Losing The American Mind

When Donald Trump first began actively campaigning in 2015, his slogan was “make America great again”.  Now, after he’s had nearly four years in office, he has done, it would seem, just the opposite.  He has not only devalued our status in the eyes of the rest of the world, but has made our own lives worse in nearly every possible way.  I can attest to that, for I have never been so deep in the rabbit hole in all my nearly 70 years as I am today.  Take a look at Dana Milbank’s column in The Washington Post yesterday …

Trump has made Americans’ lives worse. Here’s the proof.

Opinion by

Dana-MilbankDana Milbank


September 19, 2020 

Donald Trump’s America is one sad place.

We, as a nation, have fallen into a great depression, though not necessarily an economic one. By one highly respected gauge, self-reported levels of happiness are at their lowest since social scientists began asking such questions half a century ago.

Much of this is because of the pandemic, and the economic fallout, but the troubles predate the virus. Overall mental well-being dropped noticeably after President Trump’s election in 2016, in red and blue states alike. Happiness became decoupled from financial security, and evidence points to a “Trump Effect” — an American public depressed because of extraordinary vitriol in politics, chaos in the news and a government out of control — even before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday night, a mere 78 minutes after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death announcement, announced with rank hypocrisy he would hold a quick vote to replace her.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which has conducted an annual survey of the national mood since 1972, found this summer that the proportion of people describing themselves as “very happy” had plummeted to 14 percent — compared with the survey’s previous record low of 29 percent, recorded after the 2008 financial crisis. But NORC researchers were startled to find that, despite this year’s economic shutdown, 36 percent declared themselves “satisfied” with their financial situation, the highest in the study’s history, and the fewest ever expressed dissatisfaction. (This was when generous unemployment support was in effect.)

For the first time, “there’s a disconnect between financial satisfaction and overall happiness,” says David Sterrett, senior researcher for the NORC study. “With everything going on socially and politically, those have become more of a driver.”

Other research, by Gallup, gives an idea of the cause. There’s typically a partisan effect after elections. After 2008, for example, Democrats and Democratic constituencies (minorities, women, low-income Americans) felt better about their lives, while Republicans and their constituencies felt worse. But something very different happened after 2016: Well-being measures dropped substantially for Democratic constituencies, as expected, but independents’ happiness also dropped, and there was no corresponding jump in the sense of well-being among Republicans or among Whites. Actually, they declined, though within the margin of error.

In sum, well-being among all American adults declined “substantially” with Trump’s election — even though the economy was expanding. Meanwhile, the population in 21 states (many in Trump country) had a significant decline in well-being in 2017 — a huge shift in one year — and not one state experienced an increase. More Americans complained of worry, lost pleasure in activities and less positive energy from friends, family and leaders. Those had all been stable from 2014 to 2016. After Trump’s election, they all worsened — and stayed worse.

Dan Witters, research director of Gallup’s well-being studies, tells me the nonpartisan polling group concluded it could objectively state that there’s “a rather obvious Trump effect.”

Republicans’ sense of well-being didn’t improve, Witters says, “because of the way the social fabric has been strained in the Trump era.” Elevated anxiety “disproportionately affected Democrats, but it threw enough sand in the gears of Republicans and supporters of Trump that it prevented their well-being from getting much of a lift.”

There’s abundant support for this. In 2019, pre-pandemic, University of Nebraska researchers found that 4 in 10 said politics had made them stressed, 3 in 10 said it caused them to lose their temper and 2 in 10 said it caused problems sleeping and damaged friendships.

The American Psychological Association in 2017 found two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, were stressed about the future of the nation. That jumped to 83 percent this year, with 66 percent saying government’s handling of the pandemic causes significant stress.

“Things weren’t great before the pandemic,” says Rachel Garfield, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. And now the national mood has fallen off a cliff. An August Kaiser poll found that 53 percent of adults say the pandemic has hurt their mental health. Many cite problems with sleeping, eating, alcohol and drugs. Those reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders nearly quadrupled during the pandemic, to 40 percent.

All this means, sadly, that the American psyche won’t bounce back fully when the economy recovers, nor when the virus is beaten. The depression wouldn’t necessarily lift if Trump were defeated, particularly if he continued to stoke rage among supporters.

