First some definitions. When we talk about ODS, or Obama Derangement Syndrome, we are obviously referencing its precursor, BDS — Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Neither phenomenon consists of mere dislike of the policies of the person in question. That’s allowed. One can even distrust the person or think he is lying, if there is evidence for it.
That’s the important part: evidence from behavior in the present. Although we are all emotionally driven in our lives — and there’s nothing wrong with that; who would want to be surrounded by Star Trekian Spocks? — at certain times and places there’s a need to put emotions on the back burner and attempt to evaluate things in the cold harsh light of reason.
Yes, there are reasons to fear that Obama has a far left agenda, based on his history, some of his own statements, and his associations. There are even reasons to believe that whether he does or doesn’t have such an agenda himself, he will lack the inclination (or perhaps the backbone) to stop the far left agenda of those with the power to pass bills — in other words, the hugely Democratic Congress and its leaders Reid and Pelosi.
But I suggest that everyone stand back, take a deep breath, and wait. Wait, and observe. It will become clear enough as Obama chooses a Cabinet and advisers. And then it will become even more clear as he takes office and begins the work of government. More clarity will come as he handles the inevitable crises and tests that will occur on his watch.
The goal of each of us should be to react only to evidence, not fear. That’s not easy. But our task is actually easier than that of our predecessors, the sufferers from BDS. After all, they had an MSM whipping them up into a frenzy twenty-four hours a day. In addition, those on the right have always taken pride in the fact that in their political decisions they are driven more by reason, in contrast to the left’s emotion. Whether or not this is true is not the issue here; the point is that, if conservatives believe it is true, they should act in accordance.
To act in accordance means to act as I wrote recently:
It is necessary both for the sake of the country and our own well-being to give the man a chance to prove those fears wrong. And it is also necessary to hope that he will do so, and to believe that whatever happens, our Constitution and our form of government is not as fragile as all that.
This does not mean that the right should fall asleep at the switch. On the contrary; watchful waiting is the order of the day. The right is correct to start organizing and regrouping and doing a postmortem on what went wrong during this election and during the Bush administration, to avoid future repeats and to emerge stronger. But it only weakens that effort when people fall prey to fears (even seemingly rational ones) and projections.
BDS was a dreadful thing to watch. I agree with Jeffrey Scott Shapiro that it was actually a disgrace — not so much for Bush, who seems unusually resilient in the psychological sense, but for the American people. It did no one any good — not our country, and certainly not those who suffered from it and spread their bile because of it.
As Shapiro writes:
Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty — a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.
Once again, I want to emphasize that we are not talking about mere policy disagreements here. We’re talking about demonizing and trashing a person, ascribing to him the worst motivations possible and imagining conspiracy theories everywhere.
I think this happened to a certain segment of the right with Bill Clinton. It was never anywhere near as widespread as BDS later was, but CDS existed and was a slow poison that may have contributed to the later development of BDS on the other side.
I was never a Clinton fan, although I voted for him twice. But I was outraged by those who floated paranoid ideas such as the accusation that he had killed Vince Foster. And I believe to this day that those who encouraged Paula Jones to sue him for harassment — and the Supreme Court that stupidly allowed them to go forward, in what I believe was one of its worst decisions ever — were much less interested in her rights than in mounting a power play to take down a president they despised rather than merely disagreed with.
So everyone, please take a deep breath. Go out and have some fun.
Get your minds off politics for a while, although not forever. Vigilance is needed. But heed the cautionary words of one of my commenters, who wrote after the election:
Yesterday afternoon in a Starbucks, looking out the window at the sidewalk as a young mother walked by pushing a stroller, I found myself thinking something like “Oh, those poor innocents. Look at them, going about their lives when it’ll only be a few more hours before …”
And then I thought: before WHAT? Before the oxygen we breathe is replaced by some toxic chemical? Before the earth skids off its axis? It was as if somebody had given me a good hard salubrious slap across the face, and I thought “I’ve been a little nuts, haven’t I?”
Now that it’s over, I’m so relieved. There’s something so distorting about these political obsessions. Our private loves and our work are so much more important. Of course, that’s the thing: what we fear is that the political will intrude into those private spaces. But I’ve been so hypervigilant that I’ve forgotten to live the life I want to see protected.
When you feel yourself sliding back towards irrational rage (as opposed to rational), remember how destructive BDS was, both to our country and to its unhinged sufferers.