Trump Derangement Syndrome and Political Discourse


This post is a companion piece to Dean-O-Files episode #31: "Trump Derangement Syndrome and Discourse", published on 03/03/2018.


We've all seen the meme: Trump Derangement Syndrome. The affliction that everyone, conservatives, centrists, anti-leftists, etc., love to diagnose their political opponents with.

We've also all seen the effects of TDS on every side of political discourse, whether we know it or not.

I recently listened to an episode of Justin Robert Young’s excellent Politics, Politics, Politics podcast in which a favorite of mine, Brian Brushwood (who comes off as something of a centrist on the show), discusses the current political climate with Jeff Cannata, a well-known podcaster widely regarded as an intelligent person and excellent speaker. The episode serves as a follow-up to an earlier debate when the same team discussed the political situation before the 2016 election, when everyone involved assumed Hillary Clinton would be the next president.

Before I go on, I'd like to say that I also think that Cannata is intelligent. I think he's a smart, logical person who explains himself well. He is a liberal, and I disagree with him on almost everything even remotely socio-political, but he is no fool.

And I consider him a TDS sufferer.

Allow me to explain:

The conversation in the podcast starts off cordially enough, with Cannata commending Brushwood for his optimistic outlook on what could be a positive outcome of the Trump presidency; that executive power may be decreased. The first voice is Brushwood's, the second is Cannata's.

Cannata then allows some partisanship to slip through. This is understandable, as he is a Democrat who, despite how he may describe himself, does not appear, to me, to be particularly objective (more on that later). Brushwood’s concern regarding the type of candidate the Democratic Party may bring to bear against Trump is legitimate, but Cannata allows the current perceived threat to, well... trump... his principles. For clarity, the third voice you will hear is that of the host, Justin Robert Young.


Note: There is an edit here. It does not affect the context of the discussion. This is around 43 minutes into the podcast, which will be linked at the end of the piece.


Cannata either cannot conceive of a Trumpian Democratic candidate (a problem in itself) or he will do exactly what Brushwood describes and ignore the Trumpian nature of this hypothetical candidate simply because he or she would be a Democrat and, perhaps more importantly, not Trump.

Many will describe this as a symptom of TDS, but I do not. Partisanship is part of many people's political existence. It's more like a possible precursor to TDS. The real symptoms follow after partisanship is challenged.

You'll notice that Cannata’s argument seems to hinge on the idea that the people his preferred party serves are not self-serving themselves, but rather the socio-politically downtrodden. Those who (in his own worldview) deserve the support of politicians. When this view is challenged, however, he responds rather... energetically.


For the record, Justin, I'll happily make the argument that the two parties are more alike than they are different. Happily.


Remember when I said that Jeff Cannata is a smart man? A logical man and an effective orator? In the first few seconds of being faced with an effective challenge to his politics, he loses that completely. He quickly regains his composure, but you don’t have to go far to see what happens when someone less practiced finds themselves in the same situation. You see them protesting on the streets and in university auditoriums in YouTube videos, and you see them writing blogs online.

They lose their f*cking minds.

They are not intelligent, nor are they experienced speakers. They are consumed by fear and hate to the point that they cannot form a meaningful sentence, let alone maintain some measure of objectivity.

The simple fact here is that Cannata is wrong. Even a cursory glance at Open Secrets will reveal that the millionaires and billionaires who donate to politicians almost always hope to profit (and often do) from their political purchases. This is an objective reality. But Cannata is so consumed by his fear and hatred of Trump that he ignores objective reality in favor of his partisan preference.

This is what makes Trump Derangement Syndrome. The inability to deal with objective reality and, instead, substituting that reality with lazy biases that confirm what one would rather believe: Trump is evil, and my side is the only one capable of righting this despicable wrong that the United States has suffered.

TDS does not only affect those on the left, though. Never Trump Conservatives often fall into the exact same line of thinking, but they substitute supporting the Democratic Party for supporting “Real Republicans.”

More interestingly, the exact reverse of these symptoms exist in MAGA Conservatives. Trumpians who can not imagine a better representative for themselves than “The Don.” These people are also TDS sufferers, but the objective reality they ignore is that Trump is not all they may have imagined him to be. He has failed to keep a number of his campaign promises, and his recent statements regarding gun ownership and due process are evidence of his betrayal of the MAGA crowd.

All of this has resulted in one major concern for me: Political discourse is dying. Brian Brushwood is right to be concerned about the battle for civility being lost in 2020. Observers have already pointed out that the American public seems to be in the same theater watching totally different movies, and I fear that the extremes of the mainstream political spectrum have become so averse to the objective reality of American politics that the chances of any real dialogue happening in the near future are rapidly becoming infinitesimal.

I fear that political discourse may experience the negative effects of Trump Derangement Syndrome far into the future.

As a socio-political Rogue, this bothers me for one primary reason: If people become more and more entrenched in their ideology, forsaking reality in the process, then what chance does my message have of reaching them? I speak so that I may point out the ills, inequities, and unethical actions of government, but what difference can I possibly make when everyone is too busy insulating themselves from any and all challenge to their ideology to actually listen?

The TDS trend does not bode well for myself and my compatriots. I only hope that we can maintain our vigor and desire for truth long enough to outlast the effects of this factionalism and be here when the storm of partisanship finally subsides, as it eventually must.

Basically, what I’m trying to say can be summed up in a few short sentences.

Take heart, political Rogues of the world. This bullshit can't last forever.

I hope.

The podcast the above clips are sourced from can be found on the Politics, Politics, Politics website. The episode is titled: "Cannata vs. Brushwood II" and was published on 02/28/2018.