psychoanalyzing presidents

There’s lots of conversation right now about Donald Trump’s mental condition. It includes claims that he demonstrates narcissistic personality disorder and that changes in his speech patterns reveal cognitive decline. I personally analyzes his speech pattern from a particular angle here.

This discussion evokes the episode in 1964, when Fact magazine surveyed psychiatrists about then-candidate Barry Goldwater’s psychological fitness to be president.

Just under half (49.2%) of the 2,417 respondents thought he was unfit, with the rest split evenly between those who didn’t believe they could answer and those who considered him fit for office. Fact also gave respondents a chance to write comments and printed 40 pages of quotes from their answers. Goldwater sued and won over $1 million in damages (which bankrupted Fact magazine, leading to the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which forbids members from making evaluative comments about public figures whom they have not examined as individual patients. A patient/physician relationship triggers ethical responsibilities that are absent when psychiatrists discuss public officials.

For me, the original Fact magazine issue is a fascinating example of professional authority encountering politics. It’s important to note that a considerable minority of the quoted statements either object to psychoanalyzing Goldwater without examining him in person or vouch for his mental health. Some of the surveyed psychiatrists even opine that he is the only sane candidate, surrounded by crazy socialists. But the majority of the quoted MDs make claims that now seem risibly dated and morally problematic. They do so under their professional titles, in a magazine entitled “Fact.” For example:

  • “Descriptions of his early life that I have read indicate to me that his mother assumed the masculine role in his family background. … The picture, therefore, is of a domineering, emasculating mother and a somewhat withdrawn, passive, narcissistic father. … This would provide a fertile background for sado-masochistic temperament, such as is seen in paranoid states.” — M.D., name withheld.
  • “From TV experiences, it is apparent that Goldwater hates and fears his wife. At the convention, she consistently appeared depressed and withdrawn. Certainly she was not like the typical enthusiastic candidate’s wife, e.g., Mary Scranton.” — M.D., name withheld.
  • “Barry Goldwater’s mental instability stems from the fact that his father was a Jew while his mother was a Protestant. This ethnic and cultural split accounts for his feelings of insecurity and spiritual loneliness. … ” — M.D., name withheld.
  • “In trying to analyze Mr. Goldwater’s behavior I am tempted to call him a ‘frustrated Jew.’ … He has never forgiven his father for being a Jew. … What the Senator from Arizona stands for is the antithesis of the traditional Jewish concepts of social justice, of humility, of moderation in speech and action, and of concern for the feelings of others, especially the vanquished. In eschewing these concepts, the Senator subconsciously expresses his hatred for his Jewish father.” — Max Dahl, M.D. Supervising Psychiatrist [etc.]
  • “In allowing you to quote me, which I do, I rely on the protection of Goldwater’s defeat at the polls in November; for if Goldwater wins the Presidency, both you and I will be among the first into the concentration camps.” – G. Templeton, M.D.,  Director, Community Hospital Mental Health [etc.]
  • “Characterologically, Goldwater is like many middle-class Americans. He is ‘formula’ oriented with a belief in the infallibility of his own rhetoric. … In short: Goldwater is an anal character who believes all’s well in his ‘tidy’ world.” — M.D., name withheld.
  • “From his published statements I get the impression that Goldwater is basically a paranoid schizophrenic who decompensates from time to time.” — M.D., name withheld.

I think we should talk about Donald J. Trump’s character and psychological fitness for office. It seems problematic to use the Goldwater Rule to keep the whole psychiatric profession out of this discussion. And yet these quotes from 1964 remind us how historically-relative, value-laden, and agenda-driven people can be, even when they present themselves as scientific specialists dealing only in Facts.

Community Meeting for the Development of a Social Facility in an Urban Neighbourhood (Kadiköy, Istanbul, Turkey)

The activities of the social facility, Kasdas Café that is located in Sahrayıcedid Neighbourhood of Kadıköy district, were temporarily suspended in order to improve and enhance the functions of the social facility. A community meeting that brings the municipal officials, employees and residents, was organised on March 14, 2016 for...

NCDD Joins Coalition in Launching National Survey on the American Dream

In an era of political divide and confusion, we can learn a lot about what is happening if we slow down and ask people how their thoughts and feelings about the issues that seem to divide us most are changing.

That is why NCDD is proud to announce that we’ve joined a national, nonpartisan coalition that is launching the “What’s Your American Dream?” survey. This survey will ask people across the US to express their values and goals around the issues they see as most vital, and deliver the results to lawmakers. We think that an effort like this can help guide the nation’s leaders – as well as dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement practitioners –  to understand Americans’ goals for this time and then devise the tactics to achieve those goals.

