Why Are So Many GOP Sticking With Trump if it Means Going Down With the Ship?

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.


In the days since the election, more and more people are wondering what is wrong with Donald Trump? With each passing hour it seems, Trump is getting more and more frantic, desperate, enraged, out of control, and acting more than a little bit crazy.

His refusal to admit that he lost the election or concede at first was a bit comedic, in a slightly annoyed, eye-rolling way, but it became decidedly less so once it was clear he was harming the country and everyone in it. Many were asking how someone who has sworn to protect the constitution and the nation could purposely do things that are the opposite of both because he didn’t get his way?

The things we have watched him do over the past four years, distressing as they were for many of us, pale in comparison to this latest fiasco. This is when he claimed to have won an election he lost, said that if anyone says he lost, it’s because the election was fraudulent and if after being investigated no fraud was found, it meant there was a worldwide conspiracy to rob him of his rightful position.

He has brought almost 40 lawsuits to court in at least 7 different states, and they might have to install a revolving door at the U.S. Supreme Court for him and his minions. He screams, yells, throws fits, makes demands, refuses to see reason, denies the truth substituting his version of reality instead. So, it’s no wonder, so many people want to know what is wrong with the man.

But the question that’s been going around more so lately, is not what is wrong with Trump, but what is wrong with the GOP? How can they be supporting him in his quest to hang on to the presidency when he’s been voted out? The answer to this is not an easy one and speaks to what it is like to deal not just with a malignant narcissist but with this malignant narcissist.

A Narcissist Needs Minions

In order for narcissism to serve its function, it must occur against a backdrop of others. Without anyone else to respond to the narcissist to make him feel as superior as he knows himself to be, there is nothing holding it up. There also must be minions to serve the narcissist, make sure they get everything they want without it appearing like that is what is going on, and to take the blame if anything goes wrong.

The only way that a narcissist can get away with their horrible behavior is to have a host of people who enable them. This is what we see with Trump and why so many people want to know why the Republicans are letting him get away with the nonsense he has for the last four years. Malignant narcissists want what they want to the degree that deep down they feel that not getting everything they know they deserve means they are worthless.

If they view it as the end of the world not to get what they want and believe someone as worthwhile as they deserve, then they have to do what it takes to make it happen. They have no coping mechanisms to handle what would happen otherwise and the fear associated with this possibility means they have to achieve it at all costs. To do this they have well-developed ways to draw people to them, establish a sense of loyalty in them, instill a degree of fear at what happens if they aren’t pleased, and set up cognitive dissonance so they are likely to remain no matter what through altered perceptions.

Donald Trump Becomes President and Begins His Reign

While it would have started before he actually won the election, Trump’s making of a government of his choosing, one that befits a malignant narcissist, began after he took office. In the beginning, Trump already had a leg up.

Trump already had a leg up. He was President of the United States. Even close staffers and officials can get awestruck by meeting the president and the prospect of working with him, being on his team, doing things that would please him and possibly earn goodwill or perhaps a favor down the road. All of this sets the person up to view the president positively and to want to connect to them just as a function of the office without the president having to do anything at all. So, before Trump walked into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. he had a building full of people prepared to become his minions.

Even with this though, he would have recognized that he had to prime the pump to a certain degree. If he is to be successful he would realize there were certain things he would have to do to get people to be genuinely loyal at a deeper level than because he was President in name.

This means he knows there are certain things that are expected of people socially to make others like and respect him. While he believes these things are beyond him and don’t apply to him nor does he feel the need to do such things for others, he does them anyway to ensure he has the minions to obtain everything he wants. So, in the beginning, he charms people to further establish the bond he needs for the unrelenting loyalty he seeks.

In her book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man,” Donald Trump’s niece Mary writes,[Trump] pointed at me...then said, 'I specifically asked for you to be here.' That was the kind of thing he often said to charm people. And he had a knack for tailoring his comment to the occasion, which was all the more impressive because I know it wasn’t true.”

He used such charm to persuade people into believing him to be a wonderful guy who was interested in only them. Narcissists exude charm that attracts others to them like moths to a flame. They know how to use eye contact, how to hold someone with their gaze, especially when they want something from the individual.

Trump Begins to Collect People

The next thing that happens with a malignant narcissist, especially one in need of countless allies to help him maintain his image to himself as well as to others is he determines who will be most likely to become a “true believer”. In other words, he needs to create a group of people who believe in everything he does, people who feel a strong sense of hero-worship and won’t think before doing what he wants.

These are his advance soldiers. They are there not just to meet his needs but to present an ideal of a president worth living and dying for. The more people giving him a godlike visage, the more others will start to consider this as a possibility. To establish an image it just takes a sizable number of people repeating his messages over and over until it seems that is the only way to think.

To build this inner circle he goes after certain types of people. The ones who will respond the way he wants them to, have specific characteristics. They need to be forgiving people who won’t hold a grudge, loyal, capable of overlooking the negative, have an external locus of control meaning that their decisions do not come from within but from what others tell them to do, self-sacrificing, extremely responsible so they can pick up the pieces he leaves behind, and accommodating.


Setting Limits

Once the narcissist has almost everyone on his team, it’s time to set the limits to the relationship. This is when he shows what happens should someone disappoint him. In his mind defiance is anytime you fail to agree enthusiastically with him.

Typically the narcissist will choose one individual to make an example out of. The person doesn’t need to have done anything monumental, just questioned something about the narcissist's position. The individual chosen is one who won’t fight back, and will accept the consequences despite not doing anything to deserve them.

The purpose of this example is to show everyone else, just how negative the outcome will be if they fail to toe the line. Toeing the line, of course, means not only never questioning the narcissist, but also getting him everything he wants when he wants it.

This method is effective because observation teaches the lesson without risking alienating any other followers. When only a single individual is targeted, there is no one for them to commiserate with and they become a pariah so they have no power to influence how others view the narcissist. The person is kept around and continued to be treated badly to make sure there is always a scapegoat there to remind the others what happens if the narcissist is unhappy.

No Further Need for Charm

By the time the narcissist reaches this point, he no longer needs to go out of his way to be charming or to provide a minute's attention to anyone other than himself. He has gotten everyone in his circle attached to him first through love, then through fear. Though this is the time he will let down all his guards and let his narcissistic intent be seen for what it is, even if there are those who begin to question, to themselves, whether there might be some problems with the narcissist’s purpose and actions are actually, there is usually nothing they can bring themselves to do about it. They’ve created a monster and their only option is to continue feeding it.

Given that they have been undoubting loyalists to him for a long enough time that if there was a problem they feel they should have figured it out before, the only path left to them is to convince themselves that he is the same person they supported at the start (he is) and that sometimes in order to bring about the best outcomes it takes doing things that aren’t ideal.

Cognitive Dissonance Makes for Loyalty Even in the Face of the Ridiculous

Once the narcissist reveals his true identity, and the degree to which he is deluded, the problem that happens among many of his followers is that they aren’t deluded. Repetition, like minded individuals, rah rah Trump rally’s in a bubble of support – all of these things can keep the follower happy for a while. But when the full fledged delusions rear their ugly heads, then something has to be done.

The most logical thing, the only thing to do once things become so bad that there is a President who lost the election claiming jubilantly from the second the polls close that he won which continues long after the votes are no longer in question, is to finally call a spade a spade. And here is where things get really dicey.

In a political arena, you are expected to support the head of your party, especially when he is the president. You have also spent years drinking the Kool aide and until recently perhaps, believed him at his word or dismissed the times when there were obvious “inaccuracies,” or reconstructionist history or instances of wag the dog. Overall, his politics are good for the party and good for the country.

But when you can’t dismiss his more blatant problems and out of control behavior that is making himself and the party look like fools, do you distance yourself? No. The only way to survive personally if not professionally, is to rework the most problematic of the instances so that they are not so problematic any longer.

Refusing to concede? He has every right to, and even a duty to make sure that the country gets the president they voted for.

Dozens of court cases that you try to get a ruling in without a bit of evidence? Considering the crucial nature of the decisions, the judges should have been a little more lenient.

Going to republican state legislatures to try to get them to postpone certifying the vote so the president would be chosen by the Republican-led House or telling them to choose their own republican electors despite it being illegal to change things this right after an election? Again, sometimes liberties must be taken to get the result that should occur.

The bottom line is that had the GOP not let Trump get away with everything he wanted to while making no attempt to reign him in, it would have limited the harm he was able to bring about. But at the same time, the nature of being in a relationship with a malignant narcissist especially when he’s the President made it practically impossible for them to act differently once he really lost control of his faculties and was unable to even try to put a good face on it any longer.

For this perfect storm to occur, it took a leader who was a malignant narcissist, followers who were susceptible to his ways, and an environmental context that made for the perfect surroundings to allow the situation to unfold.

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Chicago, IL

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