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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bullies

The 2016 primary races on both sides of the aisle are led by two baby-boomer bully buddies. Say that five times fast. Though they’ve tried to distance themselves from each other, we know that the Clintons and Trumps were good enough friends to talk on the phone, golf together and attend events together. It’s no surprise that both candidates talk about “me” more than “we” and claim that they’re the only person in existence who can govern this great land of ours. They are of course both products of the “me generation,” and it certainly shows in their rhetoric.

Both Trump and Hillary are also getting a majority of their support from aging baby boomers as well. This week I took an informal panel from people in this age group that I know who are supporting either of these candidates, or were referred to me by friends or family members who knew I was seeking people in this age group who are supporting Trump or Hillary. My findings were that, at least in my sample group, supporters of both of these baby boomer candidates had a lot in common. At the end of the day, I was left with the impression that baby-boomers who support Trump or Hillary are pro-bullying, and I’m not just phrasing it that way because I’m prone towards the bombastic.

I best disclaim that I am not a psychologist. I’m a regular guy who likes politics and talking to others about politics. The conversations I’m going to report to you are with other regular folks. Some I knew before hand, others not. While I did Google traits of bullies to shape how I presented this story to you, I didn’t cherry-pick my panel’s quotes to support my narrative. I spoke with 10 people, five in favor of each candidate. All of the responses are included, though if responses were similar, I combined them into the clearest response and indicated how many people said this sort of thing.

I’m not such a dolt that I would claim these views represent entire voting blocks. I know baby boomers who think similarly as I do on these issues. I specifically sought out Trump and Hillary supporters in that age demographic. I don’t believe or present my findings as scientific in any manner. However, the human experience, no matter how individualized or intersected, does have commonplaces to be considered. I do not believe in the hive-mind. I believe in individuals. However, individuals often subscribe to a hive-mind in order to feel like part of a community. Supporting political candidates can have that effect. I know because I try to be careful of that trap myself. We’re all human. Some of us care about other humans more than others, though.

1. The Feeling of Entitlement

Bullies feel entitled to claim power of the people they dominate, and to take their possessions as their own.

Every single one of the ten Trump and Hillary supporters who spoke with me diminished Bernie supporters as “just wanting free stuff.” When I pushed back on that, asking if the citizenry doesn’t deserve to dictate the government services their tax dollars support, every single one of the Trump and Hillary supporters who spoke with me told me that they weren’t given healthcare or education, so future generations don’t deserve to get it either. “Nobody ever helped me,” was a common theme.

I also found it quite interesting that both Trump and Hillary supporters assume that Bernie supporters will go with their candidate after the primary contests, yet nobody could give me an answer as to why they would automatically pick up this sizable voting block. The answer was always, “they will have to.” Hillary’s people felt that as Hillary would be the Democratic nominee, Bernie’s supporters would have to end up supporting her. Trump’s supporters believed that since Trump would then be the only anti-establishment candidate left, Bernie’s supporters would have to back the billionaire.

2. Lack of Empathy

Bullies don’t consider the feelings or beliefs of the people they seek to dominate. They only consider their own.

I asked both groups if their candidate wasn’t exactly what Bernie and his supporters were standing up to, be it billionaires or center-right establishment candidates. The common theme in their replies was that it doesn’t matter, but here is what they said:

“It’s her turn.” (x2)

“They’re losers.”

“They’re stupid hippies.” (x2)

“They’re stupid hipsters.”

“They’re stupid.” (x3)

“Bunch of Communists.”

These answers were fairly identical as those when I asked why these baby-boomers I spoke with thought an overwhelming majority of millennial voters were backing Sanders.

“They don’t know how things work.” (x2)

“They don’t understand reality.”

“They’ll grow up after they lose.” (x2)

“They’re stupid.” (x3)

“They’re Communists.”

“They’re losers.”

3. Lies Versus Critical Thinking

Bullies lack the emotional and intellectual depth to think about things critically. They have a “me versus the world” point of view, which allows them to rationalize an “anything to win” strategy involving lies and violence to try to conquer those they seek to dominate.

