I enjoyed that Democratic Convention a lot, and mostly for the right reasons. In fact, I'm still enjoying it, because I'm currently five time zones ahead of Philly time and so watch the major speeches the next day. [SPOILER ALERT: Don't tell me who they nominate in the finale!] The Democrats presented a positive vision about candidate, cause, and country: inspiring reminders about what they are about, what we are about, and what America is about. It's great, and also I'm walking around London with Stevie's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" stuck in my head. I am one happy Democrat.
This is a much happier feeling than watching the Republican convention was. That was a mix of fearful apprehension for my town, sickened horror at the speakers' outpouring of authoritarian hatred, and mocking schadenfreude at Trump's torpedoing his own convention. I had some fun in there, but it wasn't pleasant fun. It was more the point-and-laugh kind. It didn't make me feel especially good about myself. Thanks to Bill, Barack, and Hill for re-centering the moral compass.
There are far more opportunities for schadenfreude ahead, unfortunately. Because Donald Trump is already starting to come unglued.
One of the most useful psychiatric terms I've picked up in my travels is the word "decompensation." Decompensation is, just like it sounds, the opposite of "compensation." It is when a patient responds to stress or setbacks by getting sicker. The going gets tough, and the patient's symptoms get worse. That doesn't fix whatever's causing the stress; it just deepens it. An alcoholic gets fired and goes on a four-day bender. A bipolar patient who's having trouble finding work becomes too depressed to even leave the house. Just when the patient needs to step up and cope with a challenge, they become even worse at coping. Bad, bad times.
It's been no secret on this blog that I consider Donald Trump to have at least one fairly serious psychiatric condition. He is, to put it politely, a profoundly disordered personality. And under the stress of the campaign, he is going to decompensate badly. Running for President of the United States is incredibly challenging and stressful, even for strong, sane people who have already run many successful campaigns. Donald Trump is neither strong nor sane, and he has never been elected to any public office in his life. Not dog-catcher, not zoning board, not public water commission. He is not going to be able to take this. He is going to crack.
In fact, he has already started.
Over the last few days, as the general election gets underway, he has done a huge number of maladaptive things: expressed his desire to punch various speakers from the Democratic convention, decided to rant on Twitter about how Mike Bloomberg was mean to him, and mostly damningly urged the Russian government to spy on his election opponent. None of that is rationally calculated to help him. None if it is something you would do to help yourself. And I don't think he planned to plea to Putin at all; it was just another troubled impulse he could not control. Lack of impulse control is one of his symptoms.
You can look at his behavior as demonstrating his lack of fitness for office, and you should. He is appallingly unfit for that office. But you can also understand what Trump is doing as the expression of psychiatric symptoms getting worse under pressure. Maybe that moves you to some compassion for him, and maybe it doesn't; Trump's condition prevents him from feeling compassion for anyone else, and in his current position he is extremely dangerous to our country. But we shouldn't necessarily lose our compassion because he has. We're bigger than he is.
Those symptoms are only going to get worse, because the pressure of the campaign is only going to get worse. I mean, the general election hasn't even really gotten started yet. Donald Trump is going to crack under that pressure, and he is going to do it in front of the entire world. I am not looking forward to watching that. But anything is better than watching him crack in the Oval Office.