Consider the following five anecdotes about Donald Trump:
- On Hillary Clinton’s late return from a debate break in December: “I know where she went — it’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.”
- On Megyn Kelly’s tough questioning during a debate in August: “She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
- On Elizabeth Beck’s request to take a breast pump break during a deposition in 2011: “He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re disgusting,’ and he ran out of there.”
- On his well-known germaphobia: “Trump doesn’t even like to push a ground floor elevator button because it’s been tapped by so many people….Trump especially avoids shaking hands with teachers, since they are likely to be have been ‘in touch’ with too many germy kids. Trump has what he calls a borderline case of germaphobia — aka msyophobia — that the American Psychological Association defines as one of the more common forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
- On his one-time friendship with notorious lawyer Roy Cohn: “By virtually all accounts, one of Trump’s closest friends early in his career was Roy Cohn….When Cohn was facing disbarment in the mid-’80s, Trump testified on his friend’s behalf as a character witness. For a while, according to Vanity Fair, the two men spoke ’15 or 20 times a day.’ Then Trump found out Cohn was HIV-positive. He moved swiftly to cut ties with his mentor, seeking out new attorneys and transferring his legal business to them. The sudden rejection stunned Cohn.”
This brings to mind Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral foundations, which suggests that although liberals and conservatives share a set of five innate moral roots, they prioritize them quite differently. Conservatives, for example, are especially sensitive to moral foundation #5:
Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination….It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.
I wonder how strongly Donald Trump scores on this particular moral foundation? Pretty strongly, I’d guess. I wonder how much it explains his approach to politics? And I wonder how much it explains his popularity with a certain subset of conservatives?
It’s just a thought. But perhaps one of the things that unites so many of Trump’s longtime obsessions (immigrants, crime, kicking out protesters, anything to do with foreigners) is a fear of growing impurity in the body of the country. It might explain a lot.
UPDATE: I see that Alexander Hurst got here first. His take on Haidt’s moral foundations and Trump’s sensitivity to disgust is here.