Traumatics

Today’s WallStreet Journal

By JOSEPH EPSTEIN
Updated Feb. 7, 2017 7:03 p.m. ET

I live in Evanston, Ill., a city of roughly 80,000 just outside Chicago at whose center is Northwestern University. Evanston went 88% for Hillary Clinton to 7% for Donald Trump. The morning after the election, the general glum in town was palpable. At Peet’s Coffee, at Whole Foods, among students, one could everywhere see the depression upon faces. An amiable young woman at the public library told me she went to bed the night before with tears in her eyes. A good friend wrote that he no longer recognized the country in which he had lived all his life.

I was not among the 7% who voted for Mr. Trump. I left the presidential portion of my ballot unmarked. Not that it much mattered, for Illinois is bluer than a Billie Holiday ballad. As for the result, I was simultaneously delighted to see the end of the Clintons, that Snopes family among our not very meritorious meritocrats, and less than elated to see a man so bereft of culture and magnanimity become our president-elect.

Still, I had feared the country was sinking slowly downhill under Democratic leadership—with its stagnant economy; its foreign-policy failures; its sad identity politics; its poorly performing educational system, from central-city public schools to high-price universities. So I was, and remain, more than curious to see what President Trump and his largely plutocratic cabinet can do to pull the nation out of its slow but steady decline.

I find it of great interest that the congeries of yellow-dog Democrats, progressives, radicals and others aren’t even curious. They have already written off Mr. Trump & Co. as hopeless, selfish, dangerous and, let us not forget, fascist. Unable to accept that Mr. Trump is, for better or worse, the nation’s president, these people have contracted a malady I call Trump Trauma. Under its ill effects, Mr. Trump can do no right, and everything his administration does appears as grotesque comedy, except it isn’t really funny.

The first thing the Traumatics tend to attack is Mr. Trump’s looks. “Why is he orange?” an old friend asks over lunch. “I don’t get it.” Or there is his hair. On the New York Review of Books website, Northwestern’s Garry Wills expatiated upon these hirsutical matters: “Does he handle its upkeep all by himself? Has he any kind of regular barber? Does he have some secret and specializing artist who can invent such an artifact?” Mr. Wills came to no satisfying conclusions.

Donald Trump is of course a gift that the gods have bestowed on the left-wing press. He allows it—daily, hourly—to do what it most enjoys to do: express outrage. He allows editors of the Nation and New Republic the frisson of imagining they are living in Germany in 1933. The New Yorker, which my friend Hilton Kramer once called the Nation in Ralph Lauren clothes, has joined the gang. Here are the headlines for its online postings this past Saturday: “Fear and Loathing in Trump’s America,” “The Deep Denialism of Donald Trump,” “From ‘Drain the Swamp’ to Government Sachs,” “Why Trump’s ‘America First’ Policy Is Doomed to Fail,” “For the Protesters at Standing Rock, It’s Back to Pipeline Purgatory,” and “Teaching Southern and Black History Under Trump.”

Trump Traumatics can turn for further reinforcement of their views to the late night talk-show hosts, those noted choir directors Jimmy Kimmel,Stephen Colbert,Jimmy Fallon,Seth Meyers,Bill Maher and Conan O’Brien. On “Saturday Night Live” Alec Baldwin has found a new career doing Trump imitations, and threatens to become to Mr. Trump what Vaughn Meader was to John F. Kennedy.
Out of power, progressives take to the streets. (Conservatives tend to sulk: The only ones I know who march are the pro-lifers.) The anti-Trumpers of the left have found in nearly every executive order, cabinet appointment or Supreme Court nomination an excuse for refreshing out-of-door politics. “It took this horrific moment of darkness to wake us the [obscenity] up,” Madonna said at the recent Women’s March. “Yes, I have thought a lot about blowing up the White House.” Any conservative who said such things would be put under full-time surveillance.

The hatred of those who oppose Donald Trump makes the old liberal detestation of Richard Nixon seem quaint. Even if Mr. Trump were to succeed in returning vast numbers of jobs to America, in getting illegal immigration under reasonable control, in improving the nightmare of life in the inner-city black neighborhoods, in defeating Islamic State, the anti-Trumpers would not be likely to let up.

Trump Trauma is a disease with a known cause but no known cure. But Trump Traumatics don’t want treatment. The condition makes those in its grip feel terribly good about themselves, on the right side of things, above all filled with virtue. Like jogging, treadmills, triathlons, Trump Trauma stimulates the release of endorphins. Hard to find all that at such low cost anywhere else.

Mr. Epstein is the author of “Frozen in Time, Twenty Stories” (Taylor Trade, 2016).

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