This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Febraury 13, 2017. Click here to view the original article.
By John Bolton
February 13, 2017
‘Keep Calm and Carry On” read the iconic Second World War morale-boosting poster. Faced with the existential Nazi threat to Western civilisation, it was a remarkably placid admonition to the British people, particularly in the days that Britain stood alone after Germany’s victory in France.
To listen to some of Donald Trump’s critics today, in America or abroad, you might conclude the West was facing another existential threat. These unhappy souls style themselves not merely Trump opponents but “the resistance” – evoking memories of the 1940s French underground. Yet urging them to “Keep Calm and Carry On” today would simply send them into greater paroxysms of rage and frustration.
What exactly is going on? Are these poor dears correct that life as we know it is under threat, or are their hysterical reactions more reflective of their own fears, inadequacies, and, most importantly, their Leftist ideologies?
First, we should remember that a large part of the anti-Trump eruption is cultural. Trump is obviously neither a conventional US politician nor a standard-issue international statesman. These differences, mostly stylistic but with substantive implications, are terribly threatening to his opponents; for his supporters, they are beyond doubt among his most attractive attributes. Trump doesn’t light candles to establishment icons, doesn’t talk the way smooth liberals talk, and most assuredly doesn’t care what America’s mainstream media say. It recalls a cartoon (famous among arms-control sceptics) of Indians on horseback circling a fort in the West, shooting flaming arrows at the wooden structure. A soldier on the parapet turns to another and asks: “Are they allowed to do that?” Trump’s answer is “Yes indeed!”
These cultural deviations have assumed an importance outweighing policy shifts like the coming repeal of ObamaCare, substantial economic deregulation, and the demise of the Iran nuclear deal. But that does not reduce the significance of those policy shifts. It merely masks them in a way which is considerably less naive than the usual portrayals of Trump suggest him to be.
Second, there is simply no argument that overwhelming numbers of Americans across the political spectrum were stunned that Trump beat Hillary Clinton on November 8. One can argue about the accuracy of 2016’s public-opinion polls; one can condemn those dead white males who created the constitution’s electoral college; and one can bewail the unfairness that Hillary Clinton has now twice blown politically “certain” victories in presidential contests, but nothing will change the outcome. For “the resistance,” that is the core problem.
Trump and his advisers may have foreseen victory, but the result surprised even most of his supporters. On election night, I was surrounded by vocal Trump fans as well as many conservative “Never Trumpers”. Words can hardly convey the amazed reactions from both camps as it became increasingly clear the SS Clinton had hit an unsuspected iceberg, and begun to slide beneath the waves. If that was the reaction among Republicans, one can only imagine the scene at Clinton’s election-night headquarters, and in Boston, California and university towns across those benighted red states dominating the electoral map.
Can liberals there ever adjust to a loss so big and make it through the seven stages of political grief? Irrational though it may be, I would bet not. I see them doomed to repeat their November 8 lamentations for years to come. Like a political Groundhog Day, their hysteria may be permanent.
Such behaviour is not altogether new. The first evidence of such mania appeared in George W Bush’s administration, in what was called “Bush derangement syndrome”, a reaction by liberals who couldn’t stand to listen to that Texas twang or the substance the twang was conveying. There was a parallel derangement syndrome for Republicans during the Obama years. Trump has now established his own version, which affects not only liberals but many conservatives as well. For Bush and Obama, however, quite some time passed before the derangement manifested itself, although it only became more acute as time wore on. For Trump, the derangement began even before his inauguration, so its potential dimensions are beyond prediction.
Yet given that Trump has been president less than one month, prudence surely dictates that we proceed not hysterically, but cautiously, in evaluating the new White House. So, steady on, cousins. We have 47 more months to go before Trump’s first term ends. Its first weeks have been more considerably more rational than the frenzied outpourings they have provoked.