The Hallucinatory Effect of Donald Trump

Published: March 15, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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Atlantic columnist Mark Leibovich writes of Trump supporters, “You can dismiss Trump voters all of you want but give them this: They’re every bit as American as any idealized vision of the place.”

I can accept Trump voters as Americans, but one thing they cannot justify is this: Trash talk, lies, and victimhood. Those are not the leadership traits we expect in the Oval Office.

“It’s like there’s some kind of hallucinatory flu going around,” a small town doctor suggests in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Supporters have been in a hallucinatory, conspiracy-believing, (and for some, extremist) haze for so long that anything Trump says or does—even mocking a stutter—is seen as strength; that four criminal indictments are proof of his victimhood and deserve their support including cash donations to pay his legal fees. In their drug-addled state, reason has no value and character no meaning.

Washington Republicans have faced threats from their constituents for so long that they have lost all motivation to duty, all obligation to truth, and any sense of ethical character. Some 24 Republican Representatives and Senators are retiring or seeking another office. And yet, even as they’re heading for the exit doors, they’re so fearful of Trump and his supporters that not one of them has stepped forward to vehemently and persistently call out the clear and compelling danger the former president represents to the America they purport to love.

That same hallucinatory drug was used to afflict and divide millions of Americans in the 50s who believed the conspiracies of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, who, without proof, claimed he had a list of communists in the federal government.

History has shown us that demagogues have relied on one tactic: Fear.

McCarthy played up Americans’ fear of communism in the federal government. Trump preys upon Americans’ fear that everything in the federal government is out to get us.

“Listen, we’re not the last humans left,” two desperate citizens tell the doctor who’s now become one of the aliens. “There are people who will fight you. They will find out what you’re doing here. . . . They will stop you!”

“In an hour,” the doctor says, “you won’t want them to. In an hour, you’ll be one of us.”

It’s ironic that a hokey 50s science fiction movie has in many respects become prophetic.

When indictment charges were announced last year for his alleged participation in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump told a packed crowd in Columbus, Georgia, “In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you.

And Trump supporters ape their master’s words like the last lines from Body Snatchers:

“Look, you fools, can’t you see? They’re after you! They’re after all of us!”


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