Home / General / Gaslighting, DARVO, EAIAC, and the age of presidential candidates

Gaslighting, DARVO, EAIAC, and the age of presidential candidates

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Perhaps nothing better captures the perverse effect that Donald Trump has on public discourse than his truly remarkable ability to take one of the very best of the countless reasons to vote against him — that he is a very old man who is increasingly showing signs of incipient dementia — and turn it into an attack on his opponent:

If there were ever a case for age-related diminishment of a candidate, Trump is it. The ex-President’s bizarre rambles and odd obsessions—remember the whole cancer-causing-windmills thing?—have long characterized his public performances. But, in the 2024 campaign, the weird has got decidedly weirder. Just this past weekend, Trump interrupted a campaign rally in Nevada for an extended discourse on what one should do about a hypothetical shark attack when aboard a hypothetically sinking electric boat, and how he himself would prefer electrocution to being eaten by the shark—a sentence, which, as I am writing it, makes absolutely no sense and yet is a more or less accurate summary of what Trump said.

It’s also worth noting that Trump, pushing eighty, has made so many gaffes involving mixed-up names and places that they are hardly treated as major news—he has confused Pelosi with his Republican primary opponent Nikki Haley, forgotten that he is running against Biden and not Barack Obama, and once thought that he was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when he was in Sioux City, Iowa. Wherever one stands on the broader question of Trump’s mental health, the evident decline in his ability to speak clearly and coherently feels striking. Just look at some of the clips assembled by the health-news service stat back in 2017, when they consulted experts who saw clear evidence, in the course of decades, of Trump’s cognitive “deterioration.” That was seven years ago. When I look back at Trump’s speeches from 2016, or even from 2020, they seem positively lucid compared with his 2024 rallies.

I don’t think it can be emphasized enough that, for voters who are concerned about the advanced age of a presidential candidate as a risk factor for loss of mental capacity, the evidence of such loss in Trump’s case is overwhelmingly more compelling than it is in regard to Biden. (Anyone who says Trump has always sounded like he does now has not listened to Trump recently. The deterioration is remarkably stark).

The truly fantastical irony here — it really is mind-bending to consider directly — is that the endlessly referenced question of whether Joe Biden is too old to be president is wildly inapposite under the actual circumstances of the 2024 election, which features a major party candidate who very much sounds more and more like a demented old man, and that candidate is not Joe Biden.

Nothing better illustrates the surreal quality of Trump and Trumpism than this overwhelmingly self-evident fact.

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