Trump has tapped into America’s most basic energy: Fear. He addresses crowds of paid and unpaid supporters to cheer for him as he stokes Americas fear. This fear can be seen in many ways, but Dr. Karl Albrecht defines five: Extinction—the fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. Mutilation—the fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure. Loss of Autonomy—the fear of being controlled by circumstances beyond our control. Separation—the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person. Ego-death—the fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval[i] All of these could be summed up to describe trump himself and for that matter any person in power who is afraid of losing it. But I am talking about the fear he stokes in his base. Data for Progress in 2018 defined trump’s base as mostly White men (but women as well), evangelical, (mostly)non-college, earning $50,000 or more, living in rural areas, and over 50 (but this is debatable looking at his rallies).[ii] It is this group I am referring to when I ask where and who’s fear is trump stoking? And what type of fear is he stoking? Maslow’s fear.
Maslow has been ground breaking in the area of motivational theory. Maslow’s theory has three areas of needs comprised of 5 level. Within the first level of Basic Needs are Physiological needs – food, clothing, shelter and Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear. Within level 2 are The Psychological needs of attachment the need to love and be loved and esteem need to respect oneself and be respected. The third level is that if Self-Fulfillment needs which is the need of self-actualization need to achieve one’s goals.[iii] Tyler Jones realized that. “society has made it rather difficult for people to reach the goal of self-actualization”.[iv] What I notice in trump’s speeches is his ability to stoke the fear of the loss of his base’s basic needs. The Physiological needs can be seen in his talk of how immigrants are taking jobs. This is something America has been saying since the before the first boats started landing on Ellis Island. When the crowd is ‘fire up’ (I will get to this phrase later) he charges that immigrants are illegal which plays into Albrecht’s fears. The threat of America being ‘over-run’ with illegal immigrants allows him to attack both basic needs of physiological and safety. Next comes the fear that the “democrats” are taking away your guns which feeds into the basic need of safety.
The rallies themselves are a way in which trump builds a false sense of psychological needs. He is a showman and his shows are just that. When he goes to a rally and praises Montana congressman for assaulting a reporter as another member of the media, a journalist, is killed and dismembered. He is giving the crowd a sense of belonging and getting a feeling as if he belongs. His praises equate to esteem he has for those who will commit acts that will justify his own behavior. There is only one person who will attain the final level of Self-fulfillment and that is trump. He keeps the country focused and divided within the bottom basic needs and stokes his base’s fear that hey must follow him for he will protect their basic needs all the while they are not realizing that they are lifting him up to the highest level.
No one can belong to anything if they are fighting for what is perceived as a fight for basic needs. It is time to make voting compulsory for all in America. Elections are not won by those who vote as much as it won by those who don’t or can’t vote. We are slipping away from FDR’s dream of country on the brink of war. “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”[v]
[i] The (only) 5 fears we all share, Dr. Karl Albrecht Ph. D., March 22, 2012 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brainsnacks/201203/the-only-5-fears-we-all-share
[ii] Data for politics #14: Who is trump’s base? August 23, 2018, https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2018/8/21/data-for-politics-14-who-is-trumps-base
[iii] Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Tyler Jones, March 14, 2017, https://medium.com/thrive-global/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-5b021e203e34
[iv] Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Tyler Jones, March 14, 2017, https://medium.com/thrive-global/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-5b021e203e34
[v] Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, as published in Samuel Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Volume Two: The Year of Crisis, 1933 (New York: Random House, 1938), 11–16.