Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks “truth to power,” we often hear, which supposedly explains why so many admire him. The fact that he often comes across as an egomaniac is irrelevant to the message, almost beside the point.
The rise of Trump marks the fusion of populism and narcissism. In times of enormous demographic shift and economic uncertainty, populist messages rely on simplistic answers to complex problems and promote an us-versus-them warfare mentality. Populists like Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre engage in ridiculing their opposition; but in the narcissistic endeavour to prove himself a winner at the expense of all those losers, like Trump, Poilievre relies on righteous indignation, blame, and contempt as weapons of war. Many disaffected voters are drawn to him precisely because of those traits and not in spite of them.
To identify yourself as a Trump or Poilievre supporter – that is, to identify with the men on some level – helps you to feel like a winner when you may unconsciously fear that you’re a loser in this complicated world, in danger of being displaced by immigrants and refugees.
We don’t yet know whether Poilievre’s followers will continue to support him, especially when it counts, however, he continues to demonstrate the populist appeal as a method for coping with doubts about one’s personal value and social status.