I confronted Hillary supporters with policy pivots Secretary Clinton has made throughout the primaries, as well as direct lie campaigning examples from either former President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, their daughter or their surrogates. I confronted Trump supporters with examples of how he avoids talking about policy and direct lie campaigning examples from Mr. Trump’s tweets and campaign materials. For example, a Hillary supporter may have been given something the Clinton campaign said to imply Bernie Sanders would scrap Obamacare, alongside the fact that it was a lie, or how Secretary Clinton has been on both sides of issues like Social Security and abortion rights throughout the campaign. Trump supporters were shown things like times Mr. Trump was asked for specific policy ideas and responded vaguely about how he’ll hire the best people or he will make America win again, as well as direct lies about his opponents, such as implying Governor Jeb Bush’s metaphor about mooning people meant that he was seeking to drop his pants in public. Here are the replies:

“Anything goes in politics.”

“It’s about winning.”

“You have to fight dirty to win.” (x3)

“You have to say what people want to hear.” (x2)

“I vote for a person not their policies.”

“Nobody will remember. It doesn’t matter.”

“Voters are stupid. You have to play them.”

4. Emotional Domination

Bullies use emotional domination to make their victims believe they are the only ones who care for them and that the victim’s survival or well-being is solely in the hands of the bully.

When I asked the baby boomer Trump and Hillary supporters why they are supporting their candidate, I again noticed the lack of public policy concern. I was told:

“It’s her turn.” (x2)

“We need someone tough.” (x2)

“She was right about Obama when she ran against him.”

“He’s been Obama’s biggest critic.”

“Somebody has to fight for America.”

“She knows how to play the game.”

“No more politicians.”

“I pick winners.”

5. Bullies Lack Moral Compass

The consideration of what is right and what is wrong escapes the bully, who cares only about getting their way.

I presented Hillary supporters with the allegations against the Clinton Foundation for trading donations for arms deals while she was Secretary of State. To Trump supporters, I exhibited the fraud allegations surrounding Trump University, where he profited heavily from students who said they were ripped off. Again, the tone of responses were quite similar.”

“That’s how you make money in America.”

“People do all sorts of things to make money.”

“I’m sure Bush and Cheney did it too.”

“Business is business.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with that.” (x5)

6. Bullies See Threats Where They Do Not Exist

Research shows bullies are often acting aggressively towards others as a means of self-protection, and do not take into account if a real threat exists or not.

Clinton supporters were given reading material on her foreign policy in Iraq, Libya and Syria outlining failures of intelligence and lives lost. Trump supporters were asked to read an essay on how many American troops it would take to round up illegal immigrants throughout the United States.

“Only American lives matter.” (x4)

“It has to be done.” (x2)

“We have to protect our interests.”

“You have to stand up to the bad guys.”

“We have to be tough.”

“We have to stop them.”

7. Bullies Don’t Share Well

Because of their lack of empathy, bullies are unable to create the sort of bonds necessary to share well with others.

I ended all of my conversations with five of each Hillary and Trump supporters by presenting them with FDR’s Second New Deal, which I believe to be the eight tenants of Progressivism. It was FDR’s dream to have these passed as amendments to the Constitution, guaranteeing all Americans: the right to employment, high enough incomes to support food, clothing and leisure for all Americans, farmer’s rights to fair income within a system of corporate agriculture, freedom from monopolies, the right to housing, the right to medical care, social security and the right to an education.

All ten participants in my survey said they could get behind some of this. However, when I pivoted to relate each of these points to policies proposed by Bernie Sanders, the tone changed. I leave you with one line of commentary from each of these baby boomers who support either Trump or Hillary:

“So, they want more free stuff?”

“It’s probably communism. Was FDR a communist?”

“America isn’t about handouts. America is about helping yourself.”

“We need poor people for the economy to function properly. Somebody has to do the (expletive) jobs.”

“We have a population control problem. People not getting healthcare helps keep that in check.”

“That sounds great but we can’t afford it.”

“I didn’t get any of that and I did just fine.”

“Terrorism is more important.”

“We’re not Europe.”

“Here we go with the fairy tales again.”

