The inchoate, vacuous emotionalism of Trump Derangement Syndrome
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased Trump Derangement Syndrome symptoms from moderate to acute, with rampant emotionalism erasing all sense and reason.
I didn’t like Barack Obama. My dislike for him started with his policies and, eventually, extended to his person. Policy-wise, I didn’t like his frequently expressed belief that America wasn’t a very good country, I didn’t like his open hostility to the Constitution, his endless plans to circumvent the Second Amendment, his disdain for American immigration and border laws, his love for the regulatory state, his Affordable Care Act, his embrace of the Islamists who emerged from the Arab Spring, his Iran Agreement, his willingness to break the economy in service to the idea of anthropogenic climate change, his appointing activist judges, the racial filter through which he viewed the world, his fondness for dictators such as Raoul Castro and Recep Erdogan, his using the military as a vehicle for gender and sexuality experiments, his hostility to Israel, his cronyism with big business (which I call “crony fascism”), and I could go on and on.
You’ll note that I am very specific about the policy disagreements I had with Obama. On those occasions when he acted in a way that comported with my political values, I tried hard to give credit where credit was due. Doing so pained me because I disagreed with him often enough that I just wanted him out of office, but just is just.
From disliking his policies, I came to dislike Obama himself. I didn’t like the way he constantly hectored the American people for their perceived failings. I laughed at the way he became stutteringly incoherent when he was off the teleprompter. I didn’t like all his nasty cracks about people (including when he said of Hillary, “you’re nice enough,” which is a mean insult). I didn’t like the cop-hating, Israel-hating bureaucrats, politicians, and celebrities with whom he hung out. I disliked his jug ears and his condescending, supercilious tone. I sneered at his frequently displayed ignorance about the world, about history, about culture, and about language.
But with all that growing dislike for the man, I never lost sight of the fact that what I really didn’t like about Obama was his ideology. More than that, I never melted down into a puddle of incoherent, inchoate, vacuous emotionalism that saw me literally howling my anger or working hard to dehumanize him. At the end of the day, I think I saw him for what he was: A leftist whose policies I disliked and whose mannerisms came to irritate me a great deal.
It’s very different on the left. We’re all familiar with the video of the screaming woman at the inauguration, her mouth open in an existential howl that comes from the very depths of her being:
The left has never stopped that screaming. Their hatred for Trump (aka Trump Derangement Syndrome) transcends any policy differences. While I hated Obama’s policies and therefore disliked the man, leftists despise the man with every fiber of their being and therefore are incapable of even seeing his policies. Everything is wiped out under blind rage.
On Facebook, where I follow some leftists, the posts are illuminating. Had I posted politically on Facebook, I might have said, “I think it’s a big mistake to embrace the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and I really hate that Obama is doing that.” I might even have added, “Typical Obama.” But I always would have led with the policy.
On the left, however, the posts are always along these lines: “Drumpf is a *&#@ $#@^* $@%@!!!” The people I know — otherwise perfectly nice, kind people — are either hurling unprintable obscenities at him (or his children, their spouses, and his wife) or they’re wishing horrible deaths upon him and his family.
With Trump Derangement Syndrome infecting them as acutely as COVID-19 could, policy no longer matters. Each post just sees them verbalizing that green-clad person’s endless howl. Their posts are the written equivalent of the two-minutes of hate from 1984, something the power brokers keep alive for the masses in order to prevent rational thought:
Looking at all this emoting, it’s not surprising to learn that leftists have higher incidences of mental illness. What I’m seeing is that they are people who too often think from the gut, the physical place where feelings reside, not the mind. Living life that way is going to be painful, and you’re not going to have a lot of resources to fall back upon when things don’t go your way.
So far, all I’ve given you are my impressions about leftism and my assurances that people I know really do say the things I allege that they say. Now’s the part where I simply quote the professional leftists, the columnists and comics, for proof that their hatred for Trump is no longer a rational thing. The difference between them and my friends is that the professionals express their Derangement more elegantly, going beyond mere howls and obscenities.
Take Frank Bruni, a New York Times opinion columnist. After praising George Bush, whom he despised with the heat of a thousand suns during Bush’s presidency, he turns on Trump a hatred equal to the heat of a million suns. Indeed Bruni even concedes of himself that he’s gone beyond rational thought (emphasis mine):
In Trump’s predecessors, for all their imperfections, I could sense the beat of a heart and see the glimmer of a soul. In him I can’t, and that fills me with a sorrow and a rage that I quite frankly don’t know what to do with.
Americans are dying by the thousands, and he gloats about what a huge, rapt television audience he has. They’re confronting financial ruin and not sure how they’ll continue to pay for food and shelter, and he reprimands governors for not treating him with adequate adulation.
