Not too long ago, a friend very familiar with my column opined that when I write about “deranged Trump bashers” it appears that I mean anyone critical of the former president is deranged. I explained that I think our readers are far more perceptive than that and realize that’s not the case. Accordingly, I never clarified, as I figured I’d be stating the obvious.
Nonetheless, this week’s topic presents a relevant opportunity to make it clear, just in case anyone’s confused. Here goes: when I speak of millions of sufferers of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS), I don’t mean that all or even most Trump critics, even harsh ones, are deranged. By the same token, this piece focuses on their counterparts, whom I call Deranged Trump Supporters (DTS), and again, I don’t deem deranged all or most of his backers.
In other words, a very large but less squeaky component of the American electorate that’s either pro- or anti-Trump doesn’t fall into either of the fringe TDS and DTS categories. In case that wasn’t clear before, I hope it is now.
I recently analyzed numerous media reports bearing the misleading clickbait headline ‘Trump Supported Hanging Mike Pence’ or one essentially identical. Digging deeper reveals that a source “who was briefed” about the January 6 Committee hearings told the New York Times that he learned witnesses testified that then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told his colleagues that Trump seemed to support the idea of hanging Pence, though the article acknowledged that Trump’s tone was in question, so it easily could have been a classic Trumpian quip intended as an insult but certainly not meant literally.
The litany of headlines should have better represented that this was a “he said, they said, he said Trump said something maybe in jest or in earnest.”
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, in his foreword to my book Trumped-Up Charges! – which is less pro-Trump than an expose on media malpractice – dubbed me “the watchdog of the media.” Thankfully, I’m not alone in that role, but I try to do my part as often as possible. This installment, though, is mainly about TDS and DTS, not journalism’s significant descent to unprofessional hackdom.
Sensible people, whether they’re happy or sad that Trump is no longer in office, understand that he didn’t actually support the idea of a lynch mob stringing up the vice president by his neck and murdering him. Really, he didn’t. As for the TDS and DTS extremists, I don’t know who’s scarier.
True to their anti-Trump obsession, the TDS sufferers really think Trump would’ve condoned such a t
hing, or maybe only feebly would’ve pretended to try to prevent it, because he’s so unhinged and so bent on getting his way that he would’ve thought Pence deserved it. That’s right: millions of Americans believe that a person who held our nation’s most exalted office actually would have behaved that way.
But it gets worse: a bunch of other people – and I hope to God they’re not in the millions too – not only believe Trump literally meant such a thing, but they applaud him for it. The DTSs claim that Pence is a traitor to the country, and the appropriate consequence for traitors is hanging.
The reason it’s important to rehash the messy 2020 election and the ugly events of January 6 is because both the TDS and DTS crowds play a pivotal role in the 2024 presidential outcome. Both are diametrically opposed to what I call the Wall Street Journal point of view: namely, that the Journal’s editorial board would most likely vote for Trump in 2024 against just about any Democrat – even though they fall just short of admitting it out loud – but wish that a Republican with a Trumpian platform but with much less abrasiveness would emerge as the nominee, much like Ronald Reagan did in 1980 to win in a landslide against Jimmy Carter, the president nowadays most compared to presumptive 2024 Democratic candidate and incumbent Joe Biden. Some of the Journal’s op-ed writers are not-so-subtly slipping Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ name into the conversation with increasing frequency.
The DTS group stands firmly against the Journal’s point of view, and is more aligned with pillow salesman Mike Lindell and his “mountains of evidence” of election fraud that are stuck in neutral, just like O.J. Simpson’s vow to catch his wife’s real killers. I join them in rejecting Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, whose “courage” to excoriate Trump is laughably transparent as being nothing more than self-serving political opportunism. But if a nominee emerges like, say, Chris Christie or Marco Rubio, who doesn’t particularly criticize Trump, though breaks with him insofar as not calling 2020 a phony result based on widespread fraud, I’ll cast my vote for him over just about any Democrat I can think of.
But the DTS gang will stay home, thinking the situation is hopeless. Just like they did in Georgia after Trump told them it was “rigged,” resulting in two unlikely Democrat wins that secured that party’s Senate majority.
Trump’s political acumen remains a story for the ages. How in 2016 he bested a field of 16 other Republicans, including five senators and nine governors, and then sent the vaunted Clinton Political Machine into permanent retirement was remarkable. But he’s far from perfect, and one of his biggest miscalculations was holding on to his DTS bunch – who think the Clintons really operate a baby-eating, blood-drinking Satanic cult from the dungeon of a DC pizza parlor – instead of disowning them and thereby attracting a much wider swath of undecided voters sick of hearing that math is racist, binary pronouns are sexist, and the police should be defunded.