The One Book Trump Supporters Should Probably Read, But Almost Definitely Won’t
After Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in 2012, Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, declared a large part of the problem was that Republicans had to “stop being the party of stupid.” Needless to say, they went the other way; Jindal was the third Republican presidential candidate voted off the island last fall.
What did Jindal mean by “stupid”? Probably what conservative columnist Peter Wehner meant in the New York Times yesterday—that the party’s constituents have engaged in an all-out war on reason itself, favoring emotional impulse and unfalsifiable conspiracies.
The most dominant of these emotions? Anger, obviously.
Psychologists generally agree that anger is a secondary emotion used “to protect ourselves from or cover up other vulnerable feelings,” feelings like fear and sadness. According to healthpsych.com:
Feeling fear and sadness is quite uncomfortable for most people; it makes you feel vulnerable and oftentimes not in control. Because of this, people tend to avoid these feelings in any way they can. One way to do this is by subconsciously shifting into anger mode. In contrast to fear and sadness, anger can provide a surge of energy and make you feel more in charge, rather than feeling vulnerable or helpless. Essentially, anger can be a means of creating a sense of control and power in the face of vulnerability and uncertainty.
The trouble with trusting anger, with its pseudo-masculine veneer, is that it emphasizes childlike impulse. In fact, complex issues require study, patience, reason, and a willingness to challenge your predetermined ideas. But a person who responds with anger first often makes bold pronouncements that become too embarrassing to retract later, no matter how many facts dispute the angry claim. This results in chaos, stupidity, and stagnation. (Imagine this guy trying to walk back his support for Trump after this clip went viral.)
So I submit that the one book all Trump supporters should read, but almost definitely will not, is a book that was written nearly 2,000 years ago, but that seems almost to have been written specifically for this election cycle: the Roman philosopher Seneca’s long essay On Anger, available in full right here.
Here are some choice quotes, out of literally hundreds of options, that might make you think of a certain orange someone and his certain troglodytic supporters:
Trump’s conspiracy theories and pathological lying:
“[Anger] indulges its own feelings and gives sentences according to its caprices, will not listen to evidence, allows the defense no opportunity of being heard, clings to what it has wrongly assumed, and will not suffer its opinion to be wrested from it, even when it is a mistaken one.”
“Whereas anger is in a hurry, reason wishes to give a just decision.”
“[Anger] loves and maintains error even when truth is staring it in the face. It hates to be proved wrong, and thinks it more honourable to persevere in a mistaken line of conduct than to retract it.”
“A large part of mankind manufacture their own grievances either by entertaining unfounded suspicions or by exaggerating trifles. Anger often comes to us, but we often go to it.”
“[The angry man] comes to inform against a man for committing the very crime of which he himself is yet more notoriously guilty.”
Trump’s desire to punish his enemies:
“No passion is more eager for revenge than anger, and for that very reason it is unapt to obtain it: being over hasty and frantic, like almost all desires, it hinders itself in the attainment of its own object, and therefore has never been useful either in peace or war: for it makes peace like war…and falls into the power of the enemy because it is not in its own.”
“Anger at another’s sin is base and befits a narrow mind.”
Trump’s worship of wealth and power:
“Anyone who thinks that anger produces greatness of mind, would think that luxury produces it: such a man wishes to rest on ivory, to be clothed with purple, and roofed with gold; to remove lands, embank seas, hasten the course of rivers, suspend woods in the air. He would think that avarice shows greatness of mind: for the avaricious man broods over heaps of gold and silver, treats whole provinces as merely fields on his estate…”
“Ambition, too, he he would think shows greatness of mind: for the ambitious man is not content with office once a year, but, if possible, would fill calendar of dignities with his name alone, and cover the whole world with his titles. It matters nothing to what heights or lengths these passions may proceed: they are narrow, pitiable, groveling.”
Trump’s visceral appeal to other angry people:
“Its first onset is fierce, just as the teeth of snakes when first roused from there are venomous, but become harmless after repeated bites have exhausted their poison.”
“You should not believe the words of angry men, whose speech is very loud and menacing, while their mind within them is as timid as possible.”
Trump and the Access Hollywood tape:
“…He would think that lust shows greatness of mind: for the lustful man…puts himself within reach of the swords of injured husbands with complete scorn of death.”
Trump’s hesitation to say he’ll accept election results, which threatens the democracy:
“Mankind is born for mutual assistance, anger for mutual ruin…The one is ready even to sacrifice itself for the good of others, the other to plunge into peril provided it drags others with it.”
“Irascibility…is angry with the truth itself, if it comes to light against its will.”
Trump’s inability to choose reason over emotion:
“Reason herself…is only strong while she remains apart from the passions…for the mind, once excited and shaken up, goes whither the passions drive it.”
“The most trustworthy virtue is that which long and carefully considers itself, controls itself, and slowly and deliberately brings itself to the front.”
“We have no need of external weapons, nature has equipped us sufficiently by giving us reason. She has bestowed this weapon upon us, which is strong, imperishable, and obedient to our will, not uncertain or capable of being turned against its master.”
Why Trump should not be president:
“To be constantly irritated seems to me to be the part of a languid and unhappy mind, conscious of its own feebleness, like folk with diseased bodies covered in sores, who cry out at the lightest touch.”
“Irascible men ought not to meddle with the more serious class of occupations, or, at any rate, ought to stop short of weariness in the pursuit of them; their mind ought not to be engaged upon hard subjects…”
“The sword of justice is ill-placed in the hands of an angry man.”
“Let us be free from this evil, let us clear our minds of it, and extirpate root and branch a passion which grows again wherever the smallest particle of it finds a resting-place.”
“Instead of acting thus, why do you not rather draw together what there is of your short life, and keep it peaceful for others and for yourself? Why do you not rather make yourself beloved by everyone while you live, and regretted by everyone when you die?”