He’s not rising to the challenge before him, not even a millimeter. He’s shriveling into nothingness.
He leaps from tone deafness to some realm of complete sensory and moral deprivation.
“I want to come way under the models,” he said on Friday, referring to casualty projections. “The professionals did the models. I was never involved in a model.”
“At least this kind of model,” he added. No context like a pandemic for X-rated humor.
The article’s title, by the way, is “Has Anyone Found Trump’s Soul? Anyone?”
Tom Nichols, of The Atlantic, doesn’t like Trump either and, again, this is an existential howl, not a political analysis:
There has never been an American president as spiritually impoverished as Donald Trump. And his spiritual poverty, like an overdrawn checking account that keeps imposing new penalties on a customer already in difficult straits, is draining the last reserves of decency among us at a time when we need it most.
Nichols explains that it’s not just that he believes Trump to be the least religious, most corrupt, most insane president ever. Nope. Aside from all that, there’s an inchoate, visceral hatred that transcends everything:
What I mean instead is that Trump is a spiritual black hole. He has no ability to transcend himself by so much as an emotional nanometer. Even narcissists, we are told by psychologists, have the occasional dark night of the soul. They can recognize how they are perceived by others, and they will at least pretend to seek forgiveness and show contrition as a way of gaining the affection they need. They are capable of infrequent moments of reflection, even if only to adjust strategies for survival.
Trump’s spiritual poverty is beyond all this. He represents the ultimate triumph of a materialist mindset. He has no ability to understand anything that is not an immediate tactile or visual experience, no sense of continuity with other human beings, and no imperatives more important than soothing the barrage of signals emanating from his constantly panicked and confused autonomic system.
Tell me that this isn’t the written equivalent of the visceral hatred that Big Brother’s supporters were taught to feel for Emmanuel Goldstein.
At the New Yorker, Stephen Marche is so overwhelmed by Trump’s awfulness that he believes it can be described only through the metaphor of nightmares — and, of course, Trump is Hitler:
It’s in Dreams That Americans Are Making Sense of Trump
A surrealistic dreamscape with multiple Donald Trumps.
Martha Crawford had her first Trump dream in 2015. In it, a friend who was going out of town on business asked her to check on his apartment while he was away. The address he gave led to an apartment on the top floor of a six-story building where, on the sofa, illuminated by the glare of an enormous television, she said, “Donald Trump, in a large adult diaper, sat sleeping with his chin on his chest.” She watched Trump sleeping for a while, then filled a large metal dog bowl with kibble and slipped it across the table. When Trump awoke, he began gobbling, loudly, with his mouth open. Crawford was alternately “filled with disgust and then flooded with pity.” She ended up buying him a flip phone, “for emergencies only.” This was to be the first in her collection of Trump dreams.
Trump’s Presidency was always surreal, even before his radical incompetence confronted a pandemic. Crawford has been a clinical social worker and a psychotherapist in New York for twenty-five years. Starting in 2016, her clients “were reporting dreams with Donald Trump in a way that’s not common for other Presidencies,” she said. “He was a looming figure in people’s psyches.” She realized that it was in dreams that Americans were making sense of Trump. “In the year after the election,” Crawford said, “I was on chemotherapy for cancer and I couldn’t do much. I couldn’t go protest in the streets. I couldn’t go volunteer. I needed to contribute in some way.” She took inspiration from Charlotte Beradt’s “The Third Reich of Dreams,” a portfolio of dream descriptions from German men and women that were collected between when Hitler became chancellor, in 1933, and the outbreak of the Second World War. In the aftermath of Trump’s election, Crawford started a blog on which people could post dreams anonymously. Then she started gathering dreams from social media. Soon she had three thousand.
This reflexive, mindless Trump hatred can be seen on the other side of the pond too. Leftists I know have been thrilling to Britisher Nate White’s answer on Quora to the question “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?” Note that the answer has nothing to do with policies. It’s all stylistic. Having created a sub-human caricature in their minds to describe Trump, leftists on both sides of the pond feel a reflexive revulsion to that caricature:
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.
For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.
I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.
Benjamin Wittes has penned an inadvertently funny article trying to square the caricature of Trump as an authoritarian (never mind that Trump has relied much less on Executive Orders than Obama did) with the reality that, during this pandemic, Trump has been anything but authoritarian. Because Wittes cannot acknowledge that the caricature might be wrong, he’s added a new layer to the man who works every day and sleeps four hours a night — Trump is lazy, says Wittes (along with the usual hint that Trump is Hitler):
Before the pandemic occurred, worrying that President Donald Trump might take advantage of a crisis like this one to chip away at democratic constraints on his power would have been within reason. Yet Trump has taken a different approach: complaining.
