Trump Fatigue Syndrome
Details of Mary Trump’s explosive new tell-all book are beginning to leak. While the stories are notable, they certainly are not surprising.
Donald paid someone to take the SAT for him. Instead of visiting his dying brother at the hospital, Donald went to the movies. At his father’s funeral, Donald’s eulogy morphed into a self-congratulatory sermon. When seeing his 29-year-old niece in a bathing suit, the president said, “Holy shit, Mary. You’re stacked.” And — a surprise to no one — he isn’t religious, only using the appearance of faith for political ends.
Story, after story, after story. Such is the Donald Trump existence. When reading over these juicy accounts, I expected to be appalled. Instead, a jaded satiety overcame me. I was not surprised, aghast, or even intrigued, frankly.
That’s not to say that Mary Trump’s account of her uncle is inaccurate. Nor is it to say that these new revelations should be set aside. It is important for Americans to be empowered with as much knowledge as possible before heading to the polls in a few months.
But it is to say that I’ve had enough. I suffer from Trump Fatigue Syndrome. His boorishness, bigotry, and malfeasance no longer evoke an emotional response in me. My adrenal glands no longer secrete cortisol when browsing the latest headlines.
In his first year in office, President Trump made 1,999 false or misleading statements. He lied 5,689 times in his second year. In the third year, he lied more than the first two years combined.
This is not by accident. To continue to generate the outrage fuel for the Trump engine, the president must be more shocking today than he was yesterday. Two years from now, he will be saying things that even by today’s low standards would be eyebrow-raising. The dosage must increase, or the effects will wear off.
David Ignatius echoed a similar sentiment, “…but every performer knows the cruel truth: The public eventually gets bored with even the most novel act. It takes ever-greater energy to produce the same shock value. A veteran such as Trump surely understands the Hollywood reality that today’s star becomes tomorrow’s has-been. With cruel speed, the cycle goes from ‘You gotta get me Donald!’ to ‘Who’s Donald?’ That’s not a political judgment; it’s just showbiz.”
Indeed, even the news is fatigued by the Trump experience. Journalists note that “norm-breaking tweets” don’t generate as many reaction columns anymore. As a result, more casual consumers of news come across Trump’s provocations less. We have reached saturation.
A side effect of Trump Fatigue Syndrome is stagnation. This occurs when the familiar tactics don’t work. Google Trends notes that searches for “Sleepy Joe” are a small fraction of what they were for “Crooked Hillary.”
Even on his preferred medium — Twitter — the president’s act has grown stale. In internet parlance, the interaction rate is how much buzz a post garners using metrics like reactions, comments, and shares. Trump’s interaction rate has dropped precipitously. His first month on the job, his interaction rate was 0.55%. Halfway through the first year, it slipped to 0.32%. Recently, it was measured as low as 0.16%.
Off Twitter, engagement remains a problem as well. Interest in political stories involving Donald Trump are down 37.8% since his inauguration, according to one study by analytics firm parse.ly.
A study by Pew Research shows that a majority of Americans react to Trump’s rhetoric with “concern, confusion, and embarrassment.” Over half of Americans blame Trump directly for making the political discourse worse.
Indeed, Trump Fatigue Syndrome may very well be the second pandemic our ailing country is grappling with. New tweets, new culture wars, same Donald Trump. Even objectively awful actions fail to illicit a response.
Think about how brutal these next four months of tweets, lies, and innuendos will be.
Now imagine four more years.