Topic: Politics & Elections
You needn’t look very far to find evidence of Political Derangement Syndrome or PDS. It boxes the political compass, from the fever swamps of the loony left to the dugouts and bunkers of the alt.right. Its signs and symptoms are visible everywhere. Few seem immune.
A recent outbreak of PDS centered around the GA 06 special congressional election. For weeks we were told that a referendum on the deeply unpopular President Donald J. Trump was shaping up in that Georgia congressional district, which Trump had barely carried in November. Also, it would for the GOP be a harbinger of disaster in the 2018 midterm elections. The broad Left (Democrats, liberals, progressives, the antifa mob) convinced themselves that their candidate, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker with no political experience named John Ossoff, could flip what had long been a safe Republican district. And indeed, in the first go-round, Ossoff raked in 48% of the vote against a field of some fifteen GOP candidates. In last week’s runoff against Republican Karen Handel he was widely expected to pick up the handful of extra votes needed to bring off an upset.
But the election-eve polls showed a tight race with a statistically insignificant lead for Handel. Gritting their teeth, Dem-friendly pundits and journalists forecast a long night and a squeaker of a victory for Ossoff. Because how could he lose? Trump had only carried GA 06 by one percent! And nobody likes the guy!
Then came Election Day. The race was called at 11 pm. Karen Handel beat John Ossoff by four points.
Well, so what? Everybody makes mistakes! That’s true enough, though in retrospect there were many reasons to think that the election would turn out more or less as it did. But in their detestation of Trump, the Dems and the media blinded themselves to the probabilities. Their predictions of an Ossoff victory, buttressed by reams of learned analysis, turned out to be the rationalization of a wish with a price tag of $24 million. That in itself was a manifestation of PDS— but merely the preliminary sniffle.
Even as the dust of crushed Democratic and media hopes was still settling, reality was being twisted into a new shape. It was rather like the scene in Nineteen Eighty-four when a Party orator, haranguing the crowd on the theme of Eurasian war crimes, suddenly and without breaking rhetorical stride shifts to a denunciation of Eastasian war crimes. Oceania, Mr. Orwell remarks mordantly, was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally. And in the case of Ossoff versus Handel it turned out that GA 06 was GOP turf. GA 06 had always been GOP turf. Ossoff never had a prayer.
That the new reality pretty much reflected reality does the broad Left and the media no particular credit. They adopted it only when their preferred reality didn’t work out. And they adopted it with scarcely a blush of chagrin. Suddenly this was what they had been saying all along: that GA 06 was a safe GOP seat, that Ossoff was probably going to lose, that the outcome wasn’t predictive of what would happen in the 2018 midterms, and that the broad Left had known this all along.
Observing in a Quora answer that Democratic hopes has come to naught in GA 06, I myself was treated to a smarmy little lecture from another Quora denizen. Stuff and nonsense, she said in effect. Are we downhearted? No! We expected Ossoff to come up short. And besides, these special elections tell you nothing about the shape of electoral things to come. And so on and so forth. I was tempted to ask why, if all this was known, the Dems had poured $24 million into Ossoff’s campaign. But to what purpose? With crystal clarity, this comment on my answer paraded all the destructive, self-deceiving folly that PDS implants in the human brain. Contradicting it with a fact would have been an exercise in futility.
You see much the same thing when some Trump fanboy or -girl, confronted with the latest example of their hero’s instability or dishonesty, tortures it into some wonderfully convoluted political masterstroke. PDS makes a person impervious to facts, contemptuous of evidence and blind to elementary reality. What Trump is, and is not, is pretty clear—obvious even. But a supposedly savvy journalist like Mika Brzezinski thinks—and what is more, says on the air—that she sees in the President an aspiring dictator along the lines of North Korea’s Kim Jon Um. This bespeaks a definite abnormality of mind, albeit one that is, no doubt, confined to the sphere of politics. Certainly it explains why so much of what you read or see concerning politics turns out to be dead wrong. All those credentialed pundits and savvy journalists suffer from PDS.
The corruption of our political culture—its triviality, crudity, dishonesty, sneering viciousness—is roundly decried. Much less remarked upon is the malady that underlies all these vices: the disconnect from reality that enables otherwise sane and decent people to behave like bullies and idiots, all the while remaining convinced that they’re enlightened, virtuous and heroic. Political Derangement Syndrome: It’s hazardous to America’s civic and spiritual health.