When thinking about Donald Trump, consider the words to the song by Willy Nelson and Waylon Jennings: “Them that don’t know him won’t like him and them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him. He ain’t wrong, he’s just different, but his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.”
President-elect Donald Trump and many of his followers have the values and beliefs that are similar to people who are defined as having an authoritarian personality. Here are some of the defining qualities of someone with an authoritarian personality:
- An unwillingness to ever admit mistakes and never to apologize to anyone for anything.
- A belief in aggression toward those who do not subscribe to your ideas, or who are different in some way.
- A negative view of people in general – i.e. the belief that people generally will all lie, cheat or steal, if given the opportunity.
- A belief in the need for strong leadership, which displays uncompromising power.
- A belief in simple answers and polemics – i.e. “The media controls us all” or “The source of all our problems are the illegal immigrants from Mexico.”
- A tendency to project one’s own feelings of inadequacy, rage and fear onto a scapegoated group like women, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, etc.
Does this remind you of Donald Trump and many of his followers? Political scientist, Stanley Feldman in the 1990’s, found four simple questions that effectively measured the authoritarian personality. These four questions now form the “industry standard” and are regularly incorporated into all sorts of political or psychological surveys.
The Four Questions That Help Identify People With An Authoritarian Personality
- Which one of the following do you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
- Which one of the following you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
- Which one of the following you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
- Which one of the following you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?
You don’t have to be a psychologist to guess the way the Donald and many of his followers would answer these questions. From these questions, you can see that the values and beliefs that people grew up with have a lot to do with forming their adult personality. I don’t have access to much information about Donald’s childhood, but from what I do know, Donald Trump grew up in a Narcissistic family plus attending strongly a very strict and abusive military school. This suggests that his parents and the military schools he attended taught him respect for elders, obedience, well-behaved behavior and good manners. These are the values that parents often emphasize in socializing their children. This may be why so many people do grow up wanting to be like Donald Trump.
What happens to children who are raised with these values is that they, either rigidly conform to them or they rebel against them. In either case, they still can develop an authoritarian personality. Donald seems to have chosen the latter route and many of his followers see him doing and saying what they always wanted to do and say, but were afraid of the consequences.
His behavior is a dog whistle to many people who follow him to blame everything that happens to them on someone else. This is why so many people are attracted to the outrageous things that he says and does. They would permission like to do the same, but are afraid they will be accused of being disrespectful, disobedient, poorly behaved or have poor manners.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Hillary was seen by others as a “cold mother” who does just enough to be considered a “good enough” mother, but lacks sufficient compassion and empathy to really connect with people. Children who grow up under that kind of “cold” mothering, do what Hillary does. She just did not emanate “feminine” qualities and operated mostly out of her “masculine” polarity. She is seen as “one of the boys” and that enables her to gain admittance to the inner circles of the patriarchal world she lives in. She must have had a cold mother herself in order to exhibit these qualities.
What we are seeing in both people, is the result of authoritarian parenting in this country that emphasizes patriarchal values. Hillary, who conformed to these values thinks it is shameful that Donald Trump doesn’t. In the first debate, Hillary said he should know better. She was able to shake a finger at him and scold him in her “mothering” way. This is why he fell apart in the debate. Hillary got under his skin the way a mother might. He acted like a little boy whose mother had scolded him for doing bad things.
What these two people have brought to our attention is the long-term effects of the authoritarian way we still raise our children. It is no surprise why so many of them grow up to be like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Are you ready for something better? Well, if you read my latest book, The Servant Leader, you will find out how what it takes to create a new kind of leader. The book is available at Amazon on an eBook format and a print-on-demand format.