Is President Trump “Gaslighting” The Democrats?

The Democrats have stuck to a single, overriding narrative since Donald Trump’s stunning election last November: This man is crazy. I am beginning to suspect that this viewpoint might be missing by a mile—he could, in fact, be crazy like a fox.

“Gaslighting” is a slang term derived from the famous 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, and its various definitions boil down to this: Engaging in actions designed to drive someone insane through misdirection or intimidation. As unseemly as it was to the political class who considered him an oafish outsider with no chance of winning, Donald Trump proved to be a master of manipulation during the primary and general election campaigns, driving his opponents to the heights of exasperation with derisive nicknames (“Little Marco” and “Crooked Hillary” spring immediately to mind), inflammatory Tweets, and barbed responses designed to needle his opponents to the point where they became rattled and lost focus. We saw this strategy work again and again during both the Republican and Presidential debates. Few seemed to notice the method beneath Trump’s seeming madness—all the while assuring themselves he had no chance of winning—and were shocked when he vaulted over the aghast political establishment and won the Presidency.

Not much has changed since Donald Trump took his place in the Oval Office. In fact, both Republicans and Democrats have often been confused and unamused because President Trump has seemed to go out of his way to pick fights where conflict could easily have been avoided. Very often these fights were over relatively inconsequential matters, the size of his crowd at the Inauguration being a perfect example. Many Executive Orders, such as Trump’s attempts to restrict immigration from mostly Muslim countries, were typically seen as red meat thrown to his slobbering base of “Deplorables”, and immediately provoked a race to the courthouse by his opponents to seek restraining orders, which were promptly and repeatedly granted. Trump’s efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare have also proved a slog that still has many difficult and rocky challenges ahead—with no guarantee of victory. Every time Trump has been proved wrong or stopped in his tracks, the Progressive Left has chortled knowingly—certain of their ultimate victory over this buffoonish upstart.

However, I am beginning to wonder if we are seeing the greatest long game in recent Presidential history unfold before our very eyes.

First off, President Trump’s words, actions, and demeanor have served to transform the loyal opposition into the unhinged opposition. The shouting and foot stomping of the self-styled “Resistance” have only served to marginalize the Social Justice Warriors, and many on the Left have become so incensed that they have abandoned all nuance or objectivity when proclaiming their undying opposition to Donald Trump and the very air he breathes.

Engaging in continuing venomous attacks on anyone who might appear to be the least supportive of a position taken by Mr. Trump wins very few new allies, and completely abandoning any pretense of conversation and compromise has likely further weakened the Democrats. For example, recent Democratic rants about purging the party of pro-lifers, which some polls indicate comprise fully 25% of the party’s supporters, is a fantastically self-destructive exercise that only makes sense to those who have lost any ability to respect differing opinions. Vindictive rage is never going to help anyone make new friends or influence people, and the fact that not everyone seems to share their seething anger has prompted many progressive Democrats to hurl yet more inflammatory accusations at the average American regarding their ingrained racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and overall awfulness. Seems like a pretty dumb way to win over hearts and minds—so score one for Mr. Trump when the 2018 midterm elections come around.

In addition, it is only now becoming apparent to many that, off the radar and with little fanfare, President Trump has been reviewing, vetting, and prepping a huge slate of nominees for federal judgeships.

How big of a deal is this? Really big, I would say. During his entire 8 years in office, President Obama put roughly 329 judges on the federal bench; at this moment, only a few months into his term, President Trump already has over 120 vacant seats to fill. In four—or perhaps eight—years Donald Trump could put a conservative stamp on the federal courts that could last for the next forty or so years. Add to this the likelihood that Trump will likely nominate at least two more Supreme Court Justices, and it quickly becomes blindingly clear that while so many were marching around the nation wearing silly hats and chanting about “crazy Donald”, he was quietly laying the foundations of a judicial revolution. I am not entirely certain how this will play out in the long run, but President Trump is quickly transforming the political DNA of America. Although his vociferous political opponents will insist that this transformation is more akin to a cancerous mutation, our entire national conversation has shifted in a startlingly short period of time.

Which brings us to the recent firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey.

We are very much in the “too soon to know” phase of whether this is simply bare-knuckled Washington politics or something more nefarious, but one need only read the Chicken Little commentaries in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Salon—or listen to the apocalyptic press conferences on Capitol Hill—to know that President Trump has once more driven his political opponents to dizzying heights of indignation. What, of course, is yet more frustrating for the Democrats is that they have been yowling for Comey’s scalp for months because he “threw” the Presidential election to Trump with his somewhat bizarre investigative techniques surrounding Hillary Clinton’s email scandal—so the Democrats end up seeming to disagree simply to disagree. It must be maddening to now be defending the very man whom you believe cost your party the White House, and this seems to me to be yet one more example of President Trump driving his opponents stark raving mad with his actions.

If they keep on in this manner—the Democrats huffing and puffing and trying to blow down President Trump—the symbol of the Democratic Party might soon need to change from a donkey to a straitjacket. It is impossible to maintain this fever pitch of rage for long before average Americans will begin to start tuning out the overwrought rhetoric and getting on with their daily lives. Unless Trump’s political opponents can very soon find some scandalous fire to justify all their enraged smoke, the Republican Party—with Donald Trump in the lead—is going to roll right over the exhausted and disheartened Democrats in 2018.

Gaslighting, indeed….

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