Monday, July 27, 2020

Trump Derangement Syndrome?

Trump derangement syndrome exists - so does Hillary derangement syndrome, Obama derangement syndrome, Bill Clinton derangement syndrome, Bush derangement syndrome - and so on and so forth.  What's the point?

I have a neighbor that works for a house cleaning service, or at least used to.   They have anti-Trump stickers all over the back of their car, and not just "Biden 2020" or something like that, but nasty sort of slogans and whatnot, plus things made with mis-matched mailbox letters that looked, well, a little weird.

Anyway, some of the customers complained to his boss about it.  And his boss offered to let him use a brand-new company van with the company logo on it (but no anti-Trump stickers).   Rather than take him up on this generous offer, the employee quit - if he couldn't drive his own vehicle with his own political views plastered on the back of it, well, his first amendment rights were at stake!

Myself, I would rather drive a free car than put miles on my own.  And anyone who watched "Schoolhouse Rock!" (coming live to a theater near you!) knows that the first amendment only protects your "free speech" from encroachment by the government, not employers.  But tell that to the MAGA- hat wearing crowd.    They talk about the Constitution a lot, but have never read it.

And that's the problem - left or right, it makes no difference - just extremists with bent views who root for political candidates the way people root for their favorite baseball team.   Who's in the playoffs this year?  Who will win the World Series?

People on the right are the same way as my neighbor, only about Hillary.  "Lock her up!" they say, but can't articulate exactly what she did that was criminal.  When asked, they just chant "Benghazi!" or "E-mails!" the way people do the Tomahawk chop (or used to) at Braves games.  It isn't intellectual discourse, it is just a chant - rooting for your team.  It makes about as much sense as "defund the Police!" - as if the Police were an opposing team, and not part of our government.

Of course, you have to ask yourself, who does this benefit? And the answer is, of course, the opposing party.   They want you to see red - so much red that you can't read, or comprehend, or analyze or rationally think about things.   They would rather you root for a team, with unquestioned loyalty, than to have ideas of your own.

Of course, the GOP is largely to blame for this, I think.  Sure, there was a lot of irrational Nixon-hate back in the 1970s. The Republicans tried to do that with Carter, but the worst they could do is accuse him of being weak.  I knew a lot of people - family members included - who would literally froth at the mouth over Reagan or Bush, but not be able to articulate why they hated them so much, except perhaps to barf up, word-for-word, the latest attack on one or the other.   But given that their attention span was so short, they often forgot these attacks later on, and just relied upon a background visceral hatred instead, often amounting to little more than silly name-calling.

With Bill Clinton, the GOP had its revenge for Watergate.  A wildly popular President, who cut the deficit and the national debt, Clinton had to be taken down a notch - and a paid operative recording phone calls illegally was the bag-man for them.  It was an interesting tactic, as I noted before.   Two friends of mine - both Democrats - hated Bill Clinton with a visceral passion.  The reason?  Both had been cheated upon by previous spouses.  I guess that makes sense - you want to vote for the person who least reminds you of your ex-husband or wife.  Makes a lot of sense, right?

And I am sure the Republicans tested this issue and found it had surprising strength.  After all, half of all marriages end in divorce - so there were plenty of sympathetic ears out there for this narrative.

Since then, the rhetoric has gone so far overboard that it is now just the background noise of our political debate.  You no longer prefer one candidate over the other, you rather pledge blind obedience to one and utterly despise the other.  And there is no in-between.  Everything the opposing candidate does is wrong, and nothing your candidate does is ever wrong.   Sometimes this means re-writing history, for example, forgetting (conveniently) that Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to illegal aliens during his tenure as President that never happened.

As a result, politics gets weird.  George W. Bush offered a somewhat humanitarian immigration plan, but it was shouted down by the Democratically controlled Congress on the grounds that, well, no grounds other than "we don't let the other side win" and "any idea that is not our idea is a bad idea."  During the Obama administration, the same thing happened with a Republican Congress - which sometimes isn't a bad thing, sometimes the best thing government can do is nothing.

Is there any harm in this sort of fanaticism?  Yes, a lot and here's why.  When people stop thinking and let other people do their thinking for them by blindly following leaders and relying on slogans and brand-loyalty instead of analysis, trouble ensues.  History has shown this to be the case.  You can't just leave your brains at the door when you go to vote, or go to a political meeting or rally.  You can't just blindly follow a leader - any leader - as people of all stripes and political persuasions have been shown, time and time again, to be liars, cheats, thieves, embezzlers, and sexual predators.

And if you nodded your head to that last sentence and said, "Yea, I know, right?  Like with [Insert Name of Political Enemy Here]" then you missed the point. There are real thieves in our government, who routinely are exposed for graft and corruption - usually petty corruption like selling non-existent "Healthy Holly" books to government contractors. Or being caught in a restroom soliciting sex from an undercover officer.  Same shit, different party.

This of course, flummoxes the loyalists.  "But our party is always right!  Our politicians are above reproach!  It is the other fellow who is corrupt and venal!"   And such folks go so far as to convince themselves that the whole thing is a conspiracy, designed to tear down their favorite pol, instead of just another example of human weakness. Many people do the same thing when their religious leaders are accused of spending the collection plate money on cocaine or molesting the altar boys. Putting absolute faith in fellow human beings and human-made institutions is bound to lead to disappointment.  So just don't do it.

So what's the answer?   Well, first of all, stop being a "fan" - of a rock star, a sports franchise, a politician, a religion, or a political party.  Being a fan of anything is idiotic - it wastes your time and money and is a tacit admission that your life is so shallow and without meaning that you have to drown the deafening silence in your life with mindless fandom.  If you enjoy hearing a performer, going to a game, praying at church, or want to vote - great.   Giving your life over to these outside forces is not great.

Stop obsessing about politics - externalizing your own problems into national issues.  Your student loans are not going to be forgiven by Bernie Sanders.  A better plan is to figure out how to pay them off, over time.  Odds are, they aren't as onerous as they may first seem.  I paid mine off, and a lot of people like me don't see why others shouldn't have to pay off theirs as well.   I mean, is that fair?  Someone scrimps and saves and pays off their debts, while someone else decides to get thousands of dollars in tattoos instead and gets their loans forgiven?  That would make no sense, and odds are, even a Democratic Congress would not go along with it.  So stop obsessing about it.

Perhaps the best thing about Joe Biden is that he doesn't inspire fandom or obsession in voters.  After years of "superstar" Presidents, maybe we need someone is who is, well, more boring.  Because policies are more important than stardom.   And everyday issues are more important than pie-in-the-sky stuff like free money or free college or outlawing abortion or whatever.

Yes, Trump Derangement Syndrome exists, but it is just an extension of Obama Derangement Syndrome that came before it.  Both parties have been throwing gasoline on the fire of extremist politics, convinced that the rabid right or rabid left are huge voting blocs that will turn elections.  I am not so sure.  The jackass with the rebel flag flying from his pickup truck and the jackass throwing Molotov cocktails have one thing in common:  They don't vote.

It is like boring man I talked to the other day.   He went on for hours about all these policies and political views that were affecting his life, before he admitted (or let slip) that at age 40 he was living with his Mother, out of a job, and wasn't even registered to vote.

I'm not sure a political block can be made out of non-voters.