A specter is haunting America – the specter of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS). Common symptoms of TDS include outbursts of hysteria at the mere mention of President Trump, automatic opposition to every act Trump does, assuming every rumor or leak about the President is automatically true and to be taken in its most incriminating possibility, and an instant Pavlovian disdain for anyone who expresses the remotest positive sentiment about President Trump.
On a more serious note, Anti-Trump hysteria sadly has become so prevalent in our country right now that it is starting to threaten some of the norms that hold our country together. From the Russia witch-hunt to an all-too-common lack of basic respect for the office, deep opposition to President Trump isn’t just stalling a policy agenda that can lead to a more prosperous and opportunity-driven America but is leading to real division and damage between “sides” who have far more in common than not.
We saw during the campaign how many of then-candidate Trump’s opponents would throw out all cordiality and unhesitatingly engage in the most debased gutter-attacks on Trump and his “deplorable” supporters. These critics would attack Trump’s character, family, looks, mental health, and every other previously sacred category many of them had respected. Serious accusations of authoritarianism, racism, corruption, misogyny, and even treason were sloppily made, and still are, with often little regard for accuracy or precision.
His “irredeemable,” in the words of Hillary Clinton, supporters frequently ended up as collateral damage, getting painted with a similar brush despite Trump’s coalition being little different in character or composition than those of many other past major party candidates.
President Trump is undoubtedly a tough man and can take the contempt he has been subject to over the course of these past two years. He also is sometimes to blame for fueling such fights and reactions, as well as engaging in such tactics himself.
Nonetheless, “Trump Derangement Syndrome” isn’t just directed against the President but also frequently his family, his staff, our elected Republican officials, and the half of America that voted for him and which still support him.
Politics in America is often an unusually cruel and personal arena. In comparison to the political cultures of many other countries, we often let politics seep into our collective consciousness in a way that resembles sports or other pop-culture phenomenon. This often results in a hearty and healthy rivalry that adds a democratic excitement to the otherwise precise and careful task of governance.
Yet such passions can easily go over the line, as we’ve seen with many of the President’s opponents. Undoubtedly the President’s rhetoric and policies will often be met with disagreement and, as a free society, those disagreements can and ought to be aired and discussed. Furthermore, a degree of personal character examination and accountability remain essential as well.
However when we allow political passions to twist ourselves so much that we engage in an unhinged warpath against those who, in reality, are not so different than us, we all lose as Americans. Our country is the strongest and most vibrant in the world in part because our political culture is action-packed, but throughout the centuries we’ve never let our differences turn us, except in one tragic case we should never forget, on our fellow Americans.
When Trump-supporters are defamed, harassed, or even attacked for merely holding a different political opinion or wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, our bonds shatter a little. When violence starts becoming accepted, encouraged, and then even happening, such as the with the frequent riots against conservative speakers on college campuses or the shooting attack on the House GOP baseball practice last month, those bonds weaken even further.
“Trump Derangement Syndrome”, in short, is causing too many of us to put partisanship above country. We live in an especially polarized time, the result of what has been an increasingly coarsening culture over the past several years. It is up to all of us to do our part and try to encourage greater dialogue, respect, and unity with one another, no matter our party or who we support – and yes, even to President Trump and his supporters.
We will always have our differences, but we are all Americans first and ought to try our best to look at the issues of the day with clarity, balance, and with an eye towards what’s best for our entire country. It is time for all of us, right and left, to remind ourselves of that.
Erich Reimer is a Republican Party official, commentator, operative, and policy professional. He served on the Virginia Trump campaign and as an event captain with the Presidential Inaugural Committee. He can followed on Twitter at @ErichReimer.