The Elopement of Empathy: Henry Ford and Donald Trump

Henry Ford and Donald Trump, two prominent and successful businessmen in their separate times, developed dangerous, maladaptive personalities leavened by an overwhelming need to protect their vulnerable, inner selves with an obsessive armor of self-absorption and advancement — extreme narcissism. Their individual successes largely spun around a core of special talent and ability and a relentless pursuit of self-glory that far outdistanced the cultural norms in which each lived. While each man grew wildly prosperous in the narrow confines of their respective enterprises, their mutual fixation on self-advancement at all costs and their confident suppression of their ability to empathize with the plight of others, rendered their ability to function effectively in an office of political and social responsibility — the Presidency of the United States — handicapped and dangerous.

In 1923, Henry Ford outpolled the unpopular incumbent of the Presidency, Warren G. Harding as a viable candidate for the office in the 1924 election. The mid-term death of Harding and the political acumen of his Vice-President, Calvin Coolidge, spared the country from Ford’s political ambitions. Nevertheless, Ford’s virulent anti-Semitic bigotry and the publication of his accumulation of his anti-Jewish diatribe of “fake news” and conjured conspiracies, The International Jew, in 30 plus editions in Germany during the 1930s, contributed in alarming ways to the stoking of the holocaust.

While the final tally of the emotional aridity and glaring grandiosity suffusing the Trump administration is incomplete, the prospects for a final result in which the country can take justifiable pride, remain grim. The constant conjuring of false facts, the ad hominem attacks on “Gold Medal” parents and legitimate war heroes, the unconscionable internment and separation of children from families seeking asylum in the United States, and the destabilizing tax cuts going mainly to the rich, presage further decent of the country into a troubling and empty echo of what Abraham Lincoln described as “our better angels.”

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