President Narcissism

The United States of America will elect a new president in November this year and even though the nomination process is far from over, it looks like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be the nominees for their respective political parties. Besides their obvious differences, these two candidates really have a lot in common. They are both typical representatives of the early baby boomer generation, born only one year apart. And they are also both typical of what has become of the baby boomers over the years.

Aptly named the me generation, boomers are used to seeing themselves as the undisputed center of the universe. When they were children in the 1950s, the American dream was all about providing a safe space for children. When they were young adults in the 1960s, youth culture was all that mattered. The political fashions traced the stages of their lives with uncanny precision. The boomers dominated the US through their sheer numbers and early boomers like Trump and Clinton were always on the forefront of every new wave. They still are.

The ageing American population will have the oldest candidates ever to fight for the presidency. And after seven decades of life in the me generation, the attitude of these two candidates has solidified into some kind of professional narcissism. Or, to be more precise: Their public persona suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). There are slight differences in how this disorder manifests itself in each candidate. One is male, one female, one right and one left, but the main symptoms are present in both.

First of all the lack of empathy. Hillary Clinton is working hard on hiding this deficit. “We need more compassion” is one of her slogans now. Not that she would know much about compassion. Wherever she went, she left a trail of damaged, bitter victims behind. The force driving her life over the past half century was certainly not compassion, but the sheer cold will for power and control. And in order to get all the power she wants, she is hiding her true nature now as much as she can.

Donald Trump on the other hand does not hide anything. He has turned his lack of compassion into an art form. He has perfected the role of white dominant male and does not even pretend to have any form of empathy. It is either respect or no respect, strength or weakness for him. Donald Trump is openly narcissist. He is all about winning, being on top. But so is Hillary, in a more controlled way. She has repeatedly stated that she will do anything to become the first female president. Anything.

Let’s go through the list of NPD symptoms here:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance. The Donald will tell you how great he already is. And Hillary will tell you that she is representing all women. Some people buy into these stories. But the self-importance is certainly there in both cases.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. Donald will make America great again (on his own!). And Hillary will be the first female president (and make history!)
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique. Normal laws don’t apply to Hillary and Donald only talks with special people.
  • Requires excessive admiration. Hillary has a hard time campaigning because she actually does not want to interact with normal people in a normal way. And Donald will simply not show up unless he can expect to be worshipped.
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement. Exactly why would Hillary be a good president? Exactly what has she actually accomplished? And has Donald ever displayed the competence of building consensus? How are these two even qualified? Well, they think they are. Because: Entitlement.
  • Is exploitative of others. I won’t even try to select examples here. just google their lives. One exploitation follows the other.
  • Lacks empathy. See above.
  • Is often envious of others. Just check how they react when someone else gets what they wanted. The presidency. Or a good deal.
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes. As with a lot of other symptoms, Donald is a much more open NPD. Or maybe: More hot tempered NPD. Hillary is more the cold, calculative type. But not less arrogant.

Do you think I am exaggerating? Then consider this: You only need to display half of these symptoms for being diagnosed with NPD. Both Donald and Hillary will pass this threshold easily. No matter who wins, America will have an NPD president. Would it matter? It would fit the epidemic of narcissism sweeping the West right now. A lot of narcissist behaviour appears more normal and acceptable these days because our whole society is turning more and more narcissist. Entitlement issues and an inability to deal with criticism have become so widespread that we almost don’t perceive them as pathological any more. We are all special snowflakes now. That’s why Americans would even consider voting a person with NPD into office. But here is the catch: Narcissist adventures never end well. Their lack of objectivity will bring down the narcissists eventually. And you never know who or what he or she will bring down with him. Or her.

Let’s hope it will only be their pride that suffers.


Originally published at oliver.hoffmann.org.