THE PERSISTENCE OF TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME
By Adam Gopnik April 21, 2017
With Donald Trump as President, we owe it to our country and to our sanity to refuse to succumb to the urge to turn politics into a series of set responses.
We’re told by many wise and well-meaning people that it is a huge and even fatal mistake for liberals (and for constitutional conservatives) to respond negatively to every Trump initiative, every Trump policy, and every Trump idea. There are bound to be—in an Administration staffed not by orcs and ogres but for the most part by the usual run of military people and professional politicians—acceptable actions, even admirable initiatives, and we would do ourselves and our country a huge disservice by simply responding to them all with the same reflexive hatred. This may be especially true if that reflexive hatred, however unconsciously, mirrors and mimics the reflexive hatreds of the Trump White House itself. We owe it to our country and to our sanity to go on a case-by-case basis, empirically evaluating each action as it takes place, and refusing to succumb to the urge to turn politics into a series of set responses—exactly the habit, after all, that we so often deplore in Trump and the people around him.
This is a perfectly reasonable assertion, and one that would count for a lot in pretty much any semi-normal circumstance. The problem is that it refuses to see, or to entirely register, the actual nature of Trump and his actions. Our problem is not Trump Derangement Syndrome; our problem is Deranged Trump Self-Delusion. This is the habit of willfully substituting, as a motive for Trump’s latest action, a conventional political or geostrategic ambition, rather than recognizing the action as the daily spasm of narcissistic gratification and episodic vanity that it truly is.
The bombing of Syria, for instance, was not a sudden lurch either in the direction of liberal interventionism, à la Bill Clinton in the lands that were once Yugoslavia, nor was it a sudden reassertion of a neo-con version of American power, à la both Bushes in Iraq. It was, as best as anyone can understand, simply a reaction to an image, turned into a self-obsessed lashing out that involved the lives and deaths of many people. It was a detached gesture, unconnected to anything resembling a sequence of other actions, much less an ideology. Nothing followed from it, and no “doctrine” or even a single speech justified it. There is no credible evidence that Trump’s humanity was outraged by the act of poisoning children, only that Trump’s vanity was wounded by the seeming insult to America and, by extension, to him.