“Hush! Hush! Hush!
Here comes the Bogeyman!
Don’t let him come too close to you,
He’ll catch you if he can!”
— “Henry Hall” (1932)
On Thursday night, President Trump announced that he and Melania had tested positive for COVID-19 and were both in quarantine. On Friday, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Hospital, “out of an abundance of caution,” feeling feverish and fatigued. Doctors say that they expect the president to work from the offices at the hospital for “the next few days.” Melania is reportedly experiencing mild symptoms and will remain at the White House.
Predictably, many on the left openly celebrated Trump’s illness, wishing upon him all manner of suffering and death. A poll showed that 40 percent of Democrats were “happy” to hear about the diagnosis; 31 percent were “excited.” In general, though, the response of the Democratic establishment remained muted, even respectful.
I suspect that Democrats know that an American president who is ill with a potentially fatal disease generates sympathy among decent people, many of whom vote. If Trump’s illness reveals him as a vulnerable human being like the rest of us, he loses his primary value to the Left, which is as a bogeyman — a frightening, demonic creature used to divide Trump from his base and drive lukewarm Democrats and undecideds to Biden.
Democrats are nervous because they need a bogeyman.
A bogeyman, or boogeyman, is a mythical creature, sometimes described as a demon or monster, that adults for centuries have used to scare their children into good behavior. Bogeyman-like creatures appear in every folklore of the world. These days, a bogeyman typically refers to a terrifying person or thing.
And there is no person or thing more terrifying to the Left than Donald J. Trump.
Seemingly harmless before the presidency, Trump has grown exponentially in his near supernatural ability to frighten Democrats. While the Left certainly confers bogeyman status on other people and things, Trump is by far the biggest, baddest bogeyman of them all.
This is by design. Since 2016, the media — along with progressive pundits and politicians — have consistently misstated Trump’s positions and wildly exaggerated his flaws. They deride or ignore his accomplishments. By some estimates, over 90 percent of media coverage has been hostile to Trump’s presidency. As a result, Trump has become the embodiment of pure evil. He is Goebbels, Castro, Mao, “literally Hitler” — a fascist, racist, xenophobic dictator who doubles as a cult leader and an existential threat to America and the world. He’s a toxic, science-denying, planet-destroying, child-kidnapping white supremacist and “mass killer” who is “ripping out the soul” of our nation.
Actually, the president makes the average bogeyman look like the Tooth Fairy.
With Trump, progressives have created the perfect bugaboo — a “painted devil,” in the words of Lady Macbeth — designed to dispirit supporters, frighten undecideds, flatter and enflame Democratic voters, and raise loads and loads of cash. Since Democratic enthusiasm for Biden is even lower than it was for Hillary Clinton, the Left has doubled down on this strategy, making Trump into something that is barely recognizable as human. The more successes he accrues, the more vicious the process of “othering” becomes.
This relentless, histrionic, and often fact-free demonization of Trump, however, is not done out of conviction or even reflexive antipathy for all things Republican. Rather, it’s part of a deliberate strategy that Democrats have employed for years. I call it the “bogeyman strategy.” It has two primary objectives: 1) to turn Trump into such a terrifying, beyond-the-pale villain that he becomes an impossible choice for Republicans; and 2) to frighten Democratic voters into voting booths — and their pocketbooks — in order to slay this monster.
But Trump is a bogeyman whose evil is contagious. It has to be, because the strategy is simply a means to an end. The true goal is to stigmatize the opposition (especially those in positions of authority, such as cops, teachers, celebrities, and activists), alienate them from civil society, and depress the Republican vote. Children must be scared into good behavior.
The bogeyman’s evil is so potent, in fact, that it has infected the entire GOP, from its politicians to its pundit class to its insufferable supporters. This once great party, we’re told, has been hijacked and corrupted by Trump. Given the extent of the corruption, it’s impossible for good people to vote for a Republican at any level of government. Reagan, Bush, McCain, et al would be rolling in their graves.
Except that they were bogeymen once themselves. They know the drill.
In fact, Trump’s bogeyman aura (mantle? penumbra?) is so contagious that if (God forbid) his current illness became fatal and Mike Pence was named as the presidential nominee, even the mild-mannered vice president would quickly be transformed into a bogeyman himself. In short order, we’d be reading breathless articles that begin, “Trump was literally Hitler, but in important ways, Mike Pence is even worse.”
In short, the bogeyman strategy makes voting for Trump taboo, with all its religious and social implications.
No wonder, then, that Biden and his progressive keepers call the 2020 election a “battle for the soul of America.” In this spiritual war, the battle lines are clear — good and evil, truth and lies, orthodoxy and heresy. There is no need to understand opposing views, no matter how well-reasoned or humane sounding they might be. There is no place for civility or tolerance. Agreeing to disagree is not an option. Yes, some opponents might be lost or deceived, but most are in league with the bogeyman anyway. Broken eggs and omelets, as they say.
Some true believers (think Antifa and elements of the BLM movement) feel that they must destroy the United States and all its institutions — which are white supremacist and sexist at their core anyway — rather than continue to live under such a malevolent regime. Resistance must inevitably evolve into violent revolution, they argue.
Meanwhile, Biden’s anodyne face is plastered on the side of the Democratic bus. But make no mistake, the bogeyman is at the wheel.
A President Trump suffering with a serious illness endangers the Democrats’ bogeyman strategy. Perhaps Americans will soon have an opportunity to look past the monster to see the real person behind it.
(Updated 10.3.2020, 12:15 p.m.)