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What is TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome)?

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

by Jack Hamerstone, Author/Contributor

There has been a lot of debate about the causes of Trump Derangement Syndrome (“TDS”), but I haven’t found a cogent explanation anywhere in the literature, and yet, even to the casual observer, there are symptoms of TDS sufferers, and, by contrast, characteristics of Trump supporters, that lead me to the conclusion that TDS is an anxiety disorder, a neurosis.

One must remember that anxiety is usually caused by underlying, unconscious, inner conflict. In addition, there are studies that suggest anxiety sufferers may have a genetic predisposition to their condition. In other words, inner conflict and genetic makeup may both play a role in TDS.

The many symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome
Cartoonist Ben Garrison captures TDS brilliantly.

I began my own study of TDS based on a simple observation. I wondered why Trumptillas had suddenly become a popular way of expressing support for President Trump. In case you aren’t familiar with “Trumptillas,” they are festive events where boat-owners gather to go out together on a lake or river, an ocean waterway or bay. The key observation here is that they are festive, they are parties on the water with a shared purpose: to display patriotism.

By way of contrast, at the same time as the Trumptilla phenomenon became apparent, riots and looting had become a sad reality in several major, Democrat-controlled cities. I believe it is a fair assumption to make that Democrats “endorse” the riots, since, at the Democratic National Convention, no one spoke out against them. The violence that everyone in America knew as a reality was simply ignored. This is not willful, knowing ignorance, in the sense of a lack of knowledge, it is willful, knowing dismissal of the reality. In fact, it is the dismissal of reality that leads this writer to surmise that TDS, as a communal neurosis, has manifested itself, it has metastacized into a social mental cancer, that is to say, a social hysteria not unlike the social pathology that gave rise to Nazi Germany.

This tendency to dismiss reality can be seen in both the micro and the macro views of present day reality. In the micro, it is a Trump sign, MAGA hat or American flag as compared to a BLM sign, BLM-related graffiti, or the Antifa flag: symbols of beliefs that fuel macro expressions such as a Trumptilla or a BLM/Antifa riot or occupation.

Indeed, these occupations, such as CHAZ, are an attempt of a group of believers to concretize, to make permanent, their shared neurosis, their vision of an alternate reality. That is to say, the communal neurosis has begun manifesting as a social pathology, a social mental cancer.

The ego, fueled by shared beliefs, forces individuals, and the group, to move toward the realization of their vision. Their anxiety demands an outlet, it cannot stay internalized, it has to be externalized. The psychological cancer grows into a physical cancer in the form violence.

One can argue that it is a belief in socialism that is held as a common denominator, a raison d’être, but a belief doesn’t inspire, doesn’t create passion and motivation, without being rooted in the individual psyche of each participant, the inner conflict inside each person.

If we use neurosis as the diagnosis, we must next examine the patient to find their inner conflict. Trump is the conflict—not the man himself, but his belief system, which is replete with triggers, as follows:

The mainstream news is fake. Trump drills this home time and again. If the mainstream news is fake, that means that everything our TDS patient believes is untrue, unreliable, since, more than likely, they listen to CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and the major broadcast networks. There is nothing more disturbing than to be told that your belief system is built on lies and half-truths. When a person’s belief system is challenged, inner friction and confusion are the result: inner conflict, the root cause of neurosis.

Trump tells the TDS patient that their leadership is corrupt. “Obama committed treason.” An esteemed leader is called into question. Again, the foundational belief system is shaken. More inner conflict is the result.

Trump creates programs and new laws to benefit black Americans. The Democrat belief system is rattled. Black voters are supposed to remain loyal to the Democrat Party ("If you don’t vote for me, then you ain’t black.”) Yet Trump's criminal justice reform, empowerment zones, and funding for HBCs (historically black colleges) are ignored, the reality of his accomplishments is simply dismissed.

Trump is right-to-life, DTS sufferers are pro-choice and pro Planned Parenthood. The contrast here is literally life vs death.

There are many, many examples of the ways in which Trump has redefined what it means to be a patriotic (i.e. true) American, even symbolic ways: stand for the national anthem, love the American flag.

In terms of contrast, in terms of easy observations: most TDS sufferers are angry, most Trump supporters are confident and positive. TDS sufferers snarl, Trump supporters smile.

But, perhaps most importantly, TDS sufferers have trouble providing cogent, rational explanations of complex issues, while Trump supporters, generally, can back up their beliefs with rational arguments, even though there is a personality cult aspect at work among some Trump supporters. As with Obama, or any charismatic leader, there is always a tendency to let the leader embody your belief system and express it for you, thus avoiding the hard work of learning it and knowing it intrinsically, owning it yourself. This is a problem in the media especially, where many anchors and pundits speak in shorthand and tropes and talking points, seldom providing a deeper understanding of complex issues. Their viewers begin to think in shorthand and tropes. They adopt a narrative without knowing the justification for it.

If neurosis is the proper basis for a diagnosis of TDS as a mental illness, then the prescription for it is not just better understanding, because an increase in curiosity and understanding that might come from increased study will initially result in confusion and frustration and heightened neurosis, a downward spiral in which the neurosis takes control (as in the riots), an inner, as well as outward, explosion of the neurosis that serves to demonstrate how very, very powerful belief systems are, and how dangerous they can become when shared by a group (i.e. Nazi Germany).

Likewise, a belief system, such as American patriotism based on founding documents that explicate and justify the belief system, can serve as the “belief bedrock” for a civilization. When that civilization, and way of life, is challenged by a social pathology such as we are witnessing today, it will defend itself if and when the threat to it becomes unavoidable, when it becomes clear, dangerous, and impossible to ignore.

But, before a civil war erupts, let’s think about possible remediation of this battle of belief systems and worldviews, let’s give peace a chance. Peace. The calming of the individual’s inner conflict. The healing of it.


Jack Hamerstone is an author published by Fugitive Poets Press and a Contributor to The Artisan Life blog. His novel PING PONG | A Conspiracy Thriller will be published by Fugitive.

MAGA Country is a new novel from Fugitive. For more info on this book, click here.

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