What Makes Trump Unstoppable?
Using research on leadership and information control to understand politics provides insight and opportunity.
Trump is a divisive leader, and the recent impeachment trial left many shaking their heads, much as they did after the surprise presidential win in 2016. Short of arriving at an apocalyptic scenario where we are forced to come together as a community to deal with an existential threat, we seem to be stuck with a great deal of uncertainty, confusion and lack of direction as a nation.
What Makes Trump Tick?
Trump seems bullet-proof. Over and over again, what seemed impossible has happened. Never in our history has a president been so many things to so many different stakeholders, able to occupy so many different identities under the umbrella of his on-the-nose personality.
How do we account for his invulnerability? Others do the same things, and it’s game over. He seems to have signed a deal with the proverbial devil, while touting divine right-literally. How can we account for this, psychologically? How does his leadership work? Why don’t facts seem to matter?
Recent research sheds light on these questions, looking at how people assign leadership identity, how to properly wield authoritarian power, and how beliefs are shaped.
In His Own Image
The first paper looks at how people conceptualize notions of who a leader should be. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, God as a white man: A psychological barrier to conceptualizing black people and women as leadership worthy, authors Roberts and colleagues (2020) conduct seven surveys to build a case that the idea of God as a white man influences people to expect leaders to also be white men.
In the first study, they found that Christians conceptualized God as an older male, regardless of whether women or men. White Christians thought of God as White, while Black Christians directly reported God was more Black than White. In prior research, Black people indirectly conceptualized God as White.
In the second, they tested whether leader choice for Christians is influenced by their ideas about God. The more they…