Donald Trump Has Found the Perfect Insult for Jeb Bush

How to irk your introvert.

Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attends a town hall style meeting at La Progresiva Presbyterian School on September 1, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's introverted tendencies are well documented. So is front-runner Donald Trump's penchant for ruffling feathers. So when Trump repeatedly attacks Bush for being a “low-energy” person, it's bound to get ugly. 

Even as Bush lashed back at Trump this week, with an attack video and a quiz showcasing Trump's more liberal past, the New York billionaire has continued to use his favorite dig.

“I think he had really no choice,” Trump said in a phone interview on ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday. “He's doing very poorly in the polls. He's a very low-energy kind of guy and he had to do something, so they're spending a lot of money on ads.”

It turns out that Trump has hit upon the perfect insult for a self-identified introvert like Bush. A concept first popularized by Carl Jung, here's how Brookings Institution senior fellow Jonathan Rauch described the difference between introverts and extroverts in an Atlantic essay calledCaring for Your Introvert” in 2003: “Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially 'on,' we introverts need to turn off and recharge. On the other hand, people who are more extroverted are more focused on the outside world and thrive in social environments.”

Bush and Trump seem to fall on different ends of the spectrum, and the Art of the Deal author is taking full advantage of that personality difference. 

“If somebody wants to be really obnoxious and get under an introvert's skin, calling him or her a low-energy person would be a really good way to do it,” Rauch said in a phone interview on Thursday. “There's no doubt that introverts recharge by spending time by ourselves and we are very at home with our thoughts and do our best creative work often in solitude. Those things can often look to an outsider like being low on energy.”

But it's really that introverts are highly focused, Rauch said.

“Introverts don't typically go for big displays of social energy, but we're focused and have good powers of concentration,” he said. “Once we take hold of a problem, we don't let go until we solve it. That, of course, is a form of very high energy. It just doesn't always look like high energy.”

Trump's attacks on Bush's personality capitalize on the fact that contemporary culture prizes charisma, charm, and outgoing demeanors. That bias comes at the expense of introverts who have unique skills, said Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking, in a 2012 TED Talk.

“When it comes to creativity and to leadership, we need introverts doing what they do best,” said Cain (who couldn't immediately be reached with questions about the Trump-Bush feud). “Introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions even though introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outsize risks.”

The U.S. bias toward extroverts starts early, Cain said. Children sit in groups of desks at school and office workers sit in open floor plans. The set-up strips introverts of the solitude they need to do their best creative thinking, Cain said. This wasn't always the case, she added: Americans used to admire those who were modest and the understated, not brash and outgoing. 

“In America's early days, we lived in what historians call a culture of character, where we still, at that point, valued people for their inner selves and their moral rectitude,” Cain said. With the rise of urbanization, the need to stick out in a crowd of strangers became increasingly prized. “Qualities like magnetism and charisma suddenly come to seem really important. And sure enough, the self-help books come to change and meet these new needs and they start to have names like How to Win Friends and Influence People. And they feature as their role models really great salesmen.” 

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