Earlier this week, President Donald Trump diagnosed his opponents with an illness.
“Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,” he tweeted. “They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”
Worried you might have Trump Derangement Syndrome? Wondering where it came from? I’m here to help!
Urban Dictionary offers up this handy definition: “Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their dislike of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reason.”
- “In the first stage of the disease, victims lose all sense of proportion. The president-elect’s every tweet provokes a firestorm, as if 140 characters were all it took to change the world.”
- “The mid-level stages of TDS have a profound effect on the victim’s vocabulary: Sufferers speak a distinctive language consisting solely of hyperbole.”
- “As TDS progresses, the afflicted lose the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.”
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The Point here is simple: TDS is, in the eyes of its adherents, the knee-jerk opposition from liberals (and Never Trumpers) to anything and everything Trump does. If Trump announced he was donating every dollar he’s ever made, TDS sufferers would suggest he was up to something nefarious, according to the logic of TDS. There’s nothing – not. one. thing. – that Trump could do or say that would be received positively by TDSers.
The history of Trump Derangement Syndrome actually goes back to the early 2000s – a time when the idea of Trump as president was a punch line for late-night comics and nothing more.
Wikipedia traces its roots to “Bush Derangement Syndrome” – a term first coined by the late conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer back in 2003. The condition, as Krauthammer defined it, was “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency – nay – the very existence of George W. Bush.”
“Some clinicians consider this delusion – that Americans can only get their news from one part of the political spectrum – the gravest of all. They report that no matter how many times sufferers in padded cells are presented with flash cards with the symbols ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times – they remain unresponsive, some in a terrifying near-catatonic torpor.”
(If you don’t realize the idea of TDS or BDS is – in no small part – meant in a tongue-in-cheek manner then, well, you may well have it.)
Post Bush and pre-Trump, we were visited with Obama Derangement Syndrome – although the infection was less widespread. In a piece headlined “Obama Derangement Syndrome,” Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote: “Obama Derangement Syndrome is different [than Bush Derangement Syndrome]. It isn’t so much paranoia about President Obama’s policies as it is paranoia about the man himself — that he is, in some fundamental way, different, foreign, untrustworthy, even traitorous.”
At the heart of ODS was the belief that Obama was not, in fact, an American citizen and therefore was ineligible to even be president. The loudest voice pushing that debunked conspiracy theory? None other than Donald Trump.
Which brings things full-circle – and back to Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Trump allies believe that TDS is worse than ODS or BDS – by a lot. Wrote conservative pundit Bernie Goldberg on Real Clear Politics in early 2017:
“Before the election, the victims of TDS routinely compared Donald Trump to Hitler. Guess what. They’re still doing it. Articles in respectable publications written by professors at elite universities are warning us to be on guard, that a Trump presidency could imperil democracy-as-we-know-it and may very well spell doom for American civilization.
“On election night, as it became obvious that their worst nightmare was about to come true, some libs fainted. Some vomited. Many more threatened to leave the country, but I’m pretty sure none actually did. As Donald Trump might say in a tweet: so sad!”
The truth is that TDS is just 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. 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.
We no longer live around, work around or pal around with people who think any differently than us. We watch cable news that affirms what we already think. We read ideological “news” sites that tell us how good our side is and how bad the other one is. And on and on and on.
Is it any wonder then that we are increasingly willing to lump those who disagree with us into the “deranged” category? To say that those who don’t share our views are mentally deficient in some way?
What does it say about a President – and about a country – when the standard response to those with whom you disagree is that they must be crazy? Nothing good, for sure.