I realize I’m repeating myself in some ways in this post, but I think it’s worth it in the long-term if we remind ourselves that progressives need to speak within a unifying narrative.
New bill would require Donald Trump's White House to hire a psychiatrist amid fears for President's mental health … https://t.co/l6O31olHxn
— Washington Insiders (@washinsiders) February 10, 2017
These are not normal times in our country. The authoritarian President Donald Trump expresses clear signs of untreated mental illness, including narcissism, and he is a pathological liar. As Hillary Clinton correctly pointed out a while back, “ . . . he is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander-in-chief.”
Can and should progressives unite to define their protest against Trump and his Republican supporters under the broader framework in the above paragraph? Right now various factions opposed to Trump continue to fragment the message with pleas for money or signatures on petitions for their own special causes or concerns. The progressive response to the new president and his actions has been almost as myriad and erratic as Trump’s tweets. The daily grind of the news cycle makes progressives lose focus as we righteously but maybe not so strategically jump from one outrage to the next.
I believe we’re very much losing the information war. What’s making it through the clutter are the senseless tweets of a person, who is mentally ill. Do you hear about what Trump tweeted today? The world awaits in breathless anticipation to that refrain. I believe Trump has us where he wants us right now. He has a captive audience.
Meanwhile, there are important developments surrounding the Trump administration that truly matter that get lost or forgotten in the daily clutter. We still don’t know enough about the investigation into how the government of Russia most likely influenced our presidential election to get Trump elected in the first place. Note this recent post in Mother Jones, which was followed by this report in The Washington Post.
No one has the one right answer to Trump. What I know is that I’ve been writing liberal political commentary for a long time, and I’m on a lot of email lists. I’ve been bombarded by progressive organizations and progressive media outlets asking me for money or to sign petitions. But how much money should we donate and how many petitions opposing each of Trump’s nominees and appointments do we need to sign until we suddenly figure out that each one is going to be confirmed despite our efforts?
I appreciate the humor and satire pointed in Trump’s direction. Melissa McCarthy’s brilliant and witty depiction of Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live received widespread attention as it should have. Andy Borowitz, writing in The New Yorker, always gets it right on a intellectual level and makes us laugh in the process. Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher can be funny and relevant. But even though we need this form of progressive comedy just to keep us balanced and to relax, we can’t win this one with humor, especially humor that fragments into satire on various topics just like all our special interests groups. Spicer is a petty Trump tool, but Trump is a pathological liar.
We need to take our protests to the streets and speak in one voice. I’m not arguing we should be humorless. But the destruction of democracy in the most powerful country in the world—at least for now—is a very serious matter.
Here’s the nuanced part of my argument if you’ve gotten this far into this post. I’m not saying we shouldn’t oppose specific actions or non-actions by Trump and his fellow Republicans, some of which are amazingly immoral, such as the recent travel ban targeting Muslim countries or Trump’s treatment of the Mexican president over the wall, nor do I think we can or should do away with our specific political identities. But I do think we do need some unification under a larger, simpler narrative. I love and totally agree with the slogan, “No ban. No wall.” But that’s just one area of protest under the Trump regime’s flood-the-field tactics that range from consequential matters to the inane. As I argued earlier, I don’t have the answer. No one does. But we can look for one.
The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called Trump “mentally ill.” His colleague and fellow columnist Charles Blow called Trump a “pathological liar” and urged us to say and write it aloud. Say it with me. Trump is a pathological liar. Clinton used the “temperamentally unfit” line repeatedly in her campaign. Collectively, they have given the progressive movement all the cover it needs to stress these points without nuance or any qualification. Let media outlets parse through it in their qualified, rhetorical and always contrarian formulas.
It should be obvious that a mentally ill, pathological liar, who is temperamentally unfit to be president, will, along with those Republicans who support him and work with him, commit terrible and hurtful acts and deeds, whether legislated in some legal sense or done in secrecy. It amazes me that some progressives react in amazement when Trump signs some new order or when Congressional Republicans announce a new, morally challenged initiative. One way the Republicans might break their support for Trump, though, is if progressives can stay unified in their criticism of him as he melts down in the coming weeks and months.
It’s true, however, that Trump will most likely not get impeached or removed from office because of his mental state and erratic behavior on Twitter, but his actions can be tempered if we speak together in one voice. Our voice, if spoken in unison, could help our legal and governmental institutions withstand the Trump onslaught. Some of these institutions—the judiciary, for example—are are showing signs they’re holding strong. The mid-term elections in 2018 will give also Democrats an opportunity to gain control of least one of the legislative chambers and help moderate what Trump can do. Again, we need a larger, unifying narrative to make that happen.
Donald Trump is a narcissistic pathological liar unfit to be president. We need to repeat some version of this as often and publicly as possible no matter what specific Trump/Republican action we’re addressing, whether it’s his attacks on immigrants based on lies or his narcissistic tweets rooted in mental illness. This isn’t hyperbole or attack politics. This is trying to prevent the country from descending into tyranny.
Maybe another larger frame might emerge later, such as the Russian scandal, but for now Trump’s erratic behavior seems to be a prevailing and uniting view among progressives.