The election of President Biden is bringing an end to the age of narcissism, or as Tom Wolfe titled it in 1976, “The ‘Me’ Decade”? Only 30 percent of adult Americans say they still approve of our former Narcissist-in-Chief in the latest polls since Donald Trump’s defeat in November.
Donald Trump epitomized what psychologists have described as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPR). Psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell described in their 2009 book, “The Narcissism Epidemic”, the destructive effects of narcissistic behavior: the breakdown of institutions that bind families and communities, thus encouraging divisive and antisocial, short-term behaviors over long-term, collective decision-making.
There is much more to the definition, of course, but psychologists are in general agreement a person with NPR, such as former President Trump, has sociopathic behavior with an almost complete lack of empathy, or regard for others.
Dennis Shen, in a London School of Economics article maintains narcissistic behavior became prevalent in baby boomers and millennials, the Gen X and Y’ers born approximately between 1946 to 1980, as they focused on their own needs rather than the needs of others.
It was a sharp divergence from the post-Depression and World War II generations, when a rare consensus within America emerged, the result of existential crises in the form of the World War and looming Cold War.
“This post-war era of togetherness saw unprecedented economic stability and trust in the state as the steward of the people,” said Shen., “The nation backed global reciprocity, exemplified during the founding of the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions and Marshall Plan.”
We now have a president who is explicitly restarting global reciprocity by rejoining alliances such as the Paris Accord on climate change, and restoring economic stability with a ‘new’ New Deal of Rooseveltian proportions—more than $6 trillion in government spending to ‘build back’ American institutions and programs designed to heal communities and families.
We also have a younger generation facing serious existential crises—diminished economic and educational opportunities, a deteriorating physical environment and polarized political environment that has endangered our constitutional-based democratic system.
And they don’t like what America has become. Gen Zer’s (born between 1981-96) are more progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations, said a recent PEW survey.
A look at how Gen Z voters view the Trump presidency provides further insight into their political beliefs. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in January of last year (2020) found that about a quarter of registered voters ages 18 to 23 (22%) approved of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president, while about three-quarters disapproved (77%).
"Millennial voters were only slightly more likely to approve of Trump (32%) while 42% of Gen X voters, 48% of Baby Boomers and 57% of those in the Silent Generation approved of the job he is doing as president."
So Americans are coming together again with the election of President Biden, who has asked “that we all do our part”—the younger generations in particular, who are reacting as did those of the Great Depression and World II when faced with existential threats.
Harlan Green © 2021
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