After years of Republicans capitulating shamelessly to the demands of radical Progressives, there is reason for Republican constituents to be angry, but there is no excuse for standing sheepishly behind Donald Trump to make up for it. Dr. John Maltby, senior lecturer at the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology, has been researching how individuals respond, or feel able to respond, to social influence. Celebrity Worship Syndrome, or Mad Icon Disease, is a key aspect of his work. In the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease Maltby tells of the three independent dimensions of this disorder:
- entertainment/social – The entertainment-social dimension relates to attitudes where individuals are attracted to a celebrity because of their perceived ability to entertain and to become a social focus of conversation with like-minded others.
- intense/personal – The intense-personal dimension relates to individuals that have intensive and compulsive feelings about a celebrity.
- borderline pathological – The borderline-pathological dimension relates to individuals who display uncontrollable behaviors and fantasies relating to a celebrity.
Maltby’s studies have shown that people with CWS generally have poor mental health and frequently display high anxiety, depression, high levels of dissociation and fantasy-proneness. The borderline pathological dimension of CWS is painfully apparent in the behavior of Trump’s own supporters. Moments prior to him taking the stage at one of his increasingly disorderly rallies, the audience is urged not fight or hurt people when they get angry but to instead yell “Trump, Trump, Trump” and shake their signs. The organizers say this not because they want to, but because they have to.
Data taken from thousands of individual surveys illustrate a startling correlation to the way Donald Trump has been performing in recent polls. Psychologists have found that about a third of people qualify for Celebrity Worship Syndrome, just as about a third of likely GOP voters adamantly support Donald Trump. The absurd theater of Donald Trump’s candidacy is simply a foolhardy, boorish version of Obama’s 2008 campaign – the reality television version of “hope and change.”
In his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope Barack Obama wrote: “I serve as a blank screen, on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views… my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.”
A few days ago, Trump offered us a replica of Obama’s blank screen by declaring:
“I will be changing very rapidly. I’m very capable of changing into anything I want to change to. When I’m President, I’m a different person. I can be the most politically correct person you’ve ever seen.”
From his alleged signaling to Alt-Right nationalists (“you either have a country or you don’t…”) to his barefaced pandering to Evangelicals (Two Corinthians, that’s the whole ballgame – that’s what you guys like, right?”), to his alleged self-funding, his is a campaign of shameless pandering designed to camouflage his shocking lack of character and morality. Just as Obama before him, his treatment of the issues is also partial and incomplete… at best. Even now, while he bloviates about Mexico and China stealing our jobs, he certainly takes no issue with them manufacturing his line of ties, jackets, and shirts. His supporters cite his stance on illegal immigration while ignoring the fact that he used thousands of illegal Polish immigrants to build his Trump Tower, paying them four dollars per hour and not providing them with hard hats.
Somewhere along the way it seems that substance and character have become tools of “the establishment.” Donald Trump supporters have confronted the reality that he made significant donations to Hillary Clinton in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and also gave six-digit funds to the Clinton Foundation while praising her as a “fantastic Senator” by admitting that he was simply playing the game for his own personal gain and hey, what’s wrong with that? Crony-capitalism comes right off with a little soap and lukewarm water. But character – that is in-built and unflappable, right?
After Miley Cyrus’s disgusting performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Trump phoned her personally to express his love for her twerking. Weeks later after a barrage of unfavorable criticisms of her “performance”, The Donald took to Vine to offer the following: “Miley, don’t let them get you down. They’re all jealous.” Two years later Evangelical leader and President of Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced his support of Donald Trump for President, citing examples of Trump donating money to various Christian charities as evidence of his values. He must have missed it when Donald said of his daughter, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter perhaps I’d be dating her.”
This is a raw illustration of what poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge first called the willing suspension of disbelief in 1817. Coleridge suggested that if a writer could blend human interest and some small semblance of truth into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend his judgement concerning the impossibility of the narrative.
At an Iowa rally in January former Alaska governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin officially endorsed the antithesis of everything she spent years fighting for as a leader of the Tea Party movement. In a rambling twenty minute “speech” full of bizarre catchphrases and slogans, Palin said that Trump’s “track record proves he is a master at the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we the people – how refreshing! He is from the private sector where you have to balance budgets and keep the main thing the main thing…”
I am reminded of this quote from 2008 during her acceptance speech for the vice presidency, where she questioned the true motives of candidate Obama by saying:
“When the cloud of rhetoric has passed; when the roar of the crowd fades away; when the stadium lights go out, and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot—what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger—take more of your money—give you more orders from Washington …”
The suspension of disbelief is often applied to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, and horror genres, all of which are applicable to Trump’s campaign. This is precisely how, in an era of unprecedented access to the sum total of mankind’s knowledge at every citizen’s fingertips, so many fail to realize the amazing folly of Trump supporters like Michael Savage, who proclaims:
“Let’s give it to him! Let’s have a round of applause for a man that knows how to manipulate the public and the media! That’s just what need if we’re gonna win!”
Savage also tells us Conservatives that we must:
“Adapt or die. Do you want to evolve? You have to compromise some of your beliefs – this is true politically, as well as in your career. There’s no room for purists in any sphere of life today.”
The true Conservative movement is about restoring what we believe in: private property rights, limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty. It is not about advancing a mobocracy while replacing one narcissistic, blank-screen tyrant with another. It is no victory to become that which you have been fighting against for so long.