I Think I Got It!
Two days after this past Christmas, I was diagnosed with the dreaded Trump Derangement Syndrome in a letter to the editor of the Greenfield (MA) Recorder. The writer noted, “Us Trump supporters are perhaps the only group of voters in this nation’s history who have been so viciously and constantly maligned and in such a coordinated manner.”
Earlier this month in an April 17 email, I received an even worse diagnosis. The writer said that I “apparently” suffered “from Stage 4 Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
“Stage 4” catches your attention when you are a cancer survivor as I am. I mean, it is the last stage before there are no more stages. In the political world, because of social distancing, Donald Trump has been kept off his Red State stages where he loves to perform his signature campaign rallies. So he turned his daily White House coronavirus briefings into a kind of special spinoff of the familiar Trump rally – replete with the usual misinformation, self-promotion and insults. Brief, they ere not. Trump was very effective in keeping his diminishing base in line and getting his all-important high TV ratings. At the same time, he set a new standard for social distancing. He drove millions of other people to move far away from the coronavirus fake news briefings after Dr. Anthony Fauci stopted telling it like it is and his boss took over the podium. Fauci has repeatedly had to correct or dispute Trump’s claims about medical matters.
Now, he’s even lost that tiny, but seriously dangerous stage. Aides and allies have made concerted efforts to get Trump to stop doing daily briefings after calls made to poison control centers in at least four states spiked for several days in response to Trump’s suggestion that injecting disinfectant products should be looked into as a method to treat coronavirus patients. Not good for his falling poll numbers, especially after the president’s enthusiastic endorsement of the drug hydroxychloroquine that he said showed “tremendous promise” for curing coronavirus. Dr. Fauci once again had to countermand his boss by noting that there were no clinical trials that verified the safety and effectiveness of the drug.
Like growing millions of Americans who are not sick from Covid 19, but from Trump’s setting new standards for derangement, I determined to discover what Trump Derangement Syndrome actually means. And where it came from.
I began with the word “derangement.” One dictionary definition is “the state of being completely unable to think clearly or behave in a controlled way, especially because of mental illness.” Another dictionary definition is “(1) A disturbance of the regular order or arrangement and (2) A rarely used term for a mental disturbance or disorder.”
Wikipedia tells us that “Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a term for criticism of negative reactions to United States President Donald Trump that are perceived to be irrational, and have little regard towards Trump’s actual policy positions, or actions undertaken by his administration. The term has been used by Trump supporters to discredit criticism of his actions, as a way of reframing the discussion by suggesting that his opponents are incapable of accurately perceiving the world.”
The origin of the term has been traced back to political columnist and conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist, who originally coined the phrase “Bush Derangement Syndrome” in 2003 during W’s presidency. “Syndrome” was defined by Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency – nay – the very existence of George W. Bush.”
I’m starting to see a pattern here.
The first use of the term ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ may have been by Esther Goldberg in an August 2015 op-ed in The American Spectator; she applied the term to ‘Ruling Class Republicans’ who are dismissive or contemptuous of Trump. Krauthammer, in an op-ed harshly criticizing Trump, commented that – in addition to general hysteria about Trump – the ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ was the ‘inability to distinguish between legitimate policy differences and … signs of psychic pathology’ in his behavior.
What?! TDS was originally directed toward those who used to be moderate Republicans and toward Trump himself? By avowed Republican conservatives? I think I am beginning to be OK my Stage 4 TDS diagnosis.
Looking elsewhere, I find that CNN’s editor-at-large Chris Cillizza called TDS “the preferred nomenclature of Trump defenders who view those who oppose him and his policies as nothing more than the blind hatred of those who preach tolerance and free speech.” Pointing to previous allegations of Bush Derangement Syndrome and Obama Derangement Syndrome, Cillizza suggested, “Viewed more broadly, the rise of presidential derangement syndromes is a function of increased polarization – not to mention our national self-sorting – at work in the country today.”
Trump’s policy “accomplishments” in taking historically unprecedented action to roll back a slew of environmental regulations that protect air, water, land and public health from hazards and climate change is, by any measure, deranged. So, then, are his supporters who approve of his climate killing administration.
Unless they find the existing environmental rules onerous to fossil fuel companies and other related major industries. Then we, who find loosening regulation on methane emissions, repealing the Obama-era clean water rule, weakening the Endangered Species Act and rolling back offshore drilling safety regulations must be incapable of accurately perceiving the world.
Unless they approved of President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that resulted in sweeping changes to the tax code. How people feel about the $1.5+ trillion overhauls depend largely on their opinion of Trump’s presidency. Individually, how the changes were felt depended on factors like income level, filing status, and deductions.
Unless they were OK when they found they had to pay more taxes in 2019 than the previous year, while others received significantly lower refund checks from the IRS – even though their financial circumstances didn’t change.
Unless they were OK that for the wealthy, banks, and other corporations, the tax reform package was considered a lopsided victory given its significant and permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, estate tax, and more.
If Trump’s legions of MAGA supporters think what he is doing will make America great again, you gotta ask who is deranged. In the meantime, the rest of us who are thought to be “unable to think clearly” will have to live with the Trump Derangement Syndrome diagnosis. It’s enough to make you sick.
However, according to Kathleen Hall Jamieson of Annenberg Public Policy Center, the term could backfire on Trump supporters because people might interpret it to mean that Trump is the one who is “deranged”, rather than those who criticize him.
Yes! Yes! As Professor Henry Higgins says excitedly in the musical My Fair Lady when Eliza Doolittle finally achieves the ability to speak in upper class English, “I think she’s got it! I think she’s got it!”