Politics & Policy

The Season of Liberal Panic

(Dreamstime image: Kiosea39)
The Left’s apocalyptic hysteria in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory is unhealthy and politically counterproductive.

A presidential victory by a candidate you detest isn’t supposed to be the end of the world — or the end of your world.

Yet since November, the panicked reaction from progressives seems to be intensifying instead of passing. Over at Out, an activist declares, “It’s the early days of AIDS all over again.” Senator Bob Menendez describes “fear and panic in the immigrant community,” with those living in the country illegally selling off their possessions and preparing to move quickly. The Week asks whether Trump’s presidency will “quash scientific progress in America.”

The media are filled with anecdotes of more personal hysteria: Stress eating is making some Americans gain the “Trump Ten” extra pounds. A Los Angeles sex therapist said her female clients have told her the election killed their libido. Hairstylists in Washington report more women wanting dramatic changes to their haircuts and colors. Even those whose professional role is to help people cope with stress find themselves overwhelmed. A therapist asked, “How can I treat patients when the world is spinning out of control?”

Do these people need a hug, or to be vigorously shaken and told to snap out of it? They’re experiencing a colossal emotional transformation even though nothing has actually changed in their day-to-day lives. They are exactly the same people they were on November 8. Everything they had the day before — their smarts (or lack thereof), their work ethic, their skills, their passions, their vision — is still there. Trump’s election didn’t do anything to them. And yet they’re reacting to the election like they’ve been physically assaulted.

These stress-eating, sex-forsaking, anxiety-attack-ridden souls’ sense of identity and self-worth is obviously tied up with the success of the Democratic party, their partisan identification so psychologically intense that their physiological condition changes depending upon election outcomes.

They apparently also suffer from short memories. They forget that the situation was reversed eight years ago, and reversed again eight years before then, and eight years before then. You would think Democrats would take some solace from how quickly fortunes changed for the Republicans. At this time eight years ago, the defeat of both the Republican party and the conservative movement appeared complete and unlikely to be reversed for a long time. In 2009, Newsweek’s cover declared, “We Are All Socialists Now.” Tom Davis lamented that the GOP had become “a white, rural, regional party.” Political scientists discussed an emerging “permanent Democratic majority.” President Obama greeted Republican objections to his stimulus bill with a simple “I won,” asserting that the debate was over.

History teaches us that Republican control of Washington will not last forever.

We don’t know precisely what the future holds, but history teaches us that Republican control of Washington will not last forever. The last three midterms have brought giant swings, as voters recoil from what they just endorsed two years earlier. Colossal defeats tend to motivate people. The early decisions of the Obama administration of 2009 provided the catalyst for the Tea Party movement; a 2010 survey of Tea Party leaders found they were “driven by an overwhelming, often personal, feeling that future generations’ well-being weighs on their shoulders.” The early years of Obama stirred Republicans to seek office; in 2010, the GOP had a candidate running in 430 districts, the most in 30 years.

Democrats may not be able to win a comparable comeback in 2018, but their party and activists will have better days ahead. The speed of that recovery, however, will be partially dependent upon the Left’s ability to move on from its post-election malaise and focus on the fights to come. Treating every Trump decision as another sign of national and personal apocalypse is psychologically unhealthy and politically counterproductive.

#related#Look, we on the right feel your pain, progressives. Your party lost an election you’re absolutely convinced they should have won? We’ve been there. You think the media took it easy on the opposing candidate, was easily distracted by trivial non-stories, and relentlessly harsh on your candidate? Trust us, we can relate. You’re worried that the country you knew and loved and grew up in is being replaced by a tawdry, easily distracted, ill-informed, narcissistic facsimile? We know what that’s like.

But we’re here to tell you that wallowing in your instinctive feelings of impending doom is the wrong way to deal with defeat. You can’t see the better days ahead with your chins in your chests. And if you can’t see them, you can’t reach them.

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