Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

The psychology of power in the US elections

After the US election, we are waiting for the transfer of power. But Trump doesn’t seem willing to concede. Instead he is seeking spurious grounds for legal challenges to the vote.


Steve Latham


This seems typical of his emotional immaturity, what his niece, a psychotherapist, terms his ‘narcissistic personality’, centred on getting his own way.

The Mayor of Philadelphia also remarked that the President needed to ‘put his big boy pants on’, and admit defeat.

It does appear that Trump is like a child, throwing his toys out of the pram, in a hissy fit, because he feels frustrated that the external world does not bend to his will: a classic Freudian trope. His accusations of electoral fraud appear to have no basis. So why does he pursue them? Presumably to muddy the waters of democracy, delegitimise Biden, and pave the way for a second run in 2024.

But do his generals believe these charges? Or are they cynically supporting Trump in his political manoeuvring?

Maybe they don’t believe the actual indictments, but they may think that by going along with them, the wider aims of destabilisation may be attained.

So what about his supporters, his loyal foot soldiers? Watching interviews with them on TV, they do seem to be genuine believers.

Because it does feel like observing followers of a cult, whose leader has made a visibly false prediction.

Leon Festinger’s classic study of ‘cognitive dissonance’, When Prophecy Fails, shows how religious adherents adapt to failed expectations.

They actually continue to assert their beliefs, in face of empirical evidence; indeed the experience may make their faith even stronger and more extreme.

This denial of reality among Trump supporters is evident, from their backing for other conspiracy theories besides vote rigging: for example QAnon, anti-vaxxing,  and climate change denial.

Moreover, it runs the risk of further fuelling the Right, perhaps provoking the use of violence; as two armed men were arrested dangerously near a voting station in Pennsylvania.

The militias are ready and primed for action; and no matter how aggressive the Antifa groups are, they don’t usually carry guns.

Although the news outlets are calling the election for Biden, the conservative revolution mistrusts the mainstream media; what they call (using Nazi terminology) the lűgenpresse: the “lying press”.

Within the Whitehouse, the atmosphere, seems febrile, reminiscent Hitler’s bunker in the last days of the Reich.

His adjutants appear unwilling to confront him with the truth, “those armoured divisions on the map are illusions”, “those fraudulent ballots don’t exist”.

The remainder collude with his insanity, for their own personal reasons: delusions of grandeur, political ambition.

What it missing is any sense of common reality, an agreed truth, a process of consensus. Biden, damned with faint praise, is perceived as a ‘good man’, but can he bring peace to a fractured nation?

His politics has been that of the neo-liberal elite who provoked the populist reaction which propelled Trump into power. Can we expect any significant change to arise from this tainted political source?

(Photos: Pixabay)

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