How can we, citizens untrained in psychology, recognize the psychopath? Sorry, we can't. Even those qualified to diagnose the condition cannot do so at a distance. That is the bad news. The good news is that we do not need a solid diagnosis. We need only know that a candidate has signs consistent with the condition. Any candidate having most of the characteristics of psychopathy is qualified only for rejection, be he a true psychopath or not.
Psychopaths are described as “without conscience, incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves.”1 They will have most of the following traits:
Lack of remorse
Lack of empathy
Refusal to accept responsibility
Lack of goals
Poor behavioral control
Adolescent antisocial behavior
Adult antisocial behavior2
Those traits are red flags, the growl before the dog bites. They warn us to avoid the candidate, though the personality of the psychopath distracts from that warning. Note, however, that lack of goals will not show up in the political psychopath. That psychopath does not lack goals, he has very ambitious goals – all relating to himself.
I believe readers will see the resemblance with the leading candidates for president in each of our major political parties. I believe that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are superfici8al, grandiose, and deceitful. Both seem to lack remorse and refuse to accept responsibility. I do not know either well enough to know if they lack empathy, but their disregard of others suggests that they do. Both are irresponsible, refusing to accept blame for anything. That is enough to raise a red flag, nay a crimson flag!
Note also: Not all psychopaths are violent. Some are white-collar criminals. Some stay within the law, though seldom within normal ethical boundaries – and they fool people with ease. The white-collar psychopath is a talented deceiver. He uses his personality, his mind, and his silver tongue to separate people from their money, to acquire high-paying jobs, or to reach positions of power. He is the ultimate narcissist; and as far as can be determined he has, literally, no conscience. He is, however, charming, persuasive, often charismatic – and a world-class liar. He could run a red light, hit your car, and convince you that it was your fault.
I do not know if either Trump or Clinton is a true psychopath. However, there are enough warnings that having to chose between the two for president is a nightmare.
1 I Paul Babiak, PhD and Robert D. Hare, PhD, Snakes in Suits, When Psychopaths go to Work, Harper 2006, p19
2 Ibid, p17