Friday, November 8, 2019

A Sociological Theory of Trump Derangement


Charles Moscowitz is majoring in Sociology at Bunker Hill Community College

The American people and their organizations and associations traditionally recognize the right to exercise free speech and Americans expect to function in a relatively tolerant mileau, one that protects the open expression of legitimate and rational opinion to a high degree. In this context, political debate between opposing sides might become fierce, degrees of propaganda might be employed and, as such, credulity might become stretched to win the political argument. This is to be expected in a free society where a great deal is at stake, where ideas and opinions matter, where ideas might become law and custom or, conversely, might serve to undo antiquated or erroneous ones. Ideas, once accepted or once rejected on a mass scale, might affect freedom and might influence the philosophy and way of life of society for better or for worse.

     In this context, a public issue emerged in America in 2016 due to the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. I will theorize, utilizing the term “public issue” as it was defined by Sociologist C. Wright Mills, (1.) with an analysis of the causes and the manifestations of what I call Trump Derangement. (2.) My theory requires a brief examination of the personality of Donald Trump, (3.) the public policies that he promotes, and the negative reaction to that personality and those policies by what might euphemistically be referred to as the “eastern seaboard liberal establishment.” I argue that the anti-Trump reaction of the liberal establishment and its constellation of followers, a reaction that is unprecedented in its rage and ferocity, is primarily motivated by a major departure, a significant social shift away from a mileau that has dominated American public institutions, including both major American political parties, for at least the last half century.

     The extreme reaction to President Trump and his movement has, I argue, triggered a general condition of derangement in those who are reacting as such. The term “Trump Derangement” (4.) is not used here to in any way denigrate any person or group but, rather, the term is used here to describe what I contend is a psycho-social reaction. The majority of Americans who opposed President Trump’s policies, or those who dislike Trump as a president or as a person, or those who oppose him for partisan reasons, it should be noted, are not nessasarily part of the Trump derangement phenomena but, rather, their opposition is more likely to be conventional. The tell-tale sign of Trump derangement is a consuming and obsessive hatred that is beyond reason or objectivity. In this context the derangement, which finds its political locus in the hard-core left, becomes an ideology itself, almost an article of religious faith, by which every action by President Trump and, to varying degrees, every problem in society and even in personal life, including bad weather, can be negatively tied to Trump.

      The first cause of what has become a public issue regarding Trump derangement is the fact that Donald Trump, the penultimate outsider, the first businessman elected president of the United States and the first president to have never held public office previously, a man who is an example of an alpha-male that harkens back to a previous era, does not speak and does not communicate in the authoritarian style the establishment and its followers expect. He does not speak in the usual clipped establishmentese, the usual vague British accent, a method which routinely utilizes euphemism, indirection, double-speak, lies, and the deceptive style of sophistic intellectualism. Trump does not usually consult with experts and focus groups to find out who he is and he does not depend upon political handlers to help him decide what to say and how to say it, nor does he constantly read off a tele-prompter. President Trump speaks plainly which, putting aside his occasional lack of veracity, his lack of precision and clarity, his tendency to embellish, comes across as honest to a fault. This factor, as much as any other, drives the establishment into a lather of rage.

     Trump can be crude, he can be cruel and bombastic, and he often has the subtlety of a broken leg. While most politicians send out surrogates to do the dirty work of smearing opponents, Trump will often take the task upon himself. He conducts an end-run around the pundits and the media filters by getting his message directly to his fellow citizens, in his own voice, through his Twitter account. His use of social media has transformed politics in the same way that FDR used radio broadcasts, his “fireside chats,” and JFK used TV to his advantage. (5.) A billionaire businessman, Donald Trump largely spent his own money, and used his own experience and contacts as a media star to get elected which means that he is not beholden to the usual establishment special interests and lobbyists. Trump cannot be easily bought or controlled and his actions cannot be easily predicted. “Draining the swamp,” flies in the face of a liberal establishment in a manner that reminds me, metaphorically, of Guy Fawkes showing up at the Parliament with dynamite.