There you have it. Now I’ll be true to my bombastic nature. I believe that one generation of voters stands between the revitalization of America or a dystopian future. Baby boomers who support Hillary or Trump don’t care about you or your children and your struggles. They don’t care if you have a roof over your head or a dream in your heart. They care that you keep the fast food restaurants open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, because all they care about are themselves. You are a cog in the machine until you drop dead. We have countries to invade and immigrants to kick out. May God bless America.


Michael Salamone

bon vivant/raconteur/troubadour


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  1. I’m an aging boomer and am dismayed so many of my generation, the Woodstock generation, have turned into passive authoritarian bullies. How did “peace, love, and understanding” turn into “war, hate, and screw you, I’ve got mine!”?

    • Probably from working in a largely capitalist system that makes these attitudes more likely to develop. Living in suburban settings where people hardly build connections to those within their community and the city in which they live. An ever increasing media consolidation that shells out lies, unimportant “news” and biased media reporting, protecting their own interests.

  2. I am a 66 year old baby boomer and was a Bernie supporter when he had no national %. It is extremely sad that so many of my generation have no heart for others, and I would say the responses you got are pretty standard of all the people I know who are part of the “Christian Right”

  3. Creepy article.

    I’m gen X and all I can say is that white men have a really big thing for other white men. That’s what sanders and trump have in common. Pretty much nothing else.

    Women supporters of Bernie are less likely to be swayed by the white dude factor. Do white people hate strong women more than other groups of people?

    Just a thought. People who equate Trump and Clinton reveal a pretty Trumpian level of shallowness. I guess that it all fits.

    • Most, if not all, Sanders supporters would also have supported Warren, so that “do white people hate strong women” argument really doesn’t have any validity. What Sanders supporters “hate” are neoliberal, neocon warmongers from either party. We also don’t take to being lied to and manipulated. Our aversion to Clinton is all about her policies and her record, not her sex.

  4. “I didn’t get any of that and I did just fine.” These are the same sorts, and I have heard them, who say “all this stuff won’t be a problem til after we are long gone anyway”. Seriously. I am a leading edge “boomer”. I have children who will have to live with this situation if it doesn’t change. No way in Hades will I vote for either of these narcissists.

  5. Speaking as a Late Boomer (I was born in 1963) I think that another feature of the Baby Boomers is a desire to keep endlessly hogging the limelight. There’s a reluctance to yield the stage when their time is up, a refusal to realize that there comes a point when you have to pass the baton on to the next generation and allow them to do their own thing and say what they have to say.

    We see this in politics – if Bill Clinton was the “Pepsi President” – “the taste of a new generation” – when he took office in 1993, then Hillary 2016 is more like New Coke – a product nobody wants in the first place. Even her supporters seem to struggle to muster much enthusiasm for her, justifying her candidacy with lame appeals along the lines of “she’s a woman” or “she’s done her time, so it’s her turn”. She’s like the mother who tries to pretend she’s “hip” by dressing like her teenage daughter and using a load of teen slang that’s actually about ten years out-of-date.

    In the entertainment world, it’s just as bad. We see it with the Rolling Stones, who stagger on forever like characters in a George Romero movie. At the multiplexes, the cinemas reek of the rotting stench of decaying once-cool Boomer pop culture that is well past its use-by date, with endless remakes, reboots & sequels of things like Batman, Superman, Jurassic Park, Star Wars & Star Trek. It’s stuff that has become like the cool guy who’s the life of the party when he turns up at 9 pm, but who has now turned into a drunken bore who refuses to leave even though it’s now 3 o’clock in the morning and everybody else has gone home an hour ago.

    The consequence of this is a stagnation in our political & entertainment culture, with the next generation – the Millennials – being deprived of an opportunity to make their mark, and tell their stories. Every time you vote for one of these candidates or go to see one of these “franchise” movies, you’re effectively sending the signal that you’re happy with this same tired old crap, and don’t want to change – that you don’t care about what the younger generation has to say. But increasingly people are sick of it. The result has been a huge backlash against “The Establishment” – an institution that is now seen as a corrupt cancerous parasite that cynically lines its own pocket at the expense of the rest of society. The mood of society today is probably much like the mood of the Boomers themselves in the 60’s, with the winds of change & revolution in the air. Hopefully, unlike the Boomers who sold out and became Yuppies in the 80s, this one will be more long term.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bullies