For many voters, and especially women voters, Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy raises a central question loaded with fear: What happens if you give a person with a long history of abusing power even more power?
More than a dozen women have now alleged that Trump assaulted, groped, or harassed them. The majority said the incidents occurred in professional situations, where he clearly had the upper hand. The leaked Access Hollywood audiotape from 2005 made clear Trump believed his “star” status gave him special access to women’s bodies, too. He was comfortable enough to brag about sexual assault while wearing a mic.
The question of whom we should grant power to deeply matters. Research in psychology finds power changes people. Power can be corrupting. Power gives people confidence to indulge in their base urges. It makes us less empathetic, more likely to see our own success in a positive light and harshly condemn failures in others.
As Michael Kraus, who studies the psychology of power at Yale, wrote recently at Quartz, power is only likely to magnify the negative characteristics in a man like Trump. But for an interesting reason: It’s not that power is, by itself, corrupting. It’s that “power simply brings our true nature out into the open,” Kraus writes.
In that light, the recent investigations into Trump’s “true nature” — how he interacts with women and around employees, how he responds to failure, and on and on — matter. They may matter as much as his policy proposals and his would-be administration’s agenda.
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