Even in Defeat, the Specter of Trump Haunts his Critics

With his presidency coming down to a matter of weeks, Trump’s refusal to admit defeat has unleashed vitriol the likes of which I’ve never seen before. His critics should be careful not to become the very thing they hate.

I don’t know what it is about President Donald Trump, but even in defeat, he retains the ability to drive his opponents insane. Over the past few years, I have heard a constant barrage of abuse heaped on Trump from just about everyone, and he’s given a healthy dose of it himself. You’d think, after all that time, after it became clear that he was only going to be president for another couple of months, his opponents would breathe a sigh of relief and take a break.

But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

Consider the case of Richard L. Eldredge and Damon Linker, two adult, college-educated men (I assume) who can form coherent arguments from complete sentences. In other words, they’re not banging out epithet-laden rants in all caps. However, when it comes to President Trump, these writers jettison all logic, rationality, and self-awareness.

Writing for The Week, Damon Linker argues that Trump is a “demonic force” literally equivalent to Satan (not literally, he says, but seriously). “Donald Trump is the demon in American democracy.” Why? Because this man who has come to define everything debauched and twisted in Linker’s mind didn’t just vanish from the White House when news outlets proclaimed Joe Biden the winner. It turned out Trump would still be president for two more months, and he continued to act like Trump has for the past four years.

Linker’s description of President Trump reaches Lovecraftian heights of hyperbole, calling him dangerous, narcissistic, satanic, chaotic, and even “a maestro conducting a cacophony of animosities.”

I have no idea what it’s like to be that obsessed with someone.

Writing at CNN, Richard L. Eldredge, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine, publicly asked his relatives whether destroying their relationship was worth voting for President Trump. “Was your blind loyalty to President Donald Trump, a person you’ve never met, worth burning our family to the ground?” he asks.

His one example of an argument that led to a relative “unfriending” him on Facebook was over Melania Trump’s decision to remain with her son in New York City to finish the school year, and the extra cost to Secret Service this would incur. I’m not kidding. Of all the things Trump and his family have said and done for the past four years, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Or maybe it was Eldredge choosing to call anyone disagreeing with his post on the subject a “hypocrite”, since not many people like to be insulted and belittled by their loved ones.

“The invitations to your holiday gatherings stopped coming,” he writes. “Your daughter got married and I wasn’t invited. We haven’t spoken since 2017.”

Somehow I think that has less to do with his family’s support for President Trump and more to do with Eldredge’s own intolerance for anyone who disagrees with him. It was Eldredge who drew a line in the sand and decided support for Trump was a moral question requiring absolute conformity to his point of view, and anyone who disagreed was therefore just as horrible as the nightmarish caricature that keeps him awake at night.

All his relatives have to do to heal their relationship, he says, is to personally apologize to him for their political beliefs and for voting for Donald Trump. For some reason, I don’t think he’s going to get that phone call or text message anytime soon.

Nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wroteWer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird.” Meaning, “Whoever fights with monsters should see that he does not become a monster.” In other words, be careful not to get dragged down into the abyss with your opponent.

These two writers have become the very type of person they thought they were fighting against: hate-filled, bigoted, intolerant, humorless, and unemphatic. They have allowed their obsession with one man to consume their thoughts, destroy their relationships, and even ruin their jubilation over finally defeating him. Only time will tell whether, in the absence of Trump, they find peace or a new object of hatred.

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