I have written before about the sociopaths who live among us, protected by the normality bias. This mindset drives most people to believe that our society is made up of “normal” people just like us. Even in the face of demonstrated evidence to the contrary, we want to—need to—accept people as normal and this requires that we dismiss or ignore their aberrant behavior. This topic taken on more importance as the 2016 presidential campaign plays out.
To be clear, this is not a political post and The Next Phase is not a political blog. This post has to do with the personalities and behaviors of all the candidates. In fact, I would like readers to look at the candidates and think in a non-political light. I’m not a physician or a clinician and I make no diagnoses.
Stanley C. Loewen in Health Guidance gives us the major characteristics of a sociopath. A person does not have to exhibit every single one to qualify. These traits match those given by other doctors in other places although lists may differ in their definitions or level of importance. I’m using this list because it’s simple and clearly written.
18 Qualities of a Sociopath
“Someone who is described as a sociopath will have several traits that set them apart from those with no personality disorders. These traits include the following.
- Lack of empathy – Inability to feel sympathy for others or to understand the emotional consequences of their actions
- Cold, calculating nature – The ability and willingness to use others around them to personal gain
- Shallow emotions – Lack of real emotion in response to events, limited capacity to feel love
- Narcissism – A personality disorder in itself in which the individual feels strong love and admiration toward themselves (often a defense mechanism against deep-seated low esteem)
- Grandiose self image – They might see themselves as someone who is superior to others and sometimes even experiences delusions. A sociopath might see themselves as a fitting ruler of a country or even the world, but might also have delusional beliefs such as seeing themselves as a God or having super powers
- Charming – While the sociopath is unable to fully understand the emotions of others, they are capable but rather highly adept at mimicking them and might appear to be charming and normal at first
- High IQ – Often sociopaths will exhibit a high IQ which they can use to manipulate and plan
- Manipulative – Sociopaths use their superficial charm and high IQ to manipulate others to get their ends, and their lack of empathy allows them to do this with no sense of guilt or remorse
- Secretive – Has little need for others and is highly secretive in their actions meaning
- Sexually deviant – The lack of remorse, guilt or emotional attachments means that the sociopath is happy to have affairs and to engage in questionable sexual activity without questioning their desires
- Sensitive to criticism – That said, like all narcissists, the sociopath will desire the approval of others and will be highly sensitive to criticisms. They often feel they deserve adulation and admiration of the world and might feel victimized
- Paranoid – Often their lack of understanding of emotion along with their incongruous self view means that they feel a lack of trust and paranoia
- Despotic/Authoritarian – Often the sociopath will see themselves as a necessary authority and will be in favor or totalitarian rule
- Lawfulness – Despite popular belief, a sociopath is not likely to be a problem to the law in later life, but rather will seek to find loopholes, to rise to a position of power, or to move to another area so that their behavior is tolerated
- Low tolerance for boredom – Sociopaths require constant stimulation and get quickly bored
- Impulsive behavior – A lack of regret and empathy means makes sociopaths more likely to make sudden rash decisions based on the current facts
- Compulsive lying – As part of their façade, and as a means to an end, sociopaths are compulsive liars and will rarely speak truthfully making them hard to pin down
- The MacDonald Triad – In childhood sociopaths will likely have demonstrated the ‘MacDonald Triad’ also known as the ‘Triad of Sociopathy’, traits that often are demonstrated in sociopaths from a young age. These include animal cruelty (pulling the wings off of flies etc., bed wetting, and pyromania (an obsession with fire setting).
Sociopaths of course vary in their symptoms and might act differently in different cases. However their main trait is presenting themselves as having the same empathy feelings and emotions as others when in fact they lack this emotional capacity. They are thus cold and manipulative and rarely see any problem with their actions.”
About the Candidates
Got that? Now let’s look at the major candidates—11 Republicans and three Democrats—in alphabetical order. I created a spreadsheet that we can use to rank them. WordPress doesn’t accept spreadsheets very well, though. If you really want to fill out the chart, let me know and I’ll email a copy to you.
Some of the chart’s categories are almost a slam-dunk. One might argue, with the ample support of history, that any presidential candidate must by definition be narcissistic and have a grandiose self image. How else to survive the brutal attacks from other candidates and the media? Or even to think you’re suitable for the job? Also, we want candidates to have a high IQ and we sort of expect politicians to be manipulative, don’t we?
Because “compulsive lying” is subject to interpretation, though, not to mention propaganda, I urge you to check out Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter’s scores for what the candidates are saying. Politifact hasn’t updated the overall scores since June of this year, however, and a lot of debate comments have raced under the bridge since then so I couldn’t add those numbers to the chart.
That accounts for five of the 18 qualities. But, still, all those others are really important, aren’t they? We should think seriously about connecting the dots on the person we plan to vote for—the one who will sit in the Oval Office for four years.
- People I think are normal and who I agree with,
- Candidates who are basically normal but who I disagree with,
- People I think are unqualified for the job but who are basically normal, and
- Those who are flat-out bat-shit crazy.
I think at least two of the Republican candidates have higher sociopathy scores than I would want in any individual leading the country. That’s more than I think is healthy for the pool of candidates who want to lead the most powerful nation on the planet and who have weapons of mass destruction at hand.
Sociopathy is Important
The 2016 Presidential campaign is important. Despite the behavior of some of the candidates and at least one of the news networks, we should not treat it like a season of Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice or American Idol. We should not expect the President of the United States to be a performer, a rock star, or a comedian. If he screws up in office, we can’t just vote him off the island.
The Iowa caucus is on February 1 and the New Hampshire primary election runs eight days later. The next time you listen to a stump speech or a debate as yourself not only whether you agree with the candidate’s positions or even whether he or she is simply lying. Ask instead whether you think the candidate’s behavior is normal.
A lot depends on the answer.