Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 1:17 pm | Fair 65º


Susan Estrich: Is Trump Making You Sick?

I tried not to roll my eyes when an acquaintance, a woman I respect for her professional accomplishments, told me she thought Donald Trump had caused her cancer.

"You know, the connection between stress and cancer," she said.

I know. But was she really so stressed about Donald Trump that she got cancer? 

She was not the only one. A journalist who writes frequently for my local paper, when recounting her battle with cancer, said that she was afraid Trump would hasten her death because she was so upset about his presidency but she was hoping that her anger and rage would be a reason to live longer and not die sooner.

I understand that politics matters. I have devoted much of my life to it. But it should not be a life-and-death business in the most stable democracy in the world.

I wrote a book supporting Hillary Clinton. I'll match my anti-Trump positions against anyone's. But this is a democracy. We had an election.

The candidate I supported — whom my acquaintance and the journalist with cancer also supported — lost. That happens in a democracy. And when it does, I've always believed that you shouldn't get sick about it.

When the going gets tough, you just keep going. We don't kill our opponents.

I understand undocumented parents who are literally sick with worry about being divided from their children; I understand that kind of sickness. What I don't understand is people literally getting sick from watching the news — and yet continuing to watch it.

"Turn it off," I said to a friend of mine.

She was offended. She wants to be informed. So do I. But I don't spend half my life informing myself in excruciating detail about things I already know about and can't do much of anything about anyway. 

That isn't being informed. It isn't being productive. It's just driving yourself crazy. 

Driving yourself crazy and making yourself sick are not activities that accomplish anything positive. Trump does not suffer on your account. 

Quite the contrary. I think every time a Trump voter hears how sick the president is making liberals they are reminded of why they voted for him. This is, of course, the genius of Trump: that the billionaire demagogue from New York could become the voice of alienated, insecure, overwhelmed white Americans, who have nothing in common with Trump except the fact of their exclusion from the elite.

And that is enough. It works. 

The answer, then, cannot be to play into Trump's hands. It cannot be to send the message that we find their politics so offensive that it literally makes us sick. 

"But I'm afraid," my acquaintance says.

Of what? I don't like the president's fear-mongering about North Korea, but do you seriously think we are on the brink of nuclear war?

And short of nuclear war, Trump must deal with Congress and the courts. His problem, almost a year into his presidency, is not how much he has accomplished but how little. Whether he can get anything at all through the Senate remains an open question. The Founding Fathers were no fools. 

Besides, there are so many better things to do than get sick. Like help someone in need. Lend a hand.

I write this on National Giving Day. I contributed to a charity founded by a friend to continue his mother's work for survivors of domestic abuse. 

I hate sickness. I have lost too many. I have stared at the ceiling in the ICU too many nights.

Why would I reward Trump by getting too sick to stand up to him, too distraught to participate in the debate, too undone to realize that the messy process that brought us Donald Trump is still better than any alternative?

We just need to win next time. Be well.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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