A few days ago, while enjoying the first real rays of hope for our collective future in almost exactly one year, I happened to read the following article, which prompted me to the realization which I’ve crystallized in the form of the question I’ve posed in my Subject Line, "Addiction to Trump: Is there a cure for this equally dangerous epidemic?".
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/08/donald-trump-johnstown-pennsylvania-supporters-215800‘Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway’ by Michael Kruse In a depressed former steel town, the president’s promises don’t matter as much as they once did.
To make my point, I will first quote the first portion of Kruse’s excellent article, and then return with my brief comments afterwards:
“Johnstown, Pa.—Pam Schilling is the reason Donald Trump is the president. Schilling’s personal story is in poignant miniature the story of this area of western Pennsylvania as a whole--one of the long-forgotten, woebegone spots in the middle of the country that gave Trump his unexpected victory last fall. She grew up in nearby Nanty Glo, the daughter and granddaughter of coal miners. She once had a union job packing meat at a grocery store, and then had to settle for less money at Walmart. Now she’s 60 and retired, and last year, in April, as Trump’s shocking political ascent became impossible to ignore, Schilling’s 32-year-old son died of a heroin overdose. She found needles in the pockets of the clothes he wore to work in the mines before he got laid off.
Desperate for change, Schilling, like so many other once reliable Democrats in these parts, responded enthusiastically to what Trump was saying—building a wall on the Mexican border, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, bringing back jobs in steel and coal. That’s what Trump told them. At a raucous rally in late October, right downtown in their minor-league hockey arena, he vowed to restore the mines and the mills that had been the lifeblood of the region until they started closing some 40 years ago, triggering the “American carnage” Trump would talk about in his inaugural address: massive population loss, shrinking tax rolls, communal hopelessness and ultimately a raging opioid epidemic. When Trump won, people here were ecstatic. But they’d heard generations of politicians make big promises before, and they were also impatient for him to deliver.
“Six months to a year,” catering company owner Joey Del Signore told me when we met days after the election. “A couple months,” retired nurse Maggie Frear said, before saying it might take a couple of years. “He’s just got to follow through with what he said he was going to do,” Schilling said last November. Back then, there was an all-but-audible “or else.”
A year later, the local unemployment rate has ticked down, and activity in a few coal mines has ticked up. Beyond that, though, not much has changed—at least not for the better. Johnstown and the surrounding region are struggling in the same ways and for the same reasons. The drug problem is just as bad. “There’s nothing good in the area,” Schilling said the other day in her living room. “I don’t have anything good to say about anything in this area. It’s sad.” Even so, her backing for Trump is utterly undiminished: “I’m a supporter of him, 100 percent.”
What I heard from Schilling is overwhelmingly what I heard in my follow-up conversations with people here who I talked to last year as well. Over the course of three rainy, dreary days last week, I revisited and shook hands with the president’s base—that thirtysomething percent of the electorate who resolutely approve of the job he is doing, the segment of voters who share his view that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt” that “has nothing to do with him,” and who applaud his judicial nominees and his determination to gut the federal regulatory apparatus. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how readily these same people had abandoned the contract he had made with them. Their satisfaction with Trump now seems untethered to the things they once said mattered to them the most.” END QUOTE FROM KRUSE ARTICLE
Kruse then goes on to present several other short profiles of Trump voters, which convincingly bring home his central thesis, which is that these folks are not very likely to abandon Trump, regardless of what he does, or doesn’t do, during the remainder of his Presidency.
It was while reading that article, particularly the references to the horrific toll suffered from the opioid epidemic which has swept through Trump Country, that I realized, with a shock, that there is a second epidemic, completely intertwined with the addiction to actual opioid drugs, but which, as far as I can ascertain online, has not been identified for what it is by any of the mainstream media.
That is the epidemic of Trump voters hooked on Trump himself! I.e., the “high” which they get on a daily or more frequent basis from following his every Tweet and TV appearance, as well as the tsunami of news coverage that inevitably follows in his huge wake-- and the more outrageous and horrifying the Tweet or quote, the higher the high.
And they get the high regardless of which news outlet they watch. When it’s CNN or MSNBC, they have the deep satisfaction of watching legitimate journalists struggle with the seemingly impossible task of covering a never-ending nightmare, in which they are demonized by Trump & Co. for doing their job well.
But this line of reasoning also identifies Fox News for what it really has become in the Trump Era – the “pusher” which makes its obscene profits from peddling Trump around the clock. Fox News was already dispensing toxic cocktails long before Trump’s rise, but it has clearly taken on an especially lethal addictiveness when the Trump receptor was plugged into the Fox molecule.
And finally, this explains why Trump has never given up appearing at rallies -- the peak high for a Trump addict would seem to be the chance to attend one of his rallies, and experience the Trump high live and in the flesh.
So, given the particularly strong addictiveness of Trump, is there a cure? For those Trump voters who hated Obama, I’d have to say, perhaps not – but for those, like some of those profiled in Kruse’s article, who had voted for Obama at least once before, perhaps it tells us that our next Presidential candidate has to have enough “juice” (i.e., charisma) to act as methadone for Trump addicts – to give them something to replace the high that Trump provides – a positive high of hope for a united America that Obama provided, which the Republican congress did its best to destroy for 8 years.
Can we get enough of those Obama-to-Trump folks to go cold turkey on Trump before it’s too late, so that our government can function? In the face of what we must acknowledge will be a daunting task, I say, yes we can…again.
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter