From the Left



Beware of Trump derangement syndrome, Democrats

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Back in 2003, conservative writer Charles Krauthammer coined the term "Bush derangement syndrome" to describe people who had gone off the rails with their hatred of President George W. Bush.

The crazy was only starting to begin.

Six years later, conservative author David Horowitz warned that criticism of President Barack Obama was approaching "over-the-top hysteria," which he branded "Obama Derangement Syndrome."

"Conservatives, please," he wrote on "Let's not duplicate the manias of the left as we figure out how to deal with Mr. Obama. He is not exactly the anti-Christ, although a disturbing number of people on the right are convinced he is."

After President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address, I am ready to send a version of Horowitz's message to congressional Democrats. As I used to hear an old Chicago Democratic ward boss say: Don't get mad, get smart.

Don't just sit on your hands and pout while President Trump takes advantage of the one thing he knows how to do better than most of his fellow politicians do: video salesmanship.

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I take no glee in making this critique. I'm not a fan of Trump's politics, his vulgarity, his exaggerations and his outright falsehoods when he speaks. I don't like the way he deliberately drives wedges between racial, ethnic and gender identity groups and blows dog-whistle kisses to the intolerant right.

But the congressional Democrats who decided to sit silently and visibly displeased throughout the speech, even when it touched on issues or developments of which they approved -- like a record dip in black unemployment. The Democrats are displeased understandably that Trump brags about that statistic as if it reflects a trend that started on his watch, when it actually began in 2011 under Obama.

And Democratic leaders are right to note that they did nothing nearly as rude as Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina who shouted "You lie" during a similar speech to Congress by President Obama in 2009.

But, ah, it is not the facts or ideas that make a difference in the political impact of major events. It is the optics. As long as Trump is seen by his supporters and persuadable moderates as reaching out to other races and standing up for America, the details don't matter. It's how people feel about you that counts. In his mastery of those "instincts," as Trump likes to explain, he comes closest to Ronald Reagan, the nation's only other president to come from the entertainment industry.


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