     President Trump has either ignored or he has attacked nostrums of political correctness that have become accepted as social norms, ones that have come to dominate the high ground of our culture, nostrums that are selectively used as weapons against people or against groups that fail to genuflect to liberalism. Racism, discrimination, white supremacy, these all have been a negative part of the American mileau since the the first colonists arrived on the American shore. Particularly since World War II, racial and ethnic barriers began to melt away at an accelerated rate as racism began to recede. Perhaps it is a testament to the success, albeit imperfect and there still is a long way to go, of the decline of racism that liberals insists on resurrecting the old bugbear by means of what I would argue is the pseudo-science of micro-aggression. (6.) By this means, anyone who fails to bow to the liberal establishment runs the risk of being put under a proverbial microscope and examined for a racist gene. Indeed, the politicizing, the scientizing of racism has turned this genuine and serious social problem into a political football. The politicization of racism serves the dual purpose of obscuring the de-facto racist programs and ideas, emanating from the left, that have wracked havoc on the black family, the black church, education, culture, entrepreneurialism and advancement since the 1960’s. 

     While President Trump challenges microaggressions, which constitute an informal form of tyranny, those afflicted with Trump derangement, many of whom themselves embrace extreme forms of racial, ethnic, gender and sexual identity politics, place his every public utterance under the micro-aggression microscope. By this means, Trump derangement leads to a parcing of his words, usually out of context, and the manufacture of many self-serving scenarios that, in the de-facto sense, could be described as hoaxes. This fallacy of propaganda is destructive to the fabric of American society and the process is cynically utilized by conscious and witting enemies of Trump to divide constituencies and mobilize groups based upon prejudice and shared hatreds. (7.) Examples of this type of propaganda include the false portrayal of Trump as having mocked a disabled person, the claim that Trump supported white supremecists and Nazis at the Charlottesville riots and the claim that Trump supported a “Muslim ban.” Indeed, these destructive articles of propaganda have became articles of faith for the Trump deranged and their unwitting followers. His enemies employ the fallacy of dramatic instance by stringing together manufactured memes to create a critical mass, the necessary atmosphere to support a false argument.

     While the mainstream media has often made normal mistakes in the past and, according to evidence gathered over time, tends to slant coverage in the direction that illustrates a liberal bias and a liberal culture, the level of bias, due to Trump derangement, has crossed into the realm of what Trump has accurately called “fake news.” Indeed, false stories have become routine and are now part of the drum-beat used to delegitimize Trump and his movement. The result is a preceptable drop in journalistic standards and, conversely, a decline in public confidence in the honesty and dependability of the media. While hundreds of examples could be sited of this phenomena, I will confine myself to one example, albeit a minor one in the greater scheme of things, in order to illustrate my contention. 

     In July, 2019, a local African-American politician from Georgia, Erica Thomas, claimed that a man told her to “go back” to her country because she cut in front of him at the check-out counter at the local Walmart. This incident occurred after a massive media event a few days previous by which Trump had criticized a group of congresswoman, known as “the squad.” The angle of the coverage of Trump’s criticism was that it was motivated by the fact that two of the four congresswomen he criticized happened to be African-American. This contention fits neatly into the ongoing narrative that Donald Trump has something against minorities, an article of faith for Trump derangement, a smear that many followers have actually come to believe.  While Trump's comments were crude and needlessly belligerent, as Trump tends to be an equal-opportunity offender, the media reportage sidestepped the substance of his criticism. Besides grabbing the opportunity to promote Trump as racist, this side-step may have been a means to divert attention away from the legitimate issues that Trump raised, issues that were not helpful to the liberal narrative.

     The man accused of a racially charged incident by the Georgia politician at Walmart turned out to be Hispanic and a liberal Democrat and Erica Thomas recanted her accusation when challenged. This recantation by Thomas, and this local story, did not stop the New York Times, the most influential newspaper in America, from publishing a feature story on this incident. (8.) Amazingly, the NYT included the fact that Thomas had recanted her story but, in classic agit-prop style, they saved the recantation for one sentence that is buried near the end of the article. The bombshell NYT report, no-doubt taking valuable space away from real news, was picked up by several mainstream media outlets including Time Magazine, USA Today, Newsweek and the Huffington Post.

