The McCarthyesque Malignant Narcissism of the Republican Party Leaders
We are in dark days. Historically, this time will go down with the Republicans on the wrong side of right, as they issue witch hunts, declare war on women, workers, the middle class, Muslims, the history of slavery, the accurate history of the founders, abuse the Christian religion, and so many more countless reckless and cruel abuses of humanity.
The leaders of the Party embody this darkness, as they all appear to suffer from malignant narcissism. Malignant narcissism is a theoretic syndrome consisting of a combination of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder as well as paranoid traits. Joe McCarthy is an historical example of the sanctimonious, self-righteous, single-minded, dogmatic tells of malignant narcissism with an authority attachment complex.
In his 1964 book, “The Heart of Man”, social psychologist Erich Fromm first coined the term malignant narcissism, describing it as a “severe mental sickness” representing “the quintessence of evil.” Fromm attributed malignant narcissism as the “root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.” Otto Kernberg further argued that malignant narcissists had a sadistic component, and resulted in often sadistic psychopaths.
The malignant narcissism of the modern day Republican Party leaders differs from plain old narcissism, which is sometimes curable and which we will most likely find in every politician to some degree. Malignant clinical narcissism is thought to have its roots in a childhood where the person does not evolve past the normal developmental stage of infantile narcissism. The onset of all narcissism is typically in infancy, childhood and early adolescence and is often attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers and with malignant narcissism, particularly involving humiliation for an imperfection.
Paul Lutus of “Children of Narcissus” explains, “Traits of clinical narcissism include grandiosity, a lack of empathy, unrealistic self-image, a sense of entitlement, a requirement for constant praise, ruthless exploitation, profound envy of others, and arrogance.” Digging deeper, psychologists have posited that these traits are defense mechanisms for a deeply, pathologically insecure person. Lutus explains that the narcissist with an authority attachment is one who has found a way around that pesky problem of competition with their entourage of enablers. They’ve found a way to separate themselves from every one else.
There is, of course, a danger to playing armchair psychologist and we observe that the Right has been glibly trying to attach the label of “narcissist” and “arrogant” to President Obama since his run for office. However, there are psycho-diagnostic tools such as Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) (1) used to diagnose patients by professionals. A few of the indicators (as determined by scale) are pathological lying, lack of remorse, serial short term marriage, lack of empathy, shallow affect, and failure to accept responsibility for own actions.
We do, of course, have endless proof of Sarah Palin’s pathological lying, lack of remorse (blood libel), lack of empathy, and failure to accept responsibility for her own actions. I’d say she rules the pack of modern day Republican leaders in the pathological lying category, although they seem to be in competition for who can be the most outrageous in their attempts to deny reality and culpability. Glenn Beck is running second with his calls to shoot liberals and subsequent denials of any culpability in the attempted murder and successful mass murders of many innocent Americans.
Malignant narcissists prefer to remain ignorant rather than admit a need for personal growth and while studies have shown that most malignant narcissists are uneducated and simple minded, the matter of the chicken before the egg has yet to be sorted.
As examples of the modern day Republican Party being led by such, we have the uneducated Glenn Beck (drug addict, scarred emotional past, he took one class at Yale about early Christology and dropped it) who makes up his own world in which he is King, we have Sarah Palin (serial quitter, never satisfied, five colleges and we never saw the degree) who refuses to name what newspapers she read for fear it would make her look stupid, and we have Rush Limbaugh (drug addict, serial-marriages, college drop out) whose bellicose claims to knowledge are rooted in simple minded black and white terms that change with the minute.
All of these people are incapable of seeing gray, incapable of learning from their own mistakes, and unwilling to engage in any forum where they might be questioned. As such, they all have set up unilateral, one-way communication devices with the public.
