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The Exhaustion Caucus.The election cycle is stressful, but voters must remain enthusiastic and deter

Republicans in the Senate are poised to acquit Donald Trump without even truly putting him on trial.

They have allowed no new witnesses and no new evidence. And why would they? If they know that their plan all along was to let him get away with his corruption and stonewalling, more evidence only reveals their treachery in sharper relief.

So, once again, Trump not only survives his venality, he is emboldened by the lily-livered cowards’ fear of crossing him.

This is the dawn of American authoritarianism, and Republicans are not only not trying to stop it, many are openly cheering it. The rest of us — many of us, anyway — are aghast, overcome and exhausted.

There is a never-ending stream of dishonesty, offense and hostility emanating from this administration, sometimes too much to properly track. It at times overwhelms people’s capacity for outrage. And, in that deluge of grief and distress, many simply chose to disconnect.

I cannot tell you how often I meet people — intelligent, interested and interesting people — who say that they have simply had to disengage from the news as an actual means of mental health and spiritual survival.

This phenomenon of “news avoidance” has taken on an acute peculiarity in the age of Trump. A paper last year in SAGE Journals found that people were experiencing high levels of stress and emotionality when talking about political news now, and they “frequently develop mechanisms to cope with high levels of emotionality.”

A 2017 “Stress in America” survey by the American Psychological Association found: “More than half of Americans (57 percent) say the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly half (49 percent) say the same about the outcome of the election.”

Early on, therapist Steven Stosny named this phenomenon “election stress disorder.”


The A.P.A.’s former executive director for professional practice, Dr. Katherine C. Nordal, has advised people, “If the 24-hour news cycle is causing you stress, limit your media consumption.” She