We can learn a lot from the President and Hillary Clinton about how to respond to Trump

This may be hard to see, but the President rose above the fray.
This may be hard to see, but the President rose above the fray.

What happens when a narcissist is overwhelmed with kindness? I really can’t call Donald Trump a narcissist since I am not a trained therapist and I have never examined him. But using the word narcissist is a lot easier than saying “a person who appears to an ordinary layman to have narcissistic tendencies.”

There is no need to run down the litany of insults that he has thrown to virtually everyone who has registered on his radar screen, but recently the two people who have most been in his crosshairs are President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For both of them, the results of the 2016 presidential election were extremely painful. It would be understandable of either of them had lashed out at Trump, at the media, at the voters, at the system, and virtually anything and everything that might have had something to do with the crushing defeat for the Democrats. But neither of them did, at least publicly.

In her concession remarks, Secretary Clinton said, “Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.”

Later that day, President Obama said, “Because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.”

Compare the words of Clinton and Obama with those of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell shortly after President Obama was elected. He said that his number-one goal was to make sure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.”

McConnell did not reach his goal of making Obama a single-term president, but in the long-run, he may have won the war. He and his House colleagues blocked virtually everything that the President wanted to achieve with Congressional approval. What they didn’t stop, they aim to reverse upon Trump’s ascension to power.

There is no easy path as to how others might best respond to Donald Trump the president, nor is there to how to respond to those who voted for him. We do know that there was and is a tremendous amount of anger within them.  This raises two key questions:

  1. What made them angry?
  2. Why did they channel so much of it towards Hillary Clinton as they did?

There are no clear answers, but in coming posts we are going to try to explore what they might be. In the past we have written about the Republican Brain. Certainly the last eighteen months have taught us more about it, but if progressives had a good idea of how to tend to the Republican Brain, we wouldn’t be in the fix that we’re in now.

There are those who think that the societal causes which influence a person to be narcissistic include a lack of warm parenting and a lack of warm friendships. The “cures” to narcissism are few and far between. We might think that we could try to “kill Trump with kindness,” but that seems have never worked with him and the rough and tumble of politics and government is no place to start.

But this should not cause is to lower our own standards for decency and compassion. Secretary Clinton and President Obama set the examples for us. We probably won’t change Trump, but what can we do to make his followers less angry and obstinate? The answer is not for us to become that way, but rather to try to better understand what frustrates them and what they do with that frustration. We have a little time now, so let’s engage in a little reflection.

Arthur Lieber Arthur Lieber (448 Posts)

Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.