Trump Derangement Syndrome

Triggered

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a neologism used by its adherents to describe a reaction to United States President Donald Trump by liberals, progressives, and anti-Trump conservatives, who are said to respond to Trump’s statements and political actions irrationally, with little regard to Trump’s actual position or action taken.

The use of the term by some on the right has been called part of a broader GOP strategy to discredit criticisms of Trump’s actions, as a way of ‘reframing’ the discussion by suggesting his political opponents are incapable of accurately perceiving the world. 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.

The term can be traced to ‘Bush derangement syndrome,’ a phrase coined by conservative political pundit Charles Krauthammer in 2003, during the presidency of George W. Bush, and 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.’ Krauthammer, a harsh critic of Trump, defined Trump derangement syndrome as describing a Trump-induced ‘general hysteria’ among the chattering classes, producing an ‘inability to distinguish between legitimate policy differences and … signs of psychic pathology’ in the President’s behavior.

In December 2016, Justin Raimondo, self-described conservative-paleo-libertarian, divided the ‘syndrome’ into three stages. In the first, subjects ‘lose all sense of proportion.’ Next, they experience ‘a profound effect on … vocabulary’ and begin to ‘speak a distinctive language consisting solely of hyperbole.’ In the final stage, the afflicted ‘lose the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.’ Jonathan S. Tobin, contributing writer for ‘National Review,’ a conservative magazine, defines it as ‘disgust at his manner and his tweets such that all distinctions between him and genuine villains is lost.’ In 2017 CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria defined the syndrome as ‘hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment.’ Similarly, Republican Senator Rand Paul stated in 2018: ‘The hatred for the president is so intense, that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance.’ 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.’

The term has been widely applied by pro-Trump writers to critics of Trump, accusing them of responding negatively to nearly every Trump statement or action. Bret Stephens, columnist for ‘The New York Times,’ has described the term as something that was being used by conservative groups anytime that someone spoke out critically against Trump, regardless of political affiliation.

The term has been used by journalists critical of Trump to call for restraint. Fareed Zakaria, who urged Americans to vote against Trump, calling him a ‘cancer on American democracy,’ argues that every Trump policy ‘cannot axiomatically be wrong, evil and dangerous.’ Adam Gopnik, staff writer for ‘The New Yorker,’ who takes a strong anti-Trump position, argued that it is a ‘huge and even fatal mistake for liberals (and constitutional conservatives) to respond negatively to every Trump initiative, every Trump policy, and every Trump idea.’ Arguing that Trump’s opponents must instead recognize that the real problem is ‘Deranged Trump Self-Delusion,’ Gopnik defined the ‘Syndrome’ as President Trump’s ‘daily spasm of narcissistic gratification and episodic vanity.’ The real problem, according to Gopnik, is that President Trump is a man of ‘fears and fits’ with an ‘appetite … for announcing his authority through violence, a thing capable of an unimaginable resonance and devastation.’

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