Happy Halloween, Austin:
Intellectually, I know that early voting is a good thing, increasing political participation, something especially to be desired in a state like Texas with such sorry habits in this regard.
But, emotionally, I don’t like it.
I like voting on Election Day and I want everyone else voting on Election Day.
Of course, I am also nostalgic for the long-ago days when everyone got their news from Walter Cronkite, or Huntley/Brinkley, or (the one-man, very distinguished, Fox news of his day) Howard K. Smith, when Sunday night was Ed Sullivan and Bonanza, when we were all on the same page, more or less, about what was unfolding before us.
Back when America was great, which I’d like it to be again.
Oh wait. Strike that. Forget I said that.
But, I do like Election Day as a civic holiday, and, to me, early voting feels as wrong, as much an invitation to chaos, as early trick-or-treating.
Sure, with early trick-or-treating, more kids would get more candy.
But what’s to stop a kid from knocking on your door one day dressed as a goblin and then knocking on your door two days later dressed as a ghoul?
Sure, the Brennan Center or some such will tell you that in-person, trick-or-treat fraud is extremely rare, but I don’t know.
I’ll wait to hear what Gov. Abbott has to say about that.
But, more fundamentally, think about this.
Millions of I-simply-can’t-wait-to-vote Texans, and altogether some 20 million over-eager Americans, have already voted in what is commonly called the most consequential presidential election in our history without having Anthony Weiner on the brain.
And, with Election Day coming as late as it can possibly come this year, there is still time for a November Surprise … or two.
Before this is over, Donald Trump may, a la Mission Impossible, remove his improbable mask and reveal that he is actually Ted Cruz, or Marvin Bush, or Evan McMullin, or Vladimir Putin, or some alien being sent to enslave us all, or Roger Clinton.
Yes, of course, Roger Clinton, confirming Alex Jones’ worst fears that his man Trump is actually a Clinton mole.
Trump, of course, a little bit suspiciously, had been predicting this all along.
Here he was talking about Abedin, Weiner and the emails in Norwood, Massachusetts, back at the end of August.
Imagine someone so lacking in impulse control, so reckless in what he tweets.
Certainly, Donald Trump calling Anthony Weiner names, shows a certain lack of self-awareness.
I mean, if Donald Trump gropes women the way he boasted about, but which he then said he actually didn’t, but then a bunch of women said he most definitely did, that is presumably a lot worse than Weiner’s consensual virtual sex with women (I know nothing about the latest Weiner charges, involving underage girls, but that too, I presume, is virtual.).
In fact, in the vast realm of personality types, Trump and Weiner seem if not on the same page than at least in the same chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
From The Mind of Donald Trump by Don P. McAdams in The Atlantic:
The same feeling perplexed Mark Singer in the late 1990s when he was working on a profile of Trump for The New Yorker. Singer wondered what went through his mind when he was not playing the public role of Donald Trump. What are you thinking about, Singer asked him, when you are shaving in front of the mirror in the morning? Trump, Singer writes, appeared baffled. Hoping to uncover the man behind the actor’s mask, Singer tried a different tack:
“O.K., I guess I’m asking, do you consider yourself ideal company?”
“You really want to know what I consider ideal company?,” Trump replied. “A total piece of ass.”
I might have phrased Singer’s question this way: Who are you, Mr. Trump, when you are alone? Singer never got an answer, leaving him to conclude that the real-estate mogul who would become a reality-TV star and, after that, a leading candidate for president of the United States had managed to achieve something remarkable: “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.”
Here is David Brook’s diagnosis in the New York Times:
Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.
To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others’ submission.
In this way, Trump seems to be denied all the pleasures that go with friendship and cooperation. Women could be sources of love and affection, but in his disordered state he can only hate and demean them. His attempts at intimacy are gruesome parodies, lunging at women as if they were pieces of meat.
Most of us derive a warm satisfaction when we feel our lives are aligned with ultimate values. But Trump lives in an alternative, amoral Howard Stern universe where he cannot enjoy the sweetness that altruism and community service can occasionally bring.
Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressure drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground.
Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You’re running for an office you’re completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes ever further from view.
Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she has “tremendous hate in her heart” when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own.
Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.
It’s all so pathetic.
As for Weiner, here is Mandy Stadtmiller at the end of August in New York Magazine.
Of all the tragic tales in politics, the pathological need for Anthony Weiner to have women look at his erect penis, at a humiliating cost to his wife and family, is one of the strangest, saddest psychological case studies of all time.
This is a man who desperately needs to be looked at, talked about, filmed, discussed, praised, considered, desired, Googled, reviled, and admired. Nothing else matters to him. Not his infant son. Not his wife. Not the fate of the presidential election. Not the potential for a career rebound.
Weiner represents the living embodiment of a beloved social-media insult (“delete your account”), and the new face of the “exhibitionistic narcissist,” a group described as “grandiose, competitive, attention seeking and sexually seductive.”
The hallmarks of exhibitionist narcissism include arrogance, recklessness, and a need to show off, according to the 1998 book The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern: “Practically everything exhibitionistic narcissists do is designed to bolster their self-esteem by demonstrating that they are better, can do more and are above everyone else,” writes author Nina W. Brown. “Acting as if rules, laws and cultural conventions apply to others but not them is another example, particularly when this is consistent behavior.”
With Trump, we all have been able to observe in real-time the very public manifestations of his personality.
With Weiner, we also have, from earlier this year, the superb documentary Weiner.
From Mandy Stadtmiller:
There is a scene in the new Weiner documentary that shows him reacting gleefully to his now-legendarily disastrous 2013 Lawrence O’Donnell segment during his mayoral campaign. Wife Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top aide and most trusted adviser, is horrified by the shout-fest ensuing. “Why are you laughing?” she asks him. “This is crazy.”
Bruce Handy in Vanity Fair in May asked some psychotherapists to evaluate the Anthony Wiener they saw in Weiner
- Anna Fels, a psychiatrist and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her practice includes couples as well as individual therapy, and she has written about issues of betrayal.
- Meg Kaplan, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She specializes in sexual disorders.
- Jeannette Stern, a psychiatric social worker who treats couples and has also worked with addicts.
Jeannette Stern: That he could even watch the O’Donnell interview on playback? For me, that would be the kind of thing where I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next day, I’d be so mortified. I’d say, “Take all the televisions out of the apartment so I don’t have to watch it.” And when he wanted Huma to watch it, she was like, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” That’s more of a typical reaction. But his need not only to watch it but also to think he won the encounter, it’s so uncomfortable to watch. But he wasn’t uncomfortable. That suggests some kind of disconnect with reality. Everything is about attention, and it’s almost as if he doesn’t care what kind of attention.
Anna Fels: He seems to be in a kind of strange, impervious bubble. There’s a great quote where he says, “Did my personal relationships suffer because of the superficial and transactional nature of my political relationships, or is it the other way around? Do you go into politics because you’re not connecting on that other level?” Watching this movie I’d say it’s the latter. He doesn’t seem to me like someone who’s been changed or corrupted by the political process, but he’s really clueless about certain aspects of interpersonal communication and empathy.
Meg Kaplan: There’s another quote in the movie where he said, or someone said about him, “The same constitution that made him do it helped him weather it.” I think this is his personality. He’s just persevering and hoping it goes away, but not really taking responsibility or acknowledging how people are feeling about what he’s done.
So, I wonder, is all this renewed attention the worst thing that ever happened to Anthony Weiner, or the absolute very best?
As for the rest of us, we have a week and a day – give or take a Florida recount type situation – before we know whether narcissist Anthony Weiner will have elected narcissist Donald Trump president.
In the meantime, if there is a fitting day to early vote this year it would certainly be today, so maybe I’ll drop by the nearby Fiesta early voting spot, pick up some more candy, and see if the spirit moves me.
Mine is Pablo Hazard.