by A. Siegel
In the Virginia Democratic primary this past spring, the phrase “narcissistic maniac” might have been the most widely shared and known two words by either of the candidates. Ralph Northam — Doctor Ralph Northam — described Donald Trump using those words. When he first did so, according to those in the room, the reaction was almost electric. Clearly, the candidate (and his staff) saw that reaction, and “narcissistic maniac” became a constant refrain after that.
Northam started calling Trump a maniac in speeches in front of Democratic activists in early March. Tom King, a consultant for Northam, said he took note of crowds “going nuts” at the line…
For long-term Democratic observers of Virginia politics, this language was both:
- an accurate reflection of the majority of Americans’ (and, well, humanity’s) views of Donald Trump, and
- even more powerful because it came from a physician.
- seemingly at odds with Northam’s style/”brand” over the years, and, thus,
- some wondered whether Northam would continue using the language after the primary
As an example of campaign use, here is Northam’s primary campaign advertisement, “Listening”:
Twenty seconds in, Ralph says:
I’ve listened to Donald Trump carefully and I think he’s a narcissistic maniac.
Yeah, I said it. pic.twitter.com/nYzuNgOFmz
— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) May 31, 2017
While Ralph Northam is a politician and not a psychiatrist — thus perhaps not covered under the (now-waived for Trump) Goldwater Rule — he is a doctor, and that gave even more power to his words. When challenged, Dr. Northam stood by his description of Trump:
You know, I’m a pediatric neurologist, there’s a lot of overlap between psychiatry and neurology, and I would invite the viewers to look up the criteria for narcissism . . . I think they’ll see some familiarity with what they’ll see…
Democratic audiences loved this (very valid) take on Trump; it generated real enthusiasm, the candidate saw that, continued to use the term, and stood by it when pressured.
While “narcissistic maniac” didn’t disappear with the primary (here is Northam’s 25 June tweet sharing his discussion of why he is running for governor), its use has tailed off to a murmur compared to the primary’s roar.
The reality of American politics at this point is that elections are about base turnout. Winning without an enthusiastic base is, well, very hard. For the Democratic Party, nation-wide and in Virginia, perhaps the single-greatest unifier is utter and total disgust with the “narcissistic maniac” currently occupying the Oval Office. Trump is also unpopular among independents, and even the GOP is split as to their leader. Polling shows that “Trump” is a key factor in Ralph Northam’s favor.
Think about these points:
- Democratic Party voters embraced Northam’s medical take on Donald Trump.
- Mobilizing the base — generating enthusiasm — is key for a (big?) November win.
- Trump’s unpopularity in Virginia is a key factor, already, in Northam’s favor.
With those points in mind, am I the only one wondering why “narcissistic maniac” seems to have largely disappeared from the Virginia political discussion these days?
My view is that, with a reinvigorated use and discussion of Trump as a ‘narcissistic maniac”, Lt.Gov./candidate for Governor/Doctor Ralph Northam would serves his political interests (increased chances of election), the overall Democratic Party (increased enthusiasm for the House of Delegates races), and the nation (with a medical professional putting Trump’s questionable mental health bluntly into the political discussion). So why not do it? What’s the downside?
Finally, I’d point out that Ralph Northam’s life has been one of service to his country and his state, and that this is another way he can serve. Please bring back “narcissistic maniac,” and use it to win big in November!