Sunday, January 6, 2019
Through a Glass Darkly: What Nietzsche Might Say About Trump Derangement Syndrome
Frederick Nietzsche had wise and enduring counsel for prosecutors, witch hunters, and grand inquisitors of all political, moral, moralistic stripes.
“Beware of hunting monsters, lest you become one,” Nietzsche warned. “And when you stare too long into the abyss, don’t be surprised if the abyss stares back at you.”
The insight is especially pertinent for the anti-Trump “Resistance,” which is evolving into something just a little bit less high-minded and idealistic than its leadership originally intended.
Although the Resistance was born in the spirit of principled opposition to what it contended was a man and a movement that were political monstrosities, it has become a kind of ogre in its own right. Over the almost two years of the Trump presidency, that Resistance—aided and abetted by its enablers in the media and in academia—has come to mirror many of the same vulgar, violent, and authoritarian impulses it condemned Trump for representing and—worse—for “normalizing.”
It’s unclear if we are on the edge of a political abyss. But the left does seem like it has come to embody many of the same things it has insisted are evidence of Trump’s various pathologies. It’s as if it’s refracting its own tactics, rhetoric, and strategies through a glass darkly, with the Resistance taking on the same deranged, malevolent tendencies that it so loathes in the president. In effect, it’s reproducing many of the things it’s trying to thwart, practicing what they’re supposed to be preaching .
Writing in The New York Times just after the inauguration, columnist saw the pattern emerging early on, and understood its implications:
“The danger for the established press is the same danger facing other institutions in our republic: that while believing themselves to be nobly resisting Trump, they end up imitating him.
“This mirroring is a broad danger, applying to more institutions than the press. Trump comes to power as a destroyer of norms, a flouter of conventions, and everyone will be tempted to join the carnival—to escalate when he escalates, to radicalize whenever he turns authoritarian.”
Such a dynamic, Douthat insisted, “is more likely to polarize than to persuade, which means it does a demagogue’s work for him.”
As the midterms approach, instead of merely “knowing one’s enemy” as warriors are taught, the Resistance has its enemy, breaching all sorts of political and democratic norms even as it hops up and down with its hair on fire about the norms that Trump has breached.
Flashback to June 2015: Almost as soon as Trump finished declaring his candidacy in the lobby of Trump Tower in the summer of 2015, the media branded him as a fearmongering demagogue, a stalking horse for white resentment and status anxiety who would bring on anti-democratic disaster…