Our Very Own Mad King

For whatever the duration of the Trump Administration, it appears we are doomed to repeatedly hear of Trump’s madness. The plot device of the “Mad King” is what set up the entire narrative of Game of Thrones and appears to similarly be one of the defining plot lines used against President Donald J. Trump. Kathy Griffin may just have been alluding to herself as the King Slayer in her poorly reasoned behead shot.

I can’t open my browser without seeing new headlines following the plot twists of our very own Mad King. “As Trump Erupts In Crazy, Most Republicans Hold Fast — For Now” screeches Huffpost. Pedigreed Thomas Friedman muses “Trump: Crazy Like a Fox, or Just Crazy?”. Just today The Hill reports “Washington Post writer: Serious concerns about the president’s mental stability”.

Yet, I fear that making President Trump the poster child for mental illness will only further stigmatize those that suffer from mental health conditions. Stigma against those with mental health conditions make this vulnerable population far less likely to seek the care that could greatly ameliorate their symptoms.

The real problem with President Trump is one of entitlement. His righteousness originates from being so privileged that he could always sue if he didn’t get his way and he didn’t actually need the requisite qualifications for the presidency because he’s surrounded by similarly self-interested sycophants. If anything is irrational it is the structure that allows Trump to believe he is above the law, can infringe upon the foundational principles of American democracy and infinitely contradict himself to such a degree that it is the carnival fun house mirrors that he’ll be shattering. A Trump presidency is the culmination of a political structure that can be bought because of the Citizens United ruling, allows industries to write their own laws and politicians to choose their own voters.

For such a blustering bully, President Trump sure doesn’t know how to effectively use a bully pulpit. Yet, in denunciations of his “mad” reign there are those that are denigrating a sizable subsection of the U.S. population. This is because an estimated 1 in 5 people in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in a given year. People with mental health conditions run the gamut from doctors to the chronically homeless, yet continuing to typecast them all as “mad” makes many far less likely to accept a diagnosis and receive treatment.

People with a mental health condition already have to deal with perceptions that they are essentially erratic, bananas, demented, and/or psycho. Yet, conflating having a mental health condition with a Trump presidency also infers that having a mental health condition makes a person essentially immoral. By minimizing Trump’s, as Ben Carson would say, “state of mind” we are underestimating the persistent strategic drive of his political agenda. Although, Trump’s strategy is often sidelined by his overvaluation of his negotiating skills, which have undermined his current political record to that of mostly symbolic achievements.

Trump is apathetic to the historical precedence of the office of the presidency and is always operating at a deficit to better statesmen. Yet, these factors buoy his brash and unbridled style that ultimately won him the White House. His election was a rejection of the status quo and dismissing him as “mentally unstable” further emboldens those that wear the deplorable label with pride. If we know anything about social norms it is that anything in the pantheon of human history can become worshiped as the new normal.

The crux of my argument is that we cannot underestimate the strategic agenda of the Trump Administration by dismissing him as “unstable”, we cannot conflate immoral behavior with having a mental health condition, and we cannot be dismissive of the threat of those that are deifying Trump in such a way that a large swath of our population can only “receive” the good word from him. Have you heard the fake news?

We have already seen Trump supporters weaponized against a free press, against checks and balances, against long standing democratic allies in favor of authoritarian regimes, against minorities in the U.S. and against climate policies that effect friend and foe alike. Trump supporters hyperbolic rationale is that to “To save the union we must abandon our principles.” Yet, I would not mischaracterize these millions of followers as insane. It is precisely the way in which their political support for Trump is normalized that is frightening. The issue with having a charismatic leader is that even sane people can become enchanted by the cult leader and autonomously do the leader’s bidding. Unfortunately, Ivanka is no Daenerys. Ivanka is not the mother of dragons, but is the daughter of the draconian.