Donald Trump lives in his own alternate universe. He sees the world not as it really is, but how he wants it to be. He relies on magical thinking—the belief that his thoughts can directly make something happen in the real world—and conspiracy theory—the belief that other people are making something happen in a sinister fashion behind his back.
Trump’s magical thinking could not be more dangerous, especially when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. And his conspiracy theory that mail-in voting will result in a “rigged election” is demoralizing and potentially calamitous to the country.
Trump is a malignant narcissist. Malignant narcissists are prone to establish their own “alternate universe” with magical thinking and conspiracy theories in order to maintain their grandiosity and sense of superiority. They twist and distort true information to fit their self-image. And, sometimes, their new version of the truth can become extreme, fixed, and detached from reality—what is called psychotic delusional thinking.
Trump’s magical thinking and conspiracy theory are extreme, fixed, and largely disconnected from reality. They are almost delusional. Donald Trump is close to being psychotic.
Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic can be traced to his irrational magical thinking. His magical thinking does not allow for the consideration of data and science. He has stopped listening to our public health experts, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. He is not following CDC guidelines. Medical opinions are dismissed and unwelcome in Trump’s alternate universe.
Trump proclaims to the American people that the coronavirus has been reduced to “ashes.” He reports that some states are “in extremely good shape.” He asserts that he has done “a great job” in getting rid of the virus.
Trump’s magical thinking about COVID gets even more irrational: “It will go away like things go away,” “It will just disappear,” and “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will just disappear.”
Some of Trump’s magical thinking about COVID has been bizarre. He mused at a press briefing that inserted light or ingested disinfectant might kill the virus. He is obsessed with a drug, hydroxychloroquine, although it has no proven efficacy with this virus and can cause death. On Sunday, Trump held a news conference to announce that he had obtained emergency approval for the use of convalescent plasma. Such plasma is already in use with COVID patients and is not considered a miracle breakthrough treatment. And the FDA commissioner approved it only after Trump accused him of being “deep state.”
Trump also believes that the number of cases of COVID infection would be less if we stopped testing for it. That is recklessly illogical thinking. That is like saying there would be less cancer if we simply did not test for it.
Trump’s conspiracy theory is that national mail-in voting will automatically result in widespread voter fraud. His belief is not supported by data; it is contrary to the best science at hand. Trump keeps clamoring about a rigged election; that is his new mantra. It is his “made-up fantasy” that is not rooted in reality. Trump irrationally believes that he is trying to prevent “anarchy, madness and chaos.”
Trump’s psyche cannot handle this pandemic situation. He does not understand that the virus is surging and spreading and will not just magically disappear on its own without a proven vaccine. He does not understand the vital importance of mitigation measures—hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing. He does not grasp that 176,000 deaths could have been largely prevented with a proactive national strategy.
Trump’s psyche cannot grasp the importance—and safety—of national mail-in voting in light of our pandemic. He firmly believes that he will be the victim of voter fraud, and that this would be the “most inaccurate and dishonest election in history.” He has blocked funds to the Post Office in order to stymie mail-in voting. The fact that Trump voted by mail in the last Florida Republican primary does not compute in his world of unreality.
We are in a life-and-death crisis in this country. Thousands of Americans are dying each week of COVID. And Donald Trump is still not taking reality-based, medically-sanctioned steps to defeat this deadly pandemic.
Mail-in voting is vital to have in place by November 3. The American people need a way to vote that is safe and timely and efficient. Trump is doing everything he can to undermine mail-in voting. His goal is to confound and even paralyze the whole election process—an event that would be catastrophic to the orderly transition of power.
Trump’s alternate universe is almost delusional. It will be on full display at the RNC. His psychiatrically disturbed thinking and behavior will be lauded by his sycophants. It is beyond alarming to see his apologists have fidelity to a president who is near-psychotic.
Trump’s alternate universe of irrationality and dangerousness cannot sustain the backbone of our democracy.
We are at the inflection point.
Alan D. Blotcky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama.