The Daily Telegraph

Trump’s actions don’t deserve this hysteria

Much of the frenzied liberal opposition to the new president is personal and wildly exaggerate­d

- JOHN BOLTON John Bolton is a former US ambassador to the United Nations

‘Keep Calm and Carry On” read the iconic Second World War morale-boosting poster. Faced with the existentia­l Nazi threat to Western civilisati­on, it was a remarkably placid admonition to the British people, particular­ly in the days that Britain stood alone after Germany’s victory in France.

To listen to some of Donald Trump’s critics today, in America or abroad, you might conclude the West was facing another existentia­l threat. These unhappy souls style themselves not merely as Trump opponents but as “the resistance” – evoking memories of the 1940s French undergroun­d. Yet urging them to “Keep Calm and Carry On” today would simply send them into greater paroxysms of rage and frustratio­n.

What exactly is going on? Are these poor dears correct that life as we know it is under threat, or are their hysterical reactions more reflective of their own fears, inadequaci­es, and, most importantl­y, their Leftist ideologies?

First, we should remember that a large part of the anti-Trump eruption is cultural. Trump is obviously neither a convention­al US politician nor a standard-issue internatio­nal statesman. These difference­s, mostly stylistic but with substantiv­e implicatio­ns, are terribly threatenin­g to his opponents; for his supporters, they are beyond doubt among his most attractive attributes. Trump doesn’t light candles to establishm­ent icons, doesn’t talk the way smooth liberals talk, and most assuredly doesn’t care what America’s mainstream media say. It recalls a cartoon (famous among arms-control sceptics) of Indians on horseback circling a fort in the West, shooting flaming arrows at the wooden structure. A soldier on the parapet turns to another and asks: “Are they allowed to do that?” Trump’s answer is “Yes indeed!”

These cultural deviations have assumed an importance outweighin­g policy shifts like the coming repeal of Obamacare, substantia­l economic deregulati­on, and the demise of the Iran nuclear deal. But that does not reduce the significan­ce of those policy shifts. It merely masks them in a way which is considerab­ly less naive than the usual portrayals of Trump suggest him to be.

Second, there is simply no argument that overwhelmi­ng numbers of Americans across the political spectrum were stunned that Trump beat Hillary Clinton on November 8. One can argue about the accuracy of 2016’s public-opinion polls; one can condemn those dead white males who created the constituti­on’s electoral college; and one can bewail the unfairness that Hillary Clinton has now twice blown politicall­y “certain” victories in presidenti­al contests, but nothing will change the outcome. For “the resistance”, that is the core problem.

Trump and his advisers may have foreseen victory, but the result surprised even most of his supporters. On election night, I was surrounded by vocal Trump fans as well as many conservati­ve “Never Trumpers”. Words can hardly convey the amazed reactions from both camps as it became increasing­ly clear the SS Clinton had hit an unsuspecte­d iceberg, and begun to slide beneath the waves. If that was the reaction among Republican­s, one can only imagine the scene at Clinton’s election-night headquarte­rs, and in Boston, California and university towns across those benighted red states dominating the electoral map.

Can liberals there ever adjust to a loss so big and make it through the seven stages of political grief ? Irrational though it may be, I would bet not. I see them doomed to repeat their November 8 lamentatio­ns for years to come. Like a political Groundhog Day, their hysteria may be permanent.

Such behaviour is not altogether new. The first evidence of such mania appeared in George W Bush’s administra­tion, in what was called “Bush derangemen­t syndrome”, a reaction by liberals who couldn’t stand to listen to that Texas twang or the substance the twang was conveying. There was a parallel derangemen­t syndrome for Republican­s during the Obama years. Trump has now establishe­d his own version, which affects not only liberals but many conservati­ves as well.

For Bush and Obama, however, quite some time passed before the derangemen­t manifested itself, although it only became more acute as time wore on. For Trump, the derangemen­t began even before his inaugurati­on, so its potential dimensions are beyond prediction.

Yet given that Trump has been president less than one month, prudence surely dictates that we proceed not hysterical­ly, but cautiously, in evaluating the new White House. So, steady on, cousins. We have 47 more months to go before Trump’s first term ends. Its first weeks have been considerab­ly more rational than the frenzied outpouring­s they have provoked.

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