The survey grew out of discussions with former members of Congress and everyday Americans, all frustrated with being out of touch with each other. The coalition rolling out the “What is Your American Dream?” survey – comprised of 25 universities, media outlets, organizations spanning the political spectrum, and spearheaded by the team at TheChisel – has the potential to reach 30 million Americans.

NCDD joined this growing coalition because we believe that the survey is a great tool to help D&D practitioners in our network gain clearer insights on what the people we’re engaging are really thinking and how they’re prioritizing for different issue areas, which will help our field do more impactful work that is responsive to the needs in our communities. That’s why we’re supporting the survey and encouraging our network to participate & share the survey to your own networks!

The seven-week survey is being hosted on, a unique nonpartisan public discussion platform that encourages people across the US to step beyond political slogans and platforms to share what matters to them, their loved ones, and communities.

Their survey uses elements of public deliberation to help distill Americans’ shared dream in seven important areas: Economy; Social Justice; Liberty and Regulation; Health, Education, and Care; Services; Foreign Affairs; and Governance. One of these themes will be featured each of the seven weeks that the survey is open. Unlike traditional surveys, the American Dream survey allows participants to share their stories with fellow Americans, or even add issues important to them that they think should be part of the conversation. It also features whimsical graphics and game-like navigation, is easy to use and understand, and appeals to all ages – whether they are 18 or 99 year olds.

TheChisel and the coalition will share the survey’s findings with the media and hand-deliver the report to the President, Cabinet, Members of Congress, Supreme Court, and state governors once it’s completed.

The “What’s Your American Dream?” survey launched on May 16 and will be open to the public for free until July 4, 2017, so be sure to participate soon! You can find the survey at We encourage NCDD members and our broader network to take the survey yourself, share it with your followers, or even consider signing on to the coalition, which already includes other NCDD member orgs!

More about the Coalition
University partners include University of Missouri School of Journalism, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, University of Mary Government and Political Philosophy Department, University of the Pacific Political Science Department.

Other partners include: ALL-IN Campus Democracy Challenge, AllSides, Associated Collegiate Press, Diplomat Books, Future 500, Heartfelt Leadership Institute, Hope Street Group, Independent Voter Network, Inyo County Clerk-Recorder, JGArchitects, Living Room Conversations, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, National Speech and Debate Association, ReConsider Media, The TAI Group, Take Back Our Republic, TheChisel, The Democracy Commitment, The Policy Circle, Wellville, and The Women’s Debate.

More about TheChisel
TheChisel is a nonpartisan website offering citizens a unique platform to engage in a dialogue with experts from both sides of the aisle. It enables citizen voices to be heard over the noise of special interest groups and media spin. On TheChisel’s proprietary discussion platform, every American can engage and help revise public policy proposals related to issues important to America’s future. These proposals are developed by nonpartisan organizations and bipartisan coalitions. With TheChisel’s help, Americans’ views will educate civic leaders and guide their policy-making.

social movements depend on social capital (but you can make your own)

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the glorious chapter in the American Civil Rights Movement that began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the segregated bus. This story is usually misrepresented in ways that hide Parks’ planning, leadership, skill, and feminist radicalism (see the real Rosa Parks). In any case, at least 99 percent of the city’s African Americans quickly started boycotting the bus company. That meant that 17,500 workers needed a different way to get to work.

At first, Black-owned taxi companies carried them for the price of a bus ticket, but then the city threatened to enforce a minimum-fare law. Next, more than 150 people volunteered to drive boycotters to work in their own cars. These volunteers “responded immediately,” Martin Luther King recalls in Stride Toward Freedom, but “they started out simply cruising the streets of Montgomery with no particular system.” That must have meant that many workers missed getting available rides. Ministers responded by calling for new volunteers from their pulpits, and even more drivers came out, but that meant (King writes) that “the real job was just beginning–that of working out some system for these three hundred-odd automobiles, to replace their haphazard movement around the city.”

Committees were formed and roles were assigned. It was easy to identify [morning] pickup locations, because African Americans lived in dense urban neighborhoods. But “we discovered that we were at a loss in selecting [afternoon] pick-up stations,” because domestic workers were employed all over the White neighborhoods. Two Black postal workers helped design regular routes. King recalls all this organizational work with evident pride, and concludes, “Altogether the operation of the motor pool represented organization and coordination at their best. Reporters and visitors from all over the country looked upon the system as a unique accomplishment.”

I’d like to draw two theoretical implications from this story.