Three years into Trump’s presidency, his approach to governing continues to be authoritarian in character: He lacks any appreciation for the importance of democracy and the necessity of checks on his power. He admires strongmen around the world, as he’s expressed again and again in his declarations of affection for leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The powers of the presidency that he seems to take the most pleasure in exercising are those best suited to aggressive, unilateral wielding and entirely free from constraint—most notably, the pardon power. Add this all up, and there is a case for real worry about how the pandemic—a bona fide state of emergency—might allow Trump to exercise his most antidemocratic instincts in the name of public health.
The seminal thinker on dictatorship in the time of emergency is the German jurist Carl Schmitt, who famously wrote that “the sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” In the view of Schmitt—notorious in political-theory and legal circles for his membership in the Nazi Party—any liberal constitutional structure will eventually be swallowed by a state of emergency, when law recedes and dictatorship emerges to counter a crisis. For a sovereign willing to seize the opportunity provided by a state of emergency, a pandemic would certainly seem to provide one.
One could be forgiven for having been concerned that Trump might unleash his inner Schmittian in responding to the virus. He certainly talks like he would. But had Schmitt seen Trump, his famous axiom might have read a little differently: “The sovereign is he who purports to decide on the exception but actually sloughs off all the work on Andrew Cuomo while reserving the right to whine about whatever Andrew Cuomo does.”
Finally, I commend to your attention David Horowitz’s smart analysis about the “Trump Derangement Pandemic.” He does an excellent job separating the reality that is Trump — a larger than life man who loves America, has good sense, can be very kind, and can make mistakes and be vulgar — from the soulless monster that lives in the leftist psyche. I’ll quote the first few paragraphs to whet your appetite and strongly urge you to to FrontPage Magazine to read the rest:
In this spring season, America’s future is fraught with uncertainties as a result of the pandemic unleashed by Communist China’s malicious concealment of a virus it had apparently developed in a Wuhan laboratory. Will the nation be able to “re-open” as the president desires, or will it descend into a long-lasting depression with millions unemployed? At the same time, a much greater uncertainty haunts the horizon. This uncertainty is a product of the ferocious hate for the president and his supporters ginned up by the political Left ever since the 2016 election. The anti-Trump fervor is so intense it has divided the nation into two alien camps until there is hardly any longer a national conversation, or a united front in the face of the deadly contagion.
For anyone not in thrall to anti-Trump obsessions, the spectacle of Trump hatred is mystifying, even unfathomable. It’s not that the criticisms of Trump are harsh – that is the currency of democratic politics. The problem is that they are not merely harsh but veer on the lunatic until communication with those who voice them seems impossible. It is why the national conversation and a semblance of national unity in the face of threats seem almost hopeless.
A recent New York Times interview with the comedian and Bernie Sanders impersonator Larry David crystalizes the problem. “You know, it’s an amazing thing,” David told the Times, “[Trump] has not one redeeming quality. You could take some of the worst dictators in history, and I’m sure that all of them, you could find one decent quality. Stalin could have had one decent quality, we don’t know!”
Where to begin? Stalin was a totalitarian dictator who killed 40 million of his own countrymen – in peacetime. How does such a preposterous comparison even occur to a man as intelligent as Larry David, who as a comedian is also a student of character, and would normally be more judicious. How could he be so far off the mark?
I’ve seen people wondering since the pandemic started whether leftists will revisit their principles. After all, it appears that, on their side of the aisle, all of the things they’ve promoted — urban dwelling, public transportation, socialized medicine, re-usable bags, and reverence for China — have accelerated the virus’s spread in America. Meanwhile, the facts on the ground show Trump reacting with remarkable promptness to the virus, increasing his response every time new information about the virus’s seriousness appeared.
For those sick with Trump Derangement Syndrome, though, there is no cure. Facts are irrelevant. Trump-hatred is every bit as much a religious faith as anthropogenic climate change is. As is true for all faiths, it cannot be falsified. Every new fact must be pushed through faith’s prism until it aligns with faith’s principles. For true believers, nothing will change how they see Trump. To them, he will always be a confusing amalgam of Satan, Hitler, an evil genius from a Hollywood movie, and the most stupid man alive.
UPDATE: Having written the above, I just stumbled across this Joe Kennedy Facebook video. Please note the quivering emotionalism of his voice. This is not normal.
I also appreciate that Trump, by talking about his name on the check, has finally gotten leftists to concede that the money that Washington D.C. plays with is taxpayer money, not “government” money.