Donald’s Trumps’ Moral Judgment?
There are many people still lamenting the election of Donald Trump. Your frustration is palatable. However, there might be hope on the horizon based on moral development theory.
According to the research of the late Dr. L. Kohlberg, the silver lining might rest with the U.S. Constitution? In other words, Trump’s level of moral development could be influenced by the motives of the United States Constitution, which supports the unalienable rights of all people.
Notice his recent changes with global warming or the indictment of Hillary Clinton. Were these changes the result of public opinion, people in his ear or simply the reflection of the influence of a document, the Constitution that respects the rights of all citizen and non-citizens. For example, Kohlberg defines six stages of moral development based on an individual’s moral judgment concerning personal or social topics. Further, his research has shown individuals understand or respond to moral issues at the next highest stage, at our own stage, and all stages below.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s moral judgment has been all over the map, which might be why his message reached all segments of the population? For example, stage one represents the “punishment and obedience” moral stage. When Trump is in the wrong, he can easily hire a lawyer and threaten to counter sue or simply pay off the offending party and move on. No fear of punishment, so no stage one.
Stage two is called the “reciprocity stage” or eye for an eye stage. The motto for this stage: “He who is not with me is against me.” Trump’s tweets show a propensity to respond and take revenge on anyone who has wronged him. Perhaps a stage two response.
The third stage, “conformity to the group” is displayed by “wanting to be liked.” His need to be liked is very much like the adolescent needing positive affirmation by the peer group.
Trump’s verbal platitudes about himself could be stage three behaviors, a very typical stage three response.
The fourth stage is about “law and order” and perhaps our scariest stage because such individuals are drawn to groups where the rules are created by some higher source in power representing religions, ultra right organizations etc. Trump’s money has allowed him to oversee an empire that allows him to make his own rules. Isn’t this an example of Trump University? Most frightening — Trump may think the presidency will allow him to become the ultimate rule maker?
Stage five is the “Constitution stage,” which is respect for the rights of all individuals, regardless of race, color, religion etc. It is this stage that I hope that Trump will move to? In other words, the more he has to abide by the Constitution, the greater the opportunity for him to be pulled up to stage five?
I need not even try to attach Trump to Stage six, which I like to call the “Gandhi stage.”
These individuals are willing to give up their lives for the good of the people. I don’t see Trump remotely near this stage.
There is one problem with my hypothesis about Trump ever moving to Stage five. It could depend on the individuals he surrounds himself with. If they show extremes of law and order, they will keep him at stage four? If they are too stage three (family, friends etc.), they will only tell him what he wants to hear. At stage two, he could continue his tweets to get back at others (Saturday Night Live). Stage one? He will continue to employ lawyers who can play the system and avoid punishment. In time, we will see who wins: the Constitution or the cronies around him? David Sortino Ph.D., a Graton resident, is director of The Neurofeedback Institute: Go to his blog and/or email him: neurofeedbackinstitute.blogspot.com