Mental disarray and personal politics, part II

Building on an observation I made yesterday: When people who are clearly mentally unbalanced are at least coherent enough to form political opinions, in any contest they observe between a candidate who goes about things comparatively quietly and one whose chief strategy is inexhaustible high-volume raving about Stuff That Needs Fixing, they invariably go for the shrieking demagogue.

This may seem like a trivially obvious thing to point out — crazy likes crazy, nothing to see here, QED — but I don’t think that it is. A lot of people struggling with mood disorders with delusional features are champions of things they don’t have, so their professed heroes are often their own functional opposites: self-reliant and self-supporting people who have (or even appear to have) steady, respectable jobs, children and spouses they’ve been with for at least a couple of election cycles, a dependable circle of friends, and so on. Mentally unbalanced people covet these things especially strongly when they have enjoyed glimpses of being able to pursue them. They may possess the basic intelligence to do so, but lack utterly the wherewithal to demonstrate the level of everyday discipline required to assemble a non-traumatic existence.

When it comes to politics, though, the game changes radically. Simply and crudely put, fucked-up people make other fucked-up people their heroes. The critical element of this is that those heroes have to exhibit some of the other qualities I just mentioned, e.g., personal wealth, the adulation or respect of a significant fraction of the population, strong connections to their own families. While having one’s mind more or less moored to its docking points is undeniably an asset when it comes to securing such niceties, there are also plenty of nutjobs who manage to make it big, some by dint of luck (e.g., people who inherit money or win it through games of chance), others as a result of energy and talent that may even be a feature of their mental illness, but usually are not (e.g., certain athletes, musicians and entertainers). And when it comes to emulating people who are successful by most metrics, unbalanced people choose as objects of worship the people most like themselves. And why not? If you’re a 5′ 5″ male high-school athlete who dreams of a career in pro basketball, whose exploits will you focus on more closely — Shaq’s or Muggsy Bogues’?

So again, while most people who pull the lever for candidates like the one currently beshitting the White House are not crazy (or no crazier than most people are, anyway), the overwhelming fraction of crazy people who bother with voting favor candidates who are or seem to be lunatics.