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Find a New Bogeyman

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eye on the news

Find a New Bogeyman

What will the Left do if it no longer has Trump to kick around? November 13, 2020
Politics and law
The Social Order

Fifty-eight years ago this month, Richard Nixon delivered his infamous “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” concession speech following his loss to Edmund “Pat” Brown in the 1962 California gubernatorial race. Though the outcome of this year’s presidential race is not yet certified, and legal challenges by the Trump campaign remain to play out, President Trump may have to give what passes for a concession speech in the weeks to come, and it will no doubt make Nixon’s remarks look collegial.

The Left is rejoicing at the president’s apparent downfall—but how long will this euphoria last when the reality sinks in that it won’t have Trump to kick around anymore? Studies have documented what clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning politely dubbed “Trump Anxiety Disorder.” Many on the right call it “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” In 2017, 27 psychiatrists and mental-health experts published a book documenting the president’s supposedly detrimental impact on the nation’s (read: the Left’s) mental health called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. In short, millions of Americans, including quite a few good friends and close relatives of mine, have been deeply unhappy since Donald Trump was elected.

The legacy media have fueled this Trump anxiety with an avalanche of negative stories, tweets, books, podcasts, and television coverage, much of it overblown or even wildly inaccurate. There was no escaping it—not in the sports pages, movies, or even travel and lifestyle publications. Anti-Trump venom pervaded society. Even some Fox News personalities appear to have joined in.

The media portrayed Trump as all-powerful, ruthless, and evil—but also woefully incompetent. Trump’s detractors have devoured every bit of negative news about him, devoting untold hours declaiming over his latest outrageous tweet or offensive comment.

Imagine what can be done now with all this free time! The media chronicled all of Trump’s missteps, both real and imagined, so breathlessly that people across the country whose interest in politics had always been cursory became convinced that the president’s tweeting represented actual tyranny. Yet, when I asked the Trump-afflicted in my circles to explain how his outrages directly harmed their daily lives, none could articulate a clear answer.

In our American system of checks and balances, there’s only so much any U.S. president can do to influence our daily lives. It was never made clear exactly why Trump, for all his faults, was a threat to democracy. Never mind about the criminal actions of China, or the blunders by Andrew Cuomo or Bill de Blasio; the Covid-19 pandemic was all Trump’s fault because he said some dumb things about the virus and mask use.

Patriotism among Democrats slumped to all-time lows, according to the most recent Gallup poll, because many liberals concluded that if almost 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and more than 70 million in 2020, the country must be rotten to the core. But the occupant of the White House doesn’t define the country; America is bigger than the presidency. Surely with Trump gone, Covid-19 will disappear, racism will abate, the economy will soar, and peace will break out across the world—right?

The Harvard Study of Adult Development, the world’s longest-running longitudinal social survey, emphasizes that close relationships are the key to a happy and healthy life. Since 1938, researchers have tracked 268 Harvard sophomores, including the future president, John F. Kennedy. Fewer than 20 of these men are living today, but the study has also tracked their descendants, along with hundreds of inner-city residents added to the study in the 1970s. The study’s main finding: “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”

On this score, it’s true that many people have lost friends or damaged relations with loved ones over disagreements about Donald Trump. This dynamic has been fueled mostly by the intolerant Left, which has told us that only bad people could vote for such a monster. If Trump is out of the picture, the Left will need to find new conservative bogeymen. For our collective mental health and the country’s gross national happiness, I hope that this effort fails, because politics shouldn’t transcend life, and we don’t have to hate other people who don’t share our views.

Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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