The problem isn’t Donald Trump but Trumpism—many commentators feel safe enough to utter these words. What made them feel unsafe over the past year, despite the toxic extremism that Trump the man represented, was timidity. Someone posing as a strong man, capable of viciously demolishing his political enemies, posed a potential threat to anyone who spoke out against him. But now more people have found a way, even a growing handful of Republican politicians, to denounce him.
There’s a collective sigh of relief that Trump has become his own worst enemy, but relief isn’t the same as feeling safe, much less immune. America hasn’t seen the last of Trumpism until remedies against its return are undertaken seriously. As a physician sees it, we are past the prevention stage, past the first signs of disorder, and well into rampant symptoms that threaten a full-blown outbreak. In a word, Trumpism has become a persistent virus, and although it fuels a sense of self-righteousness to blame the long line of Republican presidents going back to Nixon who planted the seeds of Trumpism, we can’t afford that luxury.
To compress Trumpism into its essential ingredients, they are actually a batch of stubborn illusions that have been turned into a belief system, as follows:
— The illusion that anyone “not like us” is inferior, bad, lazy, and dangerous. From this illusion springs a belief in us-versus-them thinking.
— The illusion of racial superiority. From this illusion springs overt and covert racism.
— The illusion of absolute patriotism, or “my country right or wrong.” From this illusion springs xenophobia.
— The illusion that violence works. From this illusion springs a belief that war accomplishes more good things than bad.
— The illusion of egotism. From this illusion springs the belief that only “I, me, and mine” actually count.
The list could go on, and there are commentators who focus on such things as sexism, income inequality, immigration, and fear of globalism. Trumpism has many arms, no doubt. But I think it is best viewed as a psychological state that permits the welling up of our darkest impulses. Until the country’s collective psychology stops being tainted by fear, anger, and resentment, Trumpism will continue on the metastasized negativity that the far right cannot survive without.
President Obama followed the course of being the adult in the room, which Hillary Clinton is continuing. But if we consider the 16 other Republican candidates for President that didn’t get nominated, each exhibits some form of Trumpism-lite. In private, even a gentlemanly Mitt Romney, assuming he wasn’t being taped, expressed an appalling disdain for the average American. The current crop of right-wing candidates fester in a party where the majority of Republicans believe that Obama is a practicing Muslim.
This implies that being the adult in the room is too passive. Hatred must be countered with activism, and activism begins with each of us examining our own attitudes and beliefs.
— We must respond to toxic emotions with rational solutions.
— We must be brave about standing up and speaking our truth.
— We must stop secretly agreeing in the blandishments of us-versus-them thinking.
— We must do our civic duty to put the country back on a sound moral basis.
— We must renounce violence not just in others, but in our own hearts as well.
I know that these sound like moralistic steps, but as David Brooks has been pointing out in the New York Times, the basic objection to Trump is a moral one, and our society has become timid, self-conscious, embarrassed, or indifferent to public morality. As a result, so-called “conservative values” have taken us through the looking glass into a landscape where the worst among us cloak themselves as the best and most moral.
It seems set in stone that elected officials on the local, state, and Congressional level will refuse to budge from toxic positions that get voters to turn out. But this is largely because the bad have driven out the good. Moderate and progressive candidates shun the opportunity to run for office because of their distaste for an opposition that, as Trump demonstrates, uses scorched-earth tactics as a normal way of conducting politics. But there is no other remedy other than good people stepping up once more.
What’s needed in the end isn’t a moral crusade, which only inflames the opposition to more intense levels of abuse, as witness Trump’s completely unpunished habit of doubling down on his vitriolic rhetoric. Morality returns naturally when people have expanded awareness. We are living in an era where outside threats, real or imaginary, have caused our collective consciousness to contract. If this wasn’t so, there would be no secret Trump admirers falling for the illusion that all we need is a strong male to fix this mess. Expanded consciousness begins at home. Each of us must find the core in ourselves where being truthful, strong, tolerant, compassionate, and at peace comes naturally. This level exists in everyone, and when we arrive there, the toxic illusions of Trumpism have no more power over us.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com