I spent this year’s hurricane evacuation in the mountains with my father-in-law and an older couple who happen to be Trump supporters, which meant occasionally I was exposed to Fox News. My hosts, who are in fact sophisticated, interesting, and kind,are not consumed with politics, and they seem to dislike Democrats more than they admire Trump. As I was walking past the television, I overheard one of the Fox anchors say, “The Democrats are already trying to exploit this hurricane.”
“Hmmm, that doesn’t sound so far and balanced, ” I mused.
It’s as if indeed “the center cannot hold,” that left is left and right is right, and never the twain shall meet. The exception to this tribalism can be found with the Never Trump Republicans, people like Jennifer Rubin, George Well, David Frum, Bill Kristol, and Joe Walsh, pundits I once mocked but now admire for their devotion to rationality and the rule of law.
I do, however, have some Facebook friends who idolize Trump in an emotional Jim Jones cultish sort of way. Recently, one addressed me personally in a post in which she asked in reference to the Steele dossier how I would like it if someone had made up a bunch of lies about me. Showing remarkable Dalai Lama like restraint, I didn’t respond with “Well, if I had paid off a porn star because I had sex with her three months after the birth of my son, I might not be that surprised to find myself the source of gossip.” There’s no talking reason to these folks, who regurgitate Fox’s talking points and refer to Democrats as if they are not their neighbors but enemies to be feared. Several piled on my brother, who wasn’t as restrained as his older sibling, with smugly inane predictions about the fall of the Democratic Party.
How they’re unable to recognize Trump’s dishonesty and vulgarity amazes me. I get why some Koch-like mega billionaire might be willing to abide Trump’s assault on democratic norms for the sake of gargantuan tax cuts, but I don’t understand why middle class citizens who try to instill honesty in their children support such an inveterate liar whose temperament makes the Amazing Hulk seem as mild-mannered as Fred Rogers in comparison.
In fact, Peter Wehner of the Atlantic makes a compelling argument that Trump suffers from mental illness:
Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.
It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogyny, predatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this country, mocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)
And it’s maddening! Each news cycle brings another outrage, whether it be receiving love notes from Kim Jong-un, diverting money from the military to build a medieval wall on the southern border, or encouraging foreign leaders and his own cronies to stay at his properties in blatant violation of the Emolument Clause of the Constitution.
It’s overwhelming, and what so many of my friends have done is to just stop tuning in, which I can well understand.
When I suggested I might drive down Friday early to check on my house, the husband of the couple offered to fly me to Johns Island in his private plane.