Virtual Insanity

Remember when Dr. Alvin Poussaint, the acclaimed Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor, argued that racism should be considered a form of mental illness? I could never figure out why Poussaint’s contention was considered controversial; it struck me as basic common sense that hatred based on race or culture is incompatible with rational thinking.

Nearly two decades after Dr. Poussaint’s proclamation, a case can be made that the support unqualified Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump still enjoys from nearly 40 percent of the voting public is another indication of America’s mental health crisis. How could a non-irrational mind possibly perceive a leader in a man whose views are so vague?

There is nothing logical, sensible or normal in any of Trump’s positions; his ideology is as inscrutable as his invective is intolerable. Say what you will about Ronald Reagan (and I’ve said plenty), but he had a specific and articulable worldview. Can anyone say the same thing about Trump?

It’s impossible to interpret the logic of those who think a man who likes to play pattycake with Putin…a man who chats creepily about coveting his child…a man who has repeatedly spurned calls to release his tax returns…and a man who treats Gold Star fathers and mothers like they belong in the gutter…merits serious consideration as the 45th President of the United States. Such an idea is literally madness.

From a certain perspective, Trump’s remaining support is perhaps the best argument possible for moving to a single-payer health care system with state-of-the-art mental health counseling. So many of our citizens are clearly going without the care they need; why else would they embrace a man known only for grandiosity and greed?

About 20 years ago, I watched a rebroadcast of the 1980 made-for-television movie Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, starring Powers Boothe as the founder of the church known as the Peoples Temple–which became a temple of doom for the over 900 parishioners who committed mass suicide at Jones’s behest in November 1978. Even after watching the harrowing film, I could not figure out how Jones could pull off what he did, how he could convince so many people to follow his words, how he could be so persuasive.

Watching Trump, I’m beginning to understand. At his rallies, Trump has handed his supporters the cyanide of cynicism, the venom of viciousness and the hemlock of hate–and his frenzied followers have consumed cheerfully. Like Jim Jones’s followers, they have done so with a religious zeal.

Speaking of religious zeal, I’m not surprised by the existence of so-called “Trumpvangelicals.” These folks are actually excited by Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric, and are not afraid of the prospect of Trump with his finger on the nuclear button. They actually wouldn’t mind if Trump destroyed this world; after all, they only care about the next one.

As for the non-religious who plan to vote for this narcissist, mass dementia is the only possible explanation for why they think Trump is terrific. Think about it: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush all had profound flaws, but one can make a case that all five men were objectively qualified to be President, no matter how poorly they may have performed once they got the job. What actually qualifies Trump to be President? Would you hire a man with his resume for any position that required responsibility, wisdom, rationality and caution?

As the old saying goes, the whole world is watching–and what is the world seeing? Our brothers and sisters in lands far beyond our shores are scared. They don’t understand how America could do this to herself, how the most powerful country on earth could ever contemplate electing a man so unqualified to lead it. Fifty years ago, they watched our protesters sing, “We Shall Overcome.” If Trump recovers from his week from hell and becomes President, his Justice Department will turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and a cold heart to victims of police brutality–and such an outcome will prove that perhaps we didn’t overcome after all.

In a Trump administration, black lives would only matter in theory. The lives of the disadvantaged and dispossessed of all colors would only matter in theory. There would be liberty and justice under Trump…but only for his fellow billionaires.

A Trump administration would be a horror beyond the imagination of a Stephen King or a John Carpenter, a hell on earth for the poor and middle class, an ecological and economic execution. The question that will be answered on November 8 is simple: is America really crazy enough to go there?

UPDATE: Brad Friedman on why Democrats can’t get overconfident in the wake of Trump’s week from hell (relevant remarks from 48:55-52:13). Plus, more from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.