First, we tend to think of social movements as examples of contentious politics, along with protests, strikes, and even revolutions. Contentious politics has a substantial literature. A separate literature concerns how communities organize themselves to provide services and manage common resources over the long term. For the most part, these two discussions are rather separate. They draw on different disciplines and have different dominant rhetorical styles. But actual social movements rely heavily on what could be called “common pool resource management.”

The two postal workers who designed routes exemplify lessons from the research of Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues: local people tend to have the most detailed relevant information; clear rules enable coordination; and public goods can be rotated geographically to serve many people. I’ve been arguing that we should combine the political-economy of Elinor Ostrom with the insights of Gandhi and King for a more complete civic theory.

The practical implication is that people who want to confront power often benefit from learning how to organize systems and processes that look like nonprofit enterprises.

Second, it’s commonplace to note the dependence of the civil rights movement on “social capital,” especially in the form of churches and unions. Both institutions play explicit roles in Dr. King’s narrative of Montgomery. But this analysis can leave you at a loss if you’re part of a community that doesn’t happen to have much social capital. And social capital can be mysterious, for it is invisible, and its connections to tangible outcomes seem obscure.

Indeed, social capital is a metaphor: Montgomery’s African Americans did not have a literal deposit of social capital in the bank. When social capital is measured by asking individuals about their tendency to join groups and to trust one another, it’s hard to see how we could boost these assets or why they would be important politically.

A different way of looking at social capital is as a concrete capacity to solve collective-action problems, such as providing free rides to 17,500 people every day. That may have been easier in Montgomery because so many people were already organized in other successful, functioning groups, such as the Black churches. “Labor, civic, and social groups were our staunch supporters,” King writes, “and in many communities new organizations were founded just to support the protest.” Like other forms of capital, social capital can be built up in one place and used in another. But what mattered was actually organizing the carpools to sustain the boycott. Skillful citizens can pull off such successes even in the absence of existing high levels of social capital, when they design good structures.

In short, social capital is a metaphor for self-organization, and people can self-organize.

See also what is a social movement?Ostrom, Habermas, and Gandhi are all we need; and Habermas, Ostrom, Gandhi (II).

NCDD Member Shares Faith & Dialogue Insights on NPR

In a testament to the critical work of NCDD’s network, we were proud to hear our very own Parisa Parsa – Executive Director of NCDD member org Essential Partners and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister – interviewed recently on NPR. Parisa was featured on the show Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys, where she shared about the keys to having good dialogue even in tough conversations. We encourage you to read more about her appearance in the EP blog piece below, find the original version here, or listen to the show here.

Making Difficult Conversations Not So Difficult

There you are – heart rate up, eyes dilated, adrenalin kicking in, jaw tightening. Maybe you’re the celebrity actor waiting for your big moment in your latest action movie. Maybe you’re about to experience your first skydiving jump. Or maybe you’re just standing, looking over the hedge of cubicles lining the company landscape, and beyond that is the curve of the earth.

Most people might see the Arctic Circle and Antarctica as being polar opposite to each other. Some people might see the United States as being on the opposite side of the planet from China. But we know that our planet is a sphere, and ‘opposites’ and ‘sides’ are all relative. We tend to live in fixed perspectives, not yet adjusted and molded as a result of different experiences.

Truth is that we don’t know who other people are until we get to know ‘them’. The other team, other cultures, different beliefs and values sprinkled with our own ignorances, and assumptions are ingredients that can serve up the perfect storm. In its wake there’s fear, anger and resentment. But at the center of a storm there’s is calm – the silent moment during which all sides of a conflict can be considered. Finding that space, in quiet reflection, we find chances to communicate, share stories, and engage in dialogue.

Speaking to this point, our very own Executive Director Parisa Parsa was recently featured on Central Florida’s NPR interview show, Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys with Imam Muhammad Musri (Senior Imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida), Rabbi Steven Engel, and the Rev. Bryan Fulwider. Rev. Parsa talked about about faith, difficult conversations, and the key to dialogue that can bring positive results.

The May 2, 2017 episode titled Faith & Society: Difficult Conversations with the Rev. Parisa Parsa can be found here:

There just might be celebrity life, skydiving, or a trip to Antarctica in your future after all. Either way, step out of your sphere, and conquer fear.

You can find the original version of this Essential Partners blog piece at

Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference Proposals Due Soon!


Good afternoon, friends. Don’t forget that the 2017 FCSS Conference, set for the end of October, wants YOU to join us as presenters. YOU are the reason FCSS exists, and we would be grateful if you would share you experience and knowledge and ideas and exciting new pedagogies with your peers and colleagues. We have had some good submissions so far, but we want more!

Proposals are due the 25th of May. Get them in and join us!