With All Due Respect, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Wrong About Trump

With All Due Respect, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Wrong About Trump

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Donald J. Trump (qz.com)

— by George Cassidy Payne

The world certainly does not need one more psychoanalysis of Donald J. Trump. There have been plenty of those already and everyone already has their mind made up about who he is and what he stands for.

But sometimes an intellectual of such immense caliber as Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says something so misleading that it must be challenged.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that Ginsburg is one of the towering figures of jurisprudence and an inimical civil rights icon. I care profoundly about her opinions. That is precisely why I feel compelled to respond to a statement that she made at a recent university talk. When asked what historians will see when they look back on this period in US history, she offered up a simple, two-word answer.

“An aberration.”

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Amherst College President Caryolyn “Biddy” Martin for a conversation in Coolidge Cage. Hundreds of Amherst students and faculty members listened to the Justice speak on biases, women's equality, and her time at Cornell University. Erin Clark for the Boston Globe

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Amherst College President Caryolyn “Biddy” Martin for a conversation in Coolidge Cage. Hundreds of Amherst students and faculty members listened to the Justice speak on biases, women’s equality, and her time at Cornell University. Erin Clark for the Boston Globe 10/03/19

That is a very dangerous way of viewing Donald Trump. What’s going on is clearly understood by looking at the psychology of the Trump supporter and the mindset of a charismatic leader who knows how to manipulate those feelings.

According to cognitive neurologist Dr. Bobby Azarian, “Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.”

Furthermore, Azarian points out that “According to a recent study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level.”

To treat Donald Trump as an aberration is to dismiss the way that tens of millions of Americans think. Lest we forget that Trump was elected, to view his rise to power as an aberration is to pretend that there is not something elemental about fear and showmanship that attracts so many people to his policies or at least help them to look the other way when they do not agree with him.

Azarian also observes that Terror Management Theory is at work: ” The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.”

Essentially he is saying that “when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear-mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity and act out more aggressively towards those who do not.”

With all due respect to Supreme Justice Ginsburg, this is not what I would call an aberration. What we are dealing with is deep-seated, deep-rooted, and deeply entrenched psychological conditions; the very ones that enabled Donald Trump to ascend to power in the first place, and the ones which continue to prevail in so many sectors of society today. Calling what is happing an aberration neither deals with the symptoms of the illness nor prescribes any helpful remedy; all it does is pass the problem off as a cureless illusion that will soon fade away with time.

But if Azarian is right, as long as this nation is dominated by fear, terror, and a need for savior figures, Trump’s legacy will breed an ever replenishing class of demagogues. Hardly what I would call an aberration.

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

Donate

Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts

Loading

%d bloggers like this: