It’s not just liberal Democrats who’ve been horribly traumatized by Trump. Indeed, some Republicans have gone off-record as saying they hope he dies before the 2024 election—which, given his obvious drag on GOP candidates’ prospects, is not all that surprising. Add longtime GOP pollster and strategist Frank Luntz to the list of conservatives who’d probably prefer that a milquetoast candidate like Mike Pence secure the 2024 GOP nomination. Sure, they might still lose, but they wouldn’t develop four different kinds of ulcers trying to explain why he’s now moving to the center by trying to carve out an abortion exception for 6-foot, 5-inch fetuses named Eric.
In a recent interview, Luntz, who’s devoted his career to making Republican policies appear less benighted and awful, talked about how Trump—a monster whom, let’s be honest, Luntz helped create—literally gave him a stroke. RELATED STORY: A catalog of capital incompetence: The short list of things Donald Trump did to kill America
“Donald Trump made my head explode,” he said.
In early 2020, Luntz checked himself into a hospital after a tingling in his arm crept up his shoulder and began to spread across his face. Doctors told him his blood pressure was an alarming 197 over 122 and that he had suffered a stroke. His lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits didn’t help, but a lot of it had to do with stress and the fact that when Luntz got upset about the state of the world, he was less likely to take his blood-pressure medicine. He was at that time constantly upset about the state of the world. He blamed Trump.
“I had a stroke because of Trump,” Luntz said. “I didn’t have the guts to speak out enough about him, and it drove me crazy. Every time I spoke out, I felt the backlash, I felt it on social media, I felt it a little bit with my clients, I felt it with my friends here.”
It’s hard to feel sorry for Luntz, given that he’s been greasing the skids for fascism for decades. But his example does help illustrate how bad Trump has been for many people’s mental as well as physical health—particularly during the peak of the pandemic.
Perhaps the best way to describe how most of us have felt over the past eight years—that is, since Donald Trump glided down his gilded escalator like a papaya messiah alighting at our unwashed plebeian feet—is that it’s a lot like driving down a two-lane highway at night with a bee trapped in your car. You don’t know if you’ll get stung five times in the eyeball or accidentally drive into oncoming traffic. Either way, it’s going to be an awful ride, and there’s no way to know if you’ll reach your destination—or what that destination even is.
For instance, this January 2021 Vox story details just how on edge Americans were after four years of Trump in the White House.
While Trump was able to energize a core of supporters with his mix of bravado, defiance, and racism, for many others, his presidency was, quite simply, scary. In the American Psychological Association’s 2016 “Stress in America” survey, 63 percent of Americans said the future of the country was a “significant source of stress,” and 56 percent said they were stressed out by the current political climate. In the 2018 version of the survey, those numbers went up to 69 percent and 62 percent, respectively.
Clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning even coined the term “Trump anxiety disorder” to describe the stress many people were feeling in the weeks and months following the 2016 election. “People tended to experience things like ruminations, like worries of what’s going to be next” as they awaited each new tweet or action by the president, Panning told Vox.
Meanwhile, anyone who’s ever been in an abusive relationship was likely retraumatized by Trump’s crass rhetorical methods.
Trump also subjected people in America and around the world to language and tactics used by abusers, Farrah Khan, a gender justice advocate and manager of the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University in Canada, told Vox. That includes gaslighting (like when he claimed that the official Covid-19 death tolls were fraudulent, or that the virus would “go away on its own”), lashing out in anger (his perennial rage-tweets about “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT”), and seeking revenge on people for perceived wrongs (his attacks on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after she criticized his administration’s Covid-19 response). In a relationship with an abuser, “you’re constantly hypervigilant to what he’s going to do next,” Khan said. Under Trump’s presidency, that hypervigilance extended to the millions of Americans affected by him and his policies.
And while progressive Americans likely felt Trump’s presence most keenly, Republicans have not been immune to his reverse charms. A widely shared Atlantic story from January gave us a glimpse into GOP thinking and panic in the lead-up to the 2024 election. One anonymously quoted former congressman bluntly noted, “We’re just waiting for him to die.”
“You have a lot of folks who are just wishing for [Trump’s] mortal demise,” [former Republican Rep. Peter] Meijer told me. “I want to be clear: I’m not in that camp. But I’ve heard from a lot of people who will go onstage and put on the red hat, and then give me a call the next day and say, ‘I can’t wait until this guy dies.’ And it’s like, Good Lord.” (Trump’s mother died at 88 and his father at 93, so this strategy isn’t exactly foolproof.)
Of course, simply waiting for another human being to croak so that we don’t become a fascist dystopia isn’t a great strategy (it’s morbid, for one, and a pretty cowardly avenue for people who could simply put country over party and lock arms in opposition to fascism), but you can’t really blame people for the sentiment. Seriously, the guy wanted to pull us out of NATO and, among other gobsmacking inanities, once suggested to his chief of staff that we could nuke North Korea and blame it on someone else—an idea he no doubt arrived at earlier in the day while reading The Family Circus. How is anyone supposed to sleep soundly with a guy like that in the Oval Office? And how are we supposed to relax if there’s even a 1% chance that he might find himself back in power?
After all, Hibernol isn’t real. Or it isn’t yet, I should say. Though the pharmaceutical companies may want to get on this tout de suite. I could see a surging demand for this wonder drug the closer we get to November 2024.
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