Even President Obama’s fiercest critics, such as Trump, never questioned his sanity. They called him stupid, or evil, or a terrorist, or naïve, but never insane. In the dozen Presidents I’ve watched in my lifetime, none was ever suspected of being mentally ill.
It’s become a meme in the political conversation, not just in America but all over the world: Trump is nuts. Just what specific illness, or illnesses, people think Trump suffers from, though, isn’t clear. Lots of people think it’s narcissism; a Google search for “Trump” and “narcissist” brought 837,000 hits, including this one, from the New York Daily News, which quoted psychologists as diagnosing Trump as showing all the symptoms of “malignant narcissism.”
Then I searched “Trump” and “mental illness” and got even more hits, 1,570,000, including this one from the Atlantic magazine, which adds “grandiosity” to narcissism in the Trump diagnosis. “Grandiosity” is, of course, delusional: an exaggerated sense of superiority to others, to the point of losing touch with reality, which does sound like this President: the personal insults, the authoritarian streak, the disdain for viewpoints other than his own. But then, narcissism and grandiosity are linked: there’s even a mental illness called “Grandiose Narcissism” that’s defined as “a flamboyant, assertive, and interpersonally dominant style. Grandiose narcissists are more likely to attain leadership positions, they have an inflated sense of self, are overconfident in making decisions, and don’t seem to learn from their mistakes.”
Sound like someone you know?
Then I Googled “Trump” and “insane” and the results just about blew up my laptop. Number of hits: 23,500,000. Clearly, for a lot of people, when they hear the word “Trump” their immediate word association is “insane.” I like Louis C.K.’s description of him as “an insane bigot.” The film director, James Cameron, went Louis C.K. a step further and indicted Trump’s entire crowd, not only his direct associates, like Bannon, Conway and Spicer, but the Republicans who voted for hm. “These people are insane!” Cameron told the Daily Beast.
But the award for “Most Google hits” goes to “What is wrong with Donald Trump?” Results: 90,400,000. Of course, these hits don’t just include speculations on his mental state; they also include analyses of his draconian, reactionary policies, from the Muslim ban to his war on Mexico to his lies about the size of the inaugural crowd and numbers of illegal voters.
All of which leads up to the Big Question: What will it take for Trump supporters to turn against him? We can’t know the answer at this point, but History can perhaps give us a hint. When Nixon was spiraling down the drain during Watergate, his fans stayed loyal almost to the very end. Until about the late Spring of 1974, they still cheered him on, believing that Watergate was all a plot by Democrats and establishment elitists to drive Nixon from office. It wasn’t until the Smoking Gun tapes came out that all but the most diehard Republicans finally realized that Nixon had to go.
What will Trump’s “smoking gun” be? His mental state. Even the reddest of evangelical tea party Republicans has some rudimentary understanding that it’s not a good idea for a President to be mentally ill—even if he’s from their own party. They’ll tolerate a lot, for a while, but eventually, as Trump becomes ever more irrational, angry, reckless and abusive, they’ll start to talk about it, over coffee or beer or around the water cooler. It will take a lot for them to abandon him: they have massive amounts of emotional energy invested in him, and it’s never easy to admit you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life.
But they’ll get there, and when they do, Trump’s gone. Which will leave us with Pence. Now, a lot of Democrats are warning us, Be careful what you wish for, because if we get rid of Trump, we’ll be stuck with something even worse.
I don’t agree. Pence may have disgusting views, particularly those based on his religious fanaticism, but he’s not insane. When we get rid of Trump, we’ll deal with Pence. One battle at a time…