Trump Knows Dominance Wins. Someone Tell Democrats.

Donald Trump once called Bill Barr, his former attorney general, “Weak, Slow Moving, Lethargic, Gutless, and Lazy.” When Mr. Barr recently endorsed Mr. Trump, rather than express gratitude or graciousness, the former president said, “Based on the fact that I greatly appreciate his wholehearted Endorsement, I am removing the word ‘Lethargic’ from my statement. Thank you Bill. MAGA2024!”

This is the sort of thing Mr. Trump is known for, even with people who came around and bent the knee. It is a critical part of his politics — and it’s an area that pollsters aren’t fully measuring and Democratic strategists rarely take into consideration.

Politics is a dominance competition, and Mr. Trump is an avid and ruthless practitioner of it. He offers a striking contrast with most Democrats, who are more likely to fret over focus-group data and issue ever more solemn pledges to control prescription drug prices.

What these Democrats seem to have forgotten is that they have their own liberal tradition of dominance politics — and if they embrace it, they would improve their chances of defeating Trumpism. But unlike Mr. Trump, whose lies and conduct after the 2020 election were damaging to democracy, leaders like Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exerted dominance in liberal ways and to prodemocratic ends. They obeyed the law, told the truth, and honored liberal values.

Psychologists have noted the effectiveness of dominance in elections and governing. My recent research also finds that what I call Mr. Trump’s “high-dominance strategy” is far and away his most formidable asset.

High-dominance leaders shape reality. They embrace conflict, chafe at playing defense and exhibit self-assurance even in pursuit of unpopular goals. By contrast, low-dominance leaders accept reality as it is and shun conflict. They tell people what they think they want to hear and prefer mollification to confrontation.

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