Explaining the Narcissistic Rage of the Left
How to account for the scorched-earth hatred of Donald Trump?
He inspires a darkly fanatical dislike, disapproval, and disgust in his most ardent detractors. He is a distillation for millions of unhappy Americans of all things repugnant, repulsive, and wretched. The fever pitch at which he has been mocked, ridiculed, condemned, and threatened is beyond anything anyone in living memory has been subject to – let alone a sitting American president. From Colbert's "holster" to Madonna's fantasy of blowing up the White House to Kathy Griffin's decapitation stunt, and De Niro's thug life wish to "punch him in the face," the gloves are most certainly off – if only to better grasp a bludgeon. And that's just the celebrities. Even a state senator from Missouri hoped for Trump's assassination on Facebook.
Why such unabated arch-loathing? One possibility is that Trump's triumph dealt the progressive left a narcissistic injury from which they are still reeling. Is there another explanation for why previously sober, thoughtful Americans have abandoned the rational in such numbers?
The elite see their virtue, rectitude, and moral superiority reflected back to them in the films, newspapers, advertisements, TV shows, and magazines they themselves create, and it is intoxicating – a gauzy reverie of self-ratifying congratulation. Is it any wonder, after such unmitigated success, that the left is apoplectic about having its echo chamber shattered by a barbarian like Trump?
The belief system of the progressive left includes the shared understanding that leftists have been anointed to determine what is good and right in American life and what is not. Their candidate was ordained to hold the highest office in the land as the inevitable consequence of this orthodoxy. That belief system was shattered at 2:30 AM on November 3, 2016, when the Associated Press called the election for Trump.
Cue shock, horror, denial, and a rage that might be termed the VSO – the Veruca Salt Option. Named after the spoiled rich girl in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, whose nuclear tantrums at not getting what she wants result in her being literally relegated to the nut bin, the Veruca Salt Option is an apt descriptor for the infantilizing behaviors many on the left have engaged in following Trump's unthinkable electoral college win.
Exhibit A was the spectacle of a "women's march," featuring a sea of resisters in the bright pink, knit wool "vagina" hats of first-graders – a march that hypocritically and explicitly excluded pro-life women. Further instances of acting out included Reza Azlan of CNN calling Trump a "piece of [s---]," Maxine Waters's unhinged calls for impeachment mere months into the new administration, and Johnny Depp's mumble-joke about assassinating the president.
The groupthink that the most qualified nominee in history was unbeatable begat a bubble that Trump popped like a schoolyard bully. In the parlance of the day, this "triggered" leftists throughout the land into dyspeptic, unbecoming tirades that have made for some galling exposures of untethered ultra-bias in media and political personalities. This is a familiar strategy for a wounded narcissist: blame others, rage, and attack. But it's disheartening to see it manifest so baldly.
The specter of Trump in all his gloaming menace, spouting his incendiary, charm-challenged rhetoric, only serves to further infuriate those already suffering great spasms of hate. Taking exception to a man whose policies you find abhorrent is understandable, but when did the left – in the words of David Byrne – stop making sense?
Trump is in favor of redefining marriage, has a ten-point plan for renewal of the inner city, employs more women than men as executives in his businesses, has been married to two immigrants, and has a Jewish daughter and three Jewish grandchildren. These would seem to put the lie to claims Trump is racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ. So why, given these many things on which his opponents might agree with the president, are they unmoved to acknowledge common ground?
Intellectual dishonesty is possible. Sheer hatred is more likely. Democratic representative Brad Sherman admitted that the animus against the president is so strong in the California legislature, for example, that he would be forced to oppose Mother's Day if Trump supported it. Trump's win was not only a repudiation of globalism, elitism, and Obamism, but also a devastating rebuke to the core identity of the left. The rage and denial are, in some ways, easy to understand.
In spite of or because of their outsized antipathy for Trump, this might have been an important moment for the Democratic left to undertake a clear-eyed accounting of why they lost an un-losable election. Instead of honest forensics on their efforts, the left became a verb and began flame-throwing the administration early and often with an impressively hateful and single-minded campaign. But a funny thing happened on the way to impeachment: Democrats stopped standing for anything at all, other than pitched loathing and hysteria.
The Democrats of old, authors of the flawed but well intentioned Great Society programs and champions of working-class Americans, have self-abnegated in recent years to become ghosts of their own past. Riven with identity politics, the progressive left is shot through with a central hypocrisy: that diversity is revered above all things – except for diversity of thought, which is reviled. This core intolerance has resulted in an abasement of everything for which the left formerly stood.
The real-time destruction of the left has been brought about by the wrecking ball that is Donald J. Trump. He represents the razing of everything they stand for – for the impeccably curated façade of caring, competence, and open-mindedness the left has traded on for decades. The tragedy of it is Greek in proportion.
The left, and the many "conscientious conservatives" who Venn-diagram them, have lost power, influence, and reason like gouts of blood from the infliction of this narcissistic wound. With historically few seats held in Congress and at the state level; no cogent message beyond "Trump is a goat rodeo on fire"; and a series of perverse policy positions on immigration, the First Amendment, and school choice, the Democrats have now reached a watershed moment. Do the progressive left and the elites who lead them acknowledge that political correctness, however worthy it might have been, has Frankensteined into a kind of creeping McCarthyism? Do they unpack this slow-motion train wreck of a once consequential party to seek the truth of their own responsibility for its demise – or do they continue to resist? (And by resist, I mean tantrum.)
I'm rooting for them – every yin needs a yang. But the odds on entitled brats evolving into mature adults who take responsibility for their actions aren't great. Why take a long, hard look in the mirror when you can smash that mirror instead – and unleash the Veruca within?