Since 1973, a directive known as the Goldwater Rule has constrained psychiatrists and psychologists from issuing professional opinions about public figures. Character assassination by proxy compromises the integrity of the profession, and the purpose of the Goldwater Rule is prevent psychiatric name-calling. Moreover, totalitarian regimes have a history of abusing psychiatry as a tool of oppression. What motivates these mental health professionals to suddenly break ranks and violate protocol?
‘Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president,” claim 33 mental health experts in a public letter (New York Times, Feb 13, 2017).
“Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States,” reads a petition posted on change.org earlier this year.
For Professor Allen Francis of Duke University Medical College, “the antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological” (NYT, February 14, 2017). Point taken.
Clinical impressions do not overturn elections. A diagnosis is neither a crime nor a guilty verdict in a court of law. And pop psychology should never stigmatize persons struggling with mental health issues. Nevertheless …
The new ‘normal’ is abnormal. The chaos is ‘unpresidented.’ What is the consensus opinion of these 58,000 mental health professionals? Here are the signature traits of narcissism (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association):
- A compulsive preoccupation with success and power;
- Self-absorption and exaggerated claims of superiority;
- Pervasive patterns of arrogant and haughty behavior;
- Constant demands for admiration and loyalty;
- A grandiose sense of entitlement;
- Employs dishonest means to achieve selfish ends;
- Ruthlessly exploits people without conscience;
- Intolerant of criticism with a tendency to lash out.
A deadbeat who fails to pay bills and wages. A charlatan who operates a phony university. A demagogue whose appeals to bigotry fan the flames of division and discord. A bully who demands fealty while praising despots. A compulsive liar whose daily mendacities subvert reality. A hypocrite who fills the swamp of cronyism and nepotism to overflow. The leader of a democratic republic who disrespects the protocols of governance and violates the rule of law.
Have we learned nothing from the lessons of history? How self-glorifying narcissists hijack democracies? From Il Duce to Pinochet and beyond?For all these reasons, 58,000 mental health professionals have signed petitions to inform journalists, the American public, and members of Congress. Despite past misuses and abuses, the consensus opinion can also be instrumental to forestall oppression. The antidote is political. Let the debate begin.