Neal Katyal, former Acting Solicitor General, had an interesting idea a few weeks ago. He said- maybe Trump really WANTS to be impeached. Katyal may be onto something that we can understand if we take a deeper dive into Trump’s psyche.
Students of human behavior know that our sexual fantasies reflect some of the deepest desires we have. They express our profoundly secret personal needs and narratives. We know something about Trump’s sexual fantasies because Stormy Daniels told us about at least one of them when Trump had his extramarital affair with her. Trump wanted to be spanked. Remember that? She spanked him with a magazine. Comedians had a field day with this revelation about Trump. This wish to be “spanked” is not an uncommon sexual wish. We know that Trump has that urge. The unconscious wish to be punished is an aspect of Trump’s psychological makeup that helps us understand his political acts and behavior. He also has a thing about being shamed and humiliated. Remember how Obama’s humiliation of him created the impetus for his presidential campaign?
We have seen how Trump behaves as president for two years now. Trump’s way of running things is to basically break everything first. He trashes one norm, policy, or treaty after another. He breaks rules and disregards the law with impunity. He seems not to care. But I think on some level that may be beyond his conscious understanding, he knows people think he did a bad thing and should be punished. There is a part of him, his superego, that recognizes he deserves to be disciplined and punished for breaking rules and being bad. This psychodrama plays out in his relationship with Congress and on the world stage where Trump has been breaking norms and rules right and left. Until now, Congress has been controlled by supine Republicans, afraid of Trump’s wrath and his base. Republicans have not disciplined him. They have been too afraid of the repercussions. (They have also been able to pursue their legislative goals – the tax bill and judicial appointments by letting Trump be Trump.)
But now Nancy Pelosi has taken charge of the House. She is like a mother who knows this child needs discipline and she has been responding to his temper tantrum by saying “no” to him. She is figuratively “spanking” him, punishing him. There is also a certain amount of “shaming” going on. If Pelosi wins the border fight, she will have bested him, shamed him, according to the thinking of Trump and his base. He will have been beaten by a woman. Ann Coulter is also beating Trump, “spanking” and shaming him, calling him a “wimp”, saying Trump is a “lazy and incompetent lunatic.” What a tongue lashing! He’s getting the Stormy Daniel’s treatment from Ann Coulter because she knows how to control him and get what she wants by shaming him. I imagine Putin has figured out Trump’s psychology too by now.
We can expect Trump to take action to re-assert his manhood after being shamed and humiliated. He is saying he will take things into his own hands to get a wall after February 15th, the deadline for a bipartisan agreement about border security. He will apparently reclaim his manhood on that day. It sure sounds like Trump is planning to exert his power and declare a national emergency when he doesn’t get his wall in that bipartisan agreement. He has been warned not to do it by Republicans and Democrats alike. For Trump that makes the action all the more tempting, even irresistible. He will likely break the glass and declare a national emergency- part of an enactment of his psychodrama. If he does declare a national emergency, it will force lawmakers to stop him, punish him, with a court ordered injunction. He will be setting himself up for another “spanking” by the courts and the Dems followed by victimhood and then an angry reassertion of his power. Here we go again, in other words. We are getting Trump’s unconscious psychodrama playing out over and over.
Last week Trump’s intelligence chiefs testified before Congress about the threats to America. The southern border was not even on their radar screen as a threat of any kind. At all. If Trump plays the national emergency card, the matter will get thrown into the court system and will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court which, if they follow precedent, will be determined to be an abuse of power on Trump’s part. He is setting himself up to be “schooled” or “spanked” by the court, in other words. (Of course who knows what will happen now that Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court.)
The psychology of setting himself up to be punished is linked and closely connected to a sense of shame and victimhood for Trump. We see Trump playing the victim card over and over again despite being an extraordinarily entitled white male. It doesn’t make sense until you understand his underlying psychology. Then it does.
If Trump is punished, schooled, or disciplined, he can then experience a justifiable sense of victimhood, that plays into his psychological narrative. From all accounts Donald was a “bad boy” growing up. His dad was authoritarian. He got punished. He was probably also shamed by his nasty father given the accounts of that awful man. Trump’s behavior was so disruptive he got sent to military school where he was supposed to learn self-discipline. Not everyone learns discipline even in military school. Trump did not.
Instead, Trump misbehaves over and over (breaking rules and laws) as an adult, but because of his wealth and privilege, he is not reined in. He has learned instead that he could get away with lies and corrupt behavior. But that does not mean he did not realize his acts were bad. I think the way his psychological makeup works is that he carries over from his childhood a knowledge and expectation that he should be punished and then when he is, he revels in being the victim. He replays and re-enacts his relationship with his authoritarian father in this way that I believe gets replicated in his relationships on the world stage. This is his psychodrama. But we are stuck living with it.
Impeachment is a huge reprimand. It would allow him to be punished and be a victim, be shamed, and then rebel against the punishment which he would say is being unfairly imposed on him. It would allow him to engage his many cult followers to support him in theatrical aggrieved victimhood.
What is playing out now in Congress is that Democrats in the House are gathering evidence about Trump’s wrongdoings not only with the 2016 election but his many other criminal activities, money laundering for the Russians and probable tax evasion. The Dems are developing factual evidence. Hard evidence. It will not be possible to pretend that away even for Trump’s base and Trump himself who dwell in a fantasyland some have called Foxlandia. The House Dems are working their way towards a big shameful reveal about Trump. And it will play right into his psychological need for victimhood and a further retreat into rageful retaliation.
What a tragedy that we elected such a gravely impaired person as president because so many people are suffering as a result and will continue to suffer until he is out of office. He is the crazed bus driver. We are on the bus. There is no avoiding the fall-out for all of us from his pending downfall.
Maybe we can learn from this. We need to elect people who are stable and mature and have a world view that supports the idea of helping others, an understanding that the rising tide should carry all the boats and that government should make sure all the boats are allowed to rise. Our country is full of people who are better than this, better than what has crept out from under the rocks with Trump as our president.
Does Trump want to be impeached? Not consciously. And he will fight it tooth and nail if it happens, revving up his base to fight with him as they play out their own fantasies by shadowboxing phantom enemies on the political left they think are out to get them. But strangely, for Trump I think it might be deeply resonant for him to be punished by being impeached because it would play into his personal psychological narrative: confirmation of a need to be punished for his “badness” that he is out of touch with, and victimhood that he revels in.
Assuming Trump has a deep psychological wish to be punished that impeachment could satisfy, he has a lot of company. A majority of Americans can’t wait for that wish to be fulfilled.