In their constant need to shield themselves from the reality that they are merely humans, capable of making mistakes, the narcissist with an authority complex leeches onto to some authority such as a religious, legal or governmental power. Lutus describes the narcissist’s hunt for “the day when their actions will be beyond criticism.” This reminds us of Sarah Palin’s desire to be President so her “Department of Law” can hunt down anyone who says mean things about her and shut them up, a wish that clearly demonstrates why malignant narcissists have no place in any sort of governmental power.
Here’s McCarthy in the army hearings, when finally the legal counsel for the army, Mr. Welch, now famously said, “Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you sense of decency?”
And here McCarthy is on Democrats:
McCarthy makes the sanctimonious and dogmatic declaration, “There is a small, closely knit group of administration Democrats who are the complete prisoners and under the complete domination of the bureaucratic Communistic Frankenstein which they themselves created…..They should be referred to properly as the CommieCrap Party (applause).”
Ringing any bells? The demonizing of Democrats that we’ve been witnessing for the last two years (longer on Fox) from Republican party leaders is the indicator of mental and emotional problems shared with McCarthy. We’ve heard on a daily basis that Democrats and liberals are ruining the world, are siding with whomever the bad guy of the day is, need to be shot down, need to be killed, are the anti-Christ, are coming for their guns, their religion, are Commies, are Marxists, are Nazis, are Socialists, etc. And then leaders like Palin run around the country smearing with nothing, “Pallin’ around with terrorists” “Doesn’t love this country” and Bachmann’s “We need to investigate those in Congress who are not pro-America.”
Clinical narcissism is classically displayed in their inability to grasp why anyone thinks differently than they do. This is evinced in leaders like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the entire sea of Tea Party candidates washed ashore this fall. This inability to countenance ideas different from one’s own is a classic tell of narcissism, and we see this even in Governor Walker who refuses to acknowledge that he is violating the state constitution when he tries to take away collective bargaining from some unions while not taking it away from those who supported him in his run for Governor. Governor Walker is also threatening to redo his already costly mistake of firing Union members. He clearly hasn’t learned that he is subject to the laws of his state yet.
The Arizona massacre wasn’t enough to force Republican Party leaders to take a look at themselves, proving that they are incapable of self-examination and self-recrimination. They cling to the self-deception that they are not legally culpable for the Arizona massacre (this hasn’t been proven, actually, as a case can certainly be made for stochastic terrorism and inciting of violence) while never grasping that for normal humans, the issue is one of moral culpability. Would you not feel remorse if you had placed crosshairs over someone who was later gunned down? A normal person who doesn’t suffer from malignant narcissism would feel regret for their tone if nothing else.
But we heard nothing of regret from Sarah Palin. Instead, she gave us six minutes of self-pity that anyone would dare to blame her for the actions of a “mad man”. The right has a collective moral culpability in many recent acts of violence, from the Holocaust museum shooter to Bill O’Rielly and Dr. Tiller’s murder to the attempted Tides shooter that they deny. It’s not normal to have no sense of moral decency which would insist upon self-reflection and remorse in the face of mass murder.
Do they not want to be a part of a civilized country, leaders who inspire the best from Americans? No, they don’t. They aren’t like other people. They have proven themselves time and time again to be sick people, running on the mean, petty, dangerous, self-inflated gas of the clinical narcissist and their authority attachment simply adds fuel to the fire.
Malignant narcissism is incurable. A clinical malignant narcissist has no choice about their behaviors; they aim to destroy anyone who disagrees with them. They will display an inability to laugh at themselves or correct themselves in any way. We’ve seen this behavior over and over again from the Republican leaders. Malignant narcissism is a dangerous threat to American liberty, as seen in Joe McCarthy. And it has lead to dark, ugly times where liberals and Democrats are the targets of “random” but deliberately inspired mad men. The McCarthyesque malignancy within the modern day Republicans Party needs to be called out.
Americans need to start asking, nay demanding, that the Republican Party leaders have some decency.
1) Hare, R. D. (2003). “The Psychopathy Checklist—Revised, 2nd Edition.” Toronto: Multi-Health Systems