Friday, January 12, 2018

Since we called President Trump a corrupt, unstable, incompetent, narcissistic, race-baiting, thin-skinned authoritarian with the temperament of a child before the election... Why do we think it matters to keep calling him those same names after the election?

Quinnipiac University Poll on President Donald Trump
 August 2017 word cloud of Quinnipiac Poll asking Americans to describe President Trump in one word.
Creative name-calling of President Trump on mainstream and social media has become something of a national sport. Each day, fast on the heels of the latest idiocy to come out of the mouth of our perpetually aggrieved president [Today, as I write this, it's "shithole countries."], we get the "shocked! shocked!" hair-on-fire horrified characterizations of those perpetually aggrieved at the fact that he is still in the White House.  In this game you get extra points if the name-calling is wrapped in righteous indignation, high dudgeon or general hysteria.

Quinnipiac University Polls keep score with a periodic analysis that asks one question:
"What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of President Trump?" 
The graphic at the top of this post is the word cloud from the August scoreboard, and here are the most recent December results.
In "Fire and Fury" - Michael Wolff's account of the early months of the administration - we see variations on all the same words and characterizations:
Michael Wolff Fire and Fury"For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an "idiot." For Gary Cohn, he was "dumb as shit." For H.R. McMaster he was a "dope." - Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury 
"I don't describe him as childlike, every person in the White House ... Literally, that is the common description among every one of his senior people," Wolff said. "That the president is somewhat like a child." - The Hill 
"An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won't read anything - not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored." (F&F via CNBC) 
"Wolff added that "100 percent of the people around" Trump, "senior advisers, family members, every single one of them, questions his intelligence and fitness for office." - NBC 
"Mr Wolff portrays the president as an ageing man who repeats stories and quotes some of Mr Trump's closest allies describing the president as “incapable of functioning in his job. - Telegraph 
“Bannon described Trump as a simple machine. The On switch was full of flattery, the Off switch full of calumny. The flattery was dripping, slavish, cast in ultimate superlatives, and entirely disconnected from reality: so-and-so was the best, the most incredible, the ne plus ultra, the eternal. The calumny was angry, bitter, resentful, ever a casting out and closing of the iron door.” - Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury  
“If the Trump White House was as unsettling as any in American history, the president’s views of foreign policy and the world at large were among its most random, uninformed, and seemingly capricious aspects."  Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury 
If nothing else, the book cranked the Trump vilification volume up to 10. And this is where it's taken us...

We have now reached the point where Trump insults are being classified and categorized by the punditocracy into those insults that are politically correct ("evil","spoiled brat","ignorant jerk", "asshole" ) and those insults that are politically incorrect ("sociopath", "mentally disturbed", "narcissistic personality disorder"). In this clip, Professor of Psychiatry Allen Frances tells MSNBC pundit Ari Melber that attributing President Trump's behavior to mental illness is demeaning and disrespectful ... to the mentally ill:

And with this clip, I think we have finally achieved Peak Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Let me be clear. I am not watching from the bleachers. I am an active player in the game. Here are a few of the names and characterizations your loyal blogger leveled at Donald Trump on the pages of this blog and in social media during the campaign and since he was elected:
Polarizing; Liar; Huckster; Disingenuous; Carnival Barker; Late Night Pitch Man; Insincere; Insane; Megalomaniac; Cheater; Corrupt; Braggart; Self aggrandizing; Rapist; Out of Touch; Crazy; Thin-Skinned; Easily Baited; Unbalanced; Narcissist; Unstable; Intemperate; Frightening; Authoritarian; Ignorant of our Constitution; Narcissistic Personality Disorder; Delusions of Grandeur; Flash in the Pan; Inane; Unelectable; Childish; Like a 10 year old. 
In my own defense, these words was spread over a lot of posts, tweets, and comments. And I was more restrained than most. Still, it is kind of embarrassing when I look at the consolidated list. In my own defense I was not a voice crying in the wilderness. I was just one in the daily chorus wailing, rending garments and gnashing teeth about the prospects of a Trump presidency.

Here is a word cloud of a survey compiled by Bespoke Market Intelligence from October, 2016 - the month before the election - again asking Americans for that one word description of candidate Trump:
Bespoke Trump One Word Survey prior to 2016 election
October 2016 word cloud of Bespoke Survey asking Americans to describe President Trump in one word.
Note that this word cloud before the election is remarkably similar to the word clouds after the election. It is all the same words. The emphasis has changed, but the words, by and large, have not. And there's the rub. I no longer understand the point of this exercise. Americans knew this was Trump before the election and knowing this, Americans voted for exactly this to be our President. This is who he was when he was campaigning for President. This is who he was after he was sworn in as President. This is who he is now. This is who he will be for the balance of his presidency.

Senator Lindsey Graham sums up the dilemma succinctly on The View:

Lindsey Graham: "I said he was a xenophobic, race-baiting religious bigot (during the 2016 campaign). I ran out of things to say. He won. Guess what, he's our President."

Stipulated: Trump is an ignorant asshole. Everyone knew he was an ignorant asshole before the election. You have to simply conclude and accept the fact that, when you wrap all these descriptions and characterizations that were well publicized before the election into a big orange ball, Americans consciously decided to elect an ignorant asshole for President. This is exactly the risk and reward of a democratically elected government. We get the government we deserve. Yes, he's an asshole. But, like it or not, he's our asshole.

By the way, I am not choosing the epithet "asshole" randomly. If you look back at the word clouds in this post, you'll see the Trump description "asshole" figures prominently in all of them. By spelling it out explicitly I am just sparing the reader the difficulty of trying to decode what "a**hole" or "a_hole" means. You're welcome. But I digress.

This brings us back to the question in the title - Why do we do this? Is this simply magical thinking? Do we think that by waving our arms and chanting these words like a Harry Potter spell ( ExpelliTrumponius!) somehow Trump will not be President?

Do we think our invective will change the mind of Trump's supporters? It won't. Quite the opposite. Will it improve the prospects of Democrats taking a majority in Congress and dividing the government in the upcoming 2018 midterm election? It sure didn't help when we were saying exactly the same things in the 2016 presidential election. Will one more insult precipitate a presidential resignation, trigger a 25th Amendment succession, or accelerate the timeframe for possible impeachment hearings? Certainly not. Will it help moderate the policies that are emerging from White House? Doubtful Absolutely not.

So, exactly what is the point of all this vilification - even if  it's justified by a daily provocation ("shithole")? I can think of only one reason. It just makes us (Democrats, Independents, NeverTrumpers, Dividists, etc.) feel better. As if we are actually doing something about it. We're not.  It accomplishes absolutely nothing. But it makes us feel better.

Look, I get it. I don't want an asshole President with a Unified One Party Republican Rule Government either. But calling him an asshole on social media every day isn't going to change that situation. Only two things will: Electing Democrats to the House of Representatives in 2018 and dividing the government will help to keep his worst impulses restrained. Electing someone who is not an asshole in 2020 will solve the problem.

For the rest, it is all but a Shakespearean tale ... "Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

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