     The underlying cause of Trump derangement amongst the more witting members of the liberal establishment involves their real concern over the principles that Trump articulates, principles that caused his election, an election that they conspire to undo. Those principles are captured in a simple slogan that he frequently used which was “America First.” This is the type of slogan that candidates from both political parties have often used disingenuously in order to get elected, mainly because the slogan makes sense. In the case of Trump, the concern amongst the establishment was that he actually means what he said. Trump’s style of communication, as previously noted, is plain and is sincere as opposed to politicians who use slogans for bumper-stickers, as means to manipulate and deceive the public by means of emotion.

     Once the sophistries and the half-truths are stripped away, the sloganeering liberal establishment is not interested in placing the interests of America first but, rather, they support an ideology and an agenda that is globalist, that includes unfettered free trade, that promotes an amalgamation of America into a world community, one that is un-democratic in terms of their support for rule by appointed bureaucrats and judges, and one that views such social institutions as national borders and private property as regressive anachronisms. President Trump, by appealing to the common sense of Americans, has tried to re-negotiate trade agreements so that they favor American industry and labor. He has sought to end American military embroilment in foreign wars by de-escalazation and the insistence that allies pay for their own defence. He has reduced onerous domestic regulation and has worked to secure the national border. The liberal establishment fears that Trump might wake up the giant beast, the American people, to an awareness of the importance of placing the national interest as well as their own personal interests first as a matter of culture and as a matter of policy.

     Thus, enters Trump derangement, the need to demonize President Trump and anyone who dares to support his presidency and his movement. Trump represents a move away from the old regressive socialistic authoritarian past and toward a future where individual rights are honored first and foremost. This is why the opposition to Trump is so fierce and so deranged. It is normal, indeed it is laudable, for citizens to oppose presidents on political and partisan grounds. The opposition to Trump, however, is not normal. It is not normal for me to be told in advance that a family Thanksgiving dinner, held immediately after the election, is to be a “Trump free zone.” It is not normal for College students to go to safe-rooms, after the election, where thay can play with playdough and receive counciling as happened at Tufts University and elsewhere. It is not normal for a president to have to undergo a two-year investigation, one that was supported by a drum-beat of hysterical conspiracy theories from the mainstream media, only to find out at the end of the day that the whole thing was based on a hoax, at best, and possibly seditious activity and an attempted coup at worst.

     Regardless of whether Donald Trump is impeached, which is part of an ongoing process that began his first day in office, or whether he is re-elected in 2020, Trump derangement has already damaged American society. (9.) It has legitimized and normalized a mainstream media that regularly twists the truth in the service of an ideological agenda. It has given a pass to police actions by which a 21 member Swat team, with machine-guns drawn and with the media filming outside, can arrest a harmless old man, Roger Stone, on a minor charge. It has allowed and has  justified innuendo, rumour, and outright lies to become engraned into the public consciousness which has promoted deep devisions that could take generations to overcome. Hopefully, enough Americans will wake up in time to the danger before the derangement further engulfs ever greater and more vulmnerable segments of our society.

1. The Sociological Imagination: Chapter 1, The Promise, C. Wright Mills, Oxford University Press, New York, 1959. P. 8.
2. Ibid: p. 21: Mills: I am hopeful of corse that all my own biases will show, for I think judgements should be explicit….Let those who do not care for mineuse their rejections to thim to make their own as explicit and as acknowledged as I am going to try to make mine!
3. Ibid. p.3 Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.0
4. Bush Derangement Syndrome: Charles Krauthammer, TownHall, December 5, 2003. Krauthammer: Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.  
5. The Sociological Imagination. P. 4.
6. The Psuedo-Science of Microaggressions, Althea Nagai, National Association of Scholars, Spring 2017 edition.
7. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams, 1907: Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds, and Massachusetts politics had been as harsh as the climate.
8. ‘The Hate Is Real’: Black Georgia Lawmaker Says She Was Berated at Supermarket, Audra Melton, The New York Times, July 21, 2019 p. 1.
9. The Campaign to impeach President Trump has begun, Matea Gold, The Washington Post, January 20, 2017.

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