As for hysteria, the United States recently concluded a presidential campaign in which the winning candidate argued that rapists are flooding across our Southern border, carnage dominates our streets, and safety requires banning Muslims from the country. Among the most prominent arguments offered on his behalf: an essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” that likened a Hillary Clinton victory to being passengers on an airplane hijacked by al-Qaeda so that it could be flown into the White House, killing all. Its author, Michael Anton, now serves in a senior position in the Trump administration. This is the context for Trump apologists calling the opposition to him hysterical.
The point isn’t that there is no Trump criticism that is overwrought, no worries about trajectories that are implausible, no rhetoric that would be better tamped down. We all see the excesses as they flow through our social-media feeds. Many of us are annoyed. But being subject to flak of that sort isn’t what distinguishes the Trump administration. The world will always have people with a conspiratorial mindset, like Alex Jones. But in the course of winning over the actual Alex Jones, Trump has alarmed people as temperamentally staid as George Will and Ross Douthat.
The fact that grave fears about Trump’s fitness for office are commonplace––for example, the fears about giving an erratic, easily baited bully with no foreign policy experience control over nukes—is not evidence that the anxious are deranged. As frightening as it is to ponder, their anxiety about long tail risk is rational. Trump stokes an unusual amount of worry from sober, grounded commentators mostly because he has glaring shortcomings that are unprecedented among modern presidents.