Donald Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial almost two weeks ago, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has publicly called for a federal task force to investigate what she calls Trump’s “corruption.” According to a psychiatrist who has written three books analyzing the psychology of recent presidents, that very “corruption” is “one of his greatest powers.”
George Washington University Medical Center psychiatry professor Justin Frank is the author of the 2018 book, Trump On The Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. Frank also authored two previous On The Couch books, offering psychological analyses of presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
In an interview published by AlterNet on Sunday, Frank explained his belief that Trump’s “delinquency” has not been alienating for many Americans, but instead has caused them to identify with him.
“We idealize people who break things they don’t like, who break limits, who break rules,” Frank told AlterNet’s Chauncey DeVega, adding that not only does Trump commit such transgressions, he openly celebrates his own bad behavior.
“Trump’s corruption is one of the ways that he charms people,” and is “one of his greatest powers,” Frank said in the interview, stating that his transgressions are actually “very appealing to many Americans and others.”
Polls appear to support Frank’s claims that Trump’s “corruption” is a key part of his appeal to his supporters. Since the impeachment proceedings against him were first announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on September 25, Trump’s average approval rating has actually increased somewhat, from 42.9 percent approval, according to FiveThirtyEight, to 43.4 percent as of February 15.
In some individual polls, Trump has reached 49 percent approval just within the past week, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Why would supporters take such delight in Trump’s bad behavior, as described by Frank? According to the psychiatrist, supporting Trump, for some of his most faithful voters, is actually an addiction.
“Addiction is an anti-life phenomenon. It is an addiction to death,” Frank told DeVega in the interview. “Addiction as a death cult is taking place writ large at Trump’s rallies.”
While Trump’s behavior fills a psychological need for his supporters, the process works the other way around, as well. In a previous interview, Frank described Trump as “erotically attached to violence,” but he is able to fulfill that attraction by enabling others to carry out violence on his behalf.
“He is like a child,” Frank said in the earlier interview. “The problem is, Trump has nuclear weapons and he’s the president.”