Approach the question abstractly. You know someone whose name is Al. Al faces some life choice. He can choose Course A, the course of action that is, objectively, in his own best interest. Or he can pick Course B, the exact opposite of Course A, which no one in Al’s position would pick if he were not delusional. Al picks Course B.
If that happens just one time, you might say of Al, well, everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes they are big mistakes.
But the same thing happens the next month. Faced with a choice between A and B, he once again picks B.
And it happens a third time, and a fourth time, … and a twenty-second time.
What conclusion do you reach? The conclusion you reach is that Al suffers from delusional thinking, and that Al is badly in need of a checkup from the neck up.
My main point is that many of the pundits are still attributing Orange Man’s behavior to some kind of evil but rational strategic behavior. They still think that Trump is consciously putting his reelection prospects ahead of massive human suffering and loss of life. What I say is this: if Trump understood himself to be facing that choice, I am confident he would pick the massive suffering and death alternative in a New York minute. But that is not the choice as he understands it. Because he labors under two overarching delusions.
Overarching delusion number one is that he understands war better than the generals, economics better than the economists, and medical science better than the medical scientists. He says this all the time. And his actions can only be explained by positing an actual believe on his part in his world-historical genius.
Overarching delusion numero dos is that any information that conflicts with his genius, or that (he thinks) makes him look bad, is a hoax concocted by his personal enemies. Incapable of good faith himself, he is incapable of grasping that others, acting in good faith, are using their professional expertise to understand objective reality.
Some examples from today’s news.
Item: The swing states are being hit very hard by unemployment and state tax revenue loss, but
Trump appears dead-set against [new relief], even though it’s often argued he does not share the same ideological aversion to government help for the economically devastated that many conventional Republicans and conservatives do. So holds the mythology of his “economic populism,” anyway.
Why is Trump dug in? He and his advisers insist that the economy and jobs will roar back quickly. “The states are opening up,” Trump says. “It’s a transition to greatness.”
Maybe Trump is so convinced he can dramatically ramp up the economy again through sheer force of will and tweet — even though he’s failed to scale up robust testing, making it less likely people feel safe to resume activity — that he doesn’t want to even act as if urgent new infusions of aid are needed.
Item: Trump claims that medical scientists at two respected institutions are acting solely out of political motivation when they find that his miracle cure is in fact harmful.
Item: Trump is encouraging the religious to crowd together in church tomorrow, even though, as surely as God made little green apples, some of the congregants will be asymptomatic superspreaders.
Item: Current data show that “24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread.” And the big fool tweets that everybody must now transition to greatness at the risk of their lives.
No, ladies and germs, these are not the words and deeds of a sane person. They are not even the words and deeds of a sane but profoundly evil person.
It is well past time to sweep the mental illness under the rug.