But if Trump returns to office, I fear, the national despair will deepen as we resume lurching from crisis to crisis with the same destabilizing chaos. This week alone we’ve seen Trump attacking his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Attorney General Bill Barr attacking his own Justice Department, and the administration hurling charges of “sedition” at government scientists and demonstrators, and a wildly hypocritical McConnell, after blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because it was eight months before an election, announcing plans just six weeks before an election to rush through a Ginsburg replacement.

After delivering a paranoid rant about armed insurrection, senior Trump administration official Michael Caputo this week blamed his high “stress level” and took a leave of absence. He said “every American” fighting the pandemic “has been under enormous pressure. I am just one of them.”

He’s right about that. After four years, we are barely holding it together. Surely four more years would cause the losing of the American mind.


21 thoughts on “Losing The American Mind

  1. I know he’s a symptom but I refuse to give up. My husband was bipolar and I had to put up with a lot of bad situations for over 40 years. I used to worry but things, no matter how bad, turned out for the best so I decided to stop. Worrying doesn’t help and made it worse so I stopped. I also refused to let him bully me. Trump is a big bully and mentally going downhill so I’m not going to let him bother me either or he’s won. Things are not good right now but at least the stopped and we’re losing family members to the virus, not dangerous wars our children are forced into. There will always be problems. There always have been. I’m sorry if you’re suffering from health problems. I know that can mean trouble. I’ve had my share. I had to cancel my knee operation, I have pain, and I can’t leave the flat. I just try to take one day at a time. I hope for the best for you my friend. Take care. ❤ — Suzanne

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  2. It is odd, yet not a surprise, that the exact political people who created policies which led to the Dump’s win are the same political people that many believe will “improve” our situation.

    It may be worth a step back and a look at a system that IS NOT interested in the citizen’s welfare but ONLY its own power gain.

    If anyone believes that a Biden/Obama/Clinton mind set is any better than a Dump mind set you may want to think what you are getting into.

    Either way it goes ………. we as a nation are LOST.

    The difference is simple.

    Dump just blabs his crap aloud for all to hear while the B-O-C collection say what is wanted to be heard but will screw us all in the end as well.

    All Dump has done is brought into the open a reflection of what that term “The Ugly American” means. It IS what WE ARE AS A NATION and why regardless of who is “our leader” we as a nation go about the world killing innocent people to grab control of their resources so we can buy plastic shit for Christmas!

    National self reflection is what is needed not another pointless election!

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    • There are days that I think I may have lost my ability to see or think clearly. I blame Trump, but then I step back and realize that I am the one allowing him to do this to me. Like you, I hope we can take back our country in November, but you and I both know that even if Biden wins and the democrats gain a majority in the Senate, that doesn’t solve the core problems. Sigh.

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    • Thanks so much for the re-blog, Vic! I often feel that it is hopeless, but I realize we cannot afford to give up, for if we do, all is lost. Gotta get up, dust ourselves off, and get back into the arena to finish this fight!


  3. Have I mentioned these SF novels lately, all by British author John Brunner? Not really a trilogy, I don’t think the term had become popular yet in publishing circles, he published the Hugo Award-winning Stand on Zanzibar in 1968, The Sheep Look Up in 1972, and The Shockwave Rider in 1975 about the collapse of American society from overpopulation, pollution, secret data collection of personal information, and other themes. They seem fairly predictive of life in America under Trump.

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    • I don’t recall you ever mentioning those novels before, but just going by the title of the 2nd one, it sounds like some of what is happening here today. I will check them out. Meanwhile … I haven’t seen you here for a couple of days … you feeling alright?


      • Weirdly enough, Jill, feeling more human than I have since my concussion, and post-concussion syndrome back in late 2009.
        For 3 months since early June till early September, I was sick with some kind of non-Covid flu that started with very severe nausea and vomitting, and slowly turned into a general malaise with no interest in eating anything but soup, and swallowing poisonous amounts if Eno (or so the bottle told me–but my body was craving it, and my doctor said go for it!). Well, just over two weeks ago now, I started to feel better, and better, and now better than I have been feeling in over 10 years. I am motivated by more than just hating Trump.
        In fact, Trumpledoculous barely even interests me right now, though I did write that parody about him I sent you. He still makes me sick, and I have taken to mimicking his deadpan voice of late, but still I am moving beyond Trump. Unlike my fellow Canadian from Québec, he is not worth my time in jail. (But I do applaud her audacity. Most Americans have become for too impotent to even try!)
        But back to me. As I said above I am feeling more human than I have in ten years. I woke up about 10 days ago and heard my plants screaming. I used to hear plants talking all the time, and screaming when they were abused. I don’t want to say Gail and I were abusing our plants, but we were certainly neglecting them of late (10 years late!). We have 4 plants that are over 20 years old, 1 that is close to 40. They need to be repotted and and propagated every 6 to 8 years. THAT had not been done for way too long. So that morning I surprised Gail by cutting back the 40 year-old Dieffenbacchia, repotting him and planting new cuttings to give away. Then I started on our corn plant, followed by our Pittman’s Pride and our Arrowhead Philodendron. From 4 plants we suddenly have over 100 new ones trying to grow. Most of then are going to make it, and we are going to have immense numbers of plants to give away come spring.
        I have also been busy constructing a new giant bird feeder for our feathered friends. The roof was caving in on our last one (never use OSB board to flat roof a feeder in snow country. It caved in on us this past winter, and I decided to gift them a new one for the upcoming winter.) (Taking care of others, in this case plants and birds, is what I call being truly human!)
        We have also been busy doing things that have been neglected for years around the house, and dealing with unexpected problems like plumbing disasters. It’s been my busiest three weeks in years. But I’m getting better, mentally, physically, and emotionally and am two weeks behind in Word Press and will probably never catch up. And loving it, and life!
        I do wish you a similar transformation once your nemesis is gone. LuL

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        • Wow! I’m so glad to hear that you are finally feeling better, and even happier to know you’re feeling better than you have in over a decade! I love that you’re building a bird feeder and that you and Gail are doing things together! You’ve given me my smile for the day! LuL


  4. Jill, there are numerous measures as to how our lives are worse under Trump. Here are two that may have greater importance than many. He has heightened stress in America with his purposeful divisiveness and lying. Americans could use a vacation from a person where he most opine on seemingly everything. This has divided friends and families. As General James Mattis said, Trump does not even try to unite us. What many do not realize is this is his management style. He likes to pit people against each other – having been in business for over thirty years, this is a god-awful management approach. Keith

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    • Oh how right you are! He has … or should I say, we have allowed him to … break up lifelong friendships and even cause vitriol within families. And oh yes, how we could use a vacation from him … one week without seeing his ugly mug, without having to hear about his every tweet and utterance. I read something in Michael Cohen’s book … several things, actually … that prove how very little he cares what happens to the nation or the people, as long as he is making money and has power. I am so hoping to be able to talk about President Biden in just four months!


      • Jill, unfortunately the people who need to read these books will not. Trump is seeing a resurgence due to the economy, but in his eyes, the economy is the stock market. People continue to struggle and more will because the pandemic will not go away soon. Keith

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        • You’re right, of course. The stock market isn’t even doing all that great, it seems to me. And … there is no doubt a second wave of the coronavirus headed our way and even though Trump & Co lie about the numbers, it is going to wreak economic havoc once again, unless I miss my guess. No, the pandemic is here through next year, from all the scientific opinions I’ve read … I just do so wish the people who constitute his base would open their eyes and listen to something besides Fox!!!


      • Most of us will live through it. I just wish I was a bit younger. If the worse happens and Mr. T gets reelected, and if I survive, I’ll be about 83 at the end. I have a good chance as several of my female relatives I know of lived into their 90s. I was hoping I could come back to the U.S. before that but I try to take one day at a time. 😦 — Suzanne

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        • I’m not so sure about that, my friend. I think this period has the potential to last more than just a year or two. And, some of the things being done by Trump are having a global impact. There comes a point when the rest of the world decides they’ve had enough and take action against the U.S., and I’m not just talking sanctions. And, we must remember that Trump is but a symptom of a larger problem. Sigh. I don’t expect to live through it, and frankly if he is re-elected or forces his way into a second term, I have no desire to live through it. Sigh.

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