I thought Trump utters falsehoods in order to promote some kind of agenda or for some specific strategic purpose, but now there are times when it seems like he just lies for the sake of lying.

[in my original piece] I may have underestimated the extent of Trump’s authoritarian leanings. When I think of an authoritarian I often think of someone who is a true believer in something. They take office and they have an agenda that they really believe in and Trump doesn’t seem to have much ideological conviction, so I thought, how can he be an authoritarian? But actually Trump does have principles. He believes in power and strength, and he believes in himself. So that becomes his philosophy.

I think it’s really important to try to understand who the president is. And when you learn that there isn’t much behind the mask except for these narcissistic goals and authoritarian values, that’s important to learn, and it helps you predict what kind of president he is going to be.

Last Updated on April 15, 2017 by Stephen Chapel