Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
The stakes in 2016 are huge and the party is fractured. The rhetoric reflects a Trump Derangement Syndrome in which Trump is either a monster or a savior, instead of a politician. On the left, Bush Derangement Syndrome expressed itself in the conviction that he was unalterably and uniquely worse than every other president and would get around to declaring martial law and ruling forever.
The danger of exaggeration is that previously unacceptable views suddenly become acceptable. Bush Derangement Syndrome made it acceptable for Democrats to descend into open treason by making common cause with Saddam Hussein, the Sunni terrorist groups that evolved into ISIS and Assad.
Bush Derangement Syndrome made him seem so terrible that every other evil could be justified by comparison. The exaggeration of Trump Derangement Syndrome is doing that all over again.
Trump Derangement Syndrome is driving some conservatives to call for destroying the Republican Party and conservatism, and even to usher in eight years of left-wing rule, in order to stop Trump.
Under pressure from Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is now adopting positions well to the left of Obama. On racial issues, she’s already more extreme than he is. Ponder that for a minute. Both Democratic candidates are now airing blatantly racist views about white privilege. Sanders and Clinton are also scrambling to get to the left of Obama on terrorism, socialized medicine and a raft of other issues.
The switch from “Anyone But Hillary” to “Anyone But Trump” is a sign of fundamentally misplaced priorities.
Political campaigns can get ugly and Trump’s style is, at times, to get as nasty as possible, but it’s a sign of misplaced insider priorities to allow personal animus to matter more than the war against the left. It’s not unreasonable for some conservatives to be angry at Trump and his tactics. It is unreasonable to let that anger turn into a petulance that would let the left rule the nation for another eight years.
We are not in the conservative movement to settle our personal scores. Stopping Trump at any cost is not acceptable just as stopping Romney or McCain at any cost was not considered to be acceptable. Conservatives cannot always have conservative candidates or achieve conservative policy goals. But they can still prevent the left from winning a complete victory in any given election.
Bush Derangement Syndrome began when Democrats decided not to accept the results of an election. Everything else emerged naturally, logically and treasonously from that conclusion. Trump Derangement Syndrome is a preemptive call not to accept the results of political primaries in the Republican Party.
Proponents of the “Anybody But Trump” school argue that his nomination would be catastrophic for conservatism. That may be true, but conservatism as a national program is more likely to survive Trump than it is Hillary or Sanders.
There are important lessons in the rise of Trump. Learning those lessons would make conservatives stronger, not weaker. And refusing to learn those lessons will not make conservatism any stronger.
The most basic of those lessons is to fight hard. Voters choose fighters over ideological purists. That’s human nature and conservatives, unlike liberals, have always recognized the reality of human nature. If conservatives want to win ideological victories, they have to fight harder politically, but without losing sight of the things that they are fighting for above the ordinary pettiness of the political contest.
Trump Derangement Syndrome is obsessive and unhealthy. Critics match what they see as Trump’s inflated sense of self-importance with an equal conviction of his importance as a destroyer. But Trump cannot destroy the conservative movement. Only conservatives can do that.
Bush Derangement Syndrome destroyed the Democratic Party. Even moderate Democrats were suddenly willing to make common cause with the most radical elements of the left and Islam out of the conviction that President Bush had to be stopped at any cost. They lost sight of the real threats to the country, handed over their political party to leftist radicals and billionaires, and gave us Obama.
Trump Derangement Syndrome could give the country eight years of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Or someone even worse. Conservatives understand human weaknesses and the importance of overcoming them. Trump Derangement Syndrome is not a conservative response. And if it allows the left to win, then it becomes treason against conservative ideals and the conservative movement.