The Gaslighter-in-Chief and the damage to our democracy Skip to content

The Gaslighter-in-Chief and the damage to our democracy

3 min read

We have a problem. A serious problem.

For the first time in the history of our nation, we have a president who continually uses gaslighting to manipulate and control us, the citizens and voters. And it has made it almost impossible for all of us to agree on a basic set of facts, much less what to do about them.

In short, Trump’s gaslighting could lead to the fall of our democracy.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation used to maintain control over others. The origin of the term can be traced to the 1938 British play “Gaslight” in which an abusive husband manipulates the surroundings and events with the goal of making his wife question her sanity.

People use gaslighting to “gain an upper hand and avoid accountability,” according to Jess Jackson, a therapist in a mental health group that manages patients of abuse and violence.

Gaslighting involves the covert use of mind games that make it difficult to know if you are experiencing gaslighting – and that is the point.

Family therapist Aki Rosenberg explains,”Gaslighting at its core is always about self-preservation and the maintenance of power/control – to construct a narrative that keeps the gaslighter in the ‘right’ and others in the ‘wrong.'”

But perhaps “the most destructive thing about gaslighting is that it makes it difficult to trust our neighbors, friends, and even relatives,” Rosenberg explains. And in fact, it can make it difficult to trust your own thinking, or even what you see and hear yourself. Many Americans may be saying “I’m not sure if what I’m thinking is valid” – that’s a big indicator of being a victim of gaslighting.

Where does this gaslighting come from?

Jackson notes that gaslighting “often intersects with misogyny and white supremacy. These intersections encourage gaslighting behavior to maintain positions of power. It is a common method to oppress people who have less access to power and resources.”

“The more privilege one has, the more their experience is ‘normal’ or ‘correct,'” Rosenberg explains. “Gaslighting can show up as the more privileged discriminate against the less privileged group.” A recent example is the gun waving McCloskeys, the wealthy St. Louis couple, taunting the less-privileged demonstrators in their gated community.

Related Posts

Trump’s gaslighting

An example of gaslighting is Trump, our Gaslighter-in-Chief, using rhetoric to support violence by police and by right-wing militia groups who infiltrate peaceful protest groups. Trump calls the peaceful protesters “anarchists” and says they want to “destroy our cities.”  This causes some Americans to doubt their support for the right to protest, to accept conspiracy theories like QAnon without examination, and to question the legitimacy of the protestors themselves.

“Gaslighting makes a person [Trump] feel powerful and in control,” Jackson explains. A person who gaslights might not have the capacity to self-reflect and has feelings of low self-esteem that they are uncomfortable dealing with. Trump, a textbook case narcissist, lacks empathy, and has no remorse for his many unconstitutional, anti-protocol, and sometimes criminal actions.

Plus, Trump is a pathological liar, whose continual lying about matters great and small exhausts the normal citizen, and makes it easier for Trump to manipulate the masses.

Trump often blames Democrats when a self-made conflict arises or blames actions on outside factors. Additionally, the Gaslighter-in-Chief will change the subject by projecting something Republicans have done onto Dems to avoid taking responsibility.

Trump seems to consistently rely on gaslighting as a tactic to maintain control. People like Trump “have been gaslighting those around them for so long that it’s a second-nature survival strategy,” therapist Jackson explains.

And for a recent example of gaslighting by both Donald Trump and his family, at The Republican National Convention, “speaker after speaker piled lie upon lie to recast Trump as a saintly feminist preoccupied with the nation’s health. As Hurricane Laura roared toward the southern coast, the RNC unleashed Trump, the Hurricane Liar,” wrote David Smith of the Guardian.

The impact on our nation, and what we can do about it

In my view, it is no accident that many swing states now find themselves in the throes of urban violence, not by peaceful protests but by weaponized outsiders encouraged by our Gaslighter-in-Chief with the express purpose of starting trouble.

Donald Trump’s gaslighting has led the country into a spiral of doubt, anger, and despair. His constant lying and gaslighting is to reinforce one central message: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not happening.”

So, how do we overcome this monumental gaslighting?

  • Recognize gaslighting when you see or hear it, and call it out.
  • Find the courage to calmly respond to gaslighters with facts.
  • Educate others on how to recognize gaslighting.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be baited.
  • When you have done the above, walk away or turn off your laptop.


Print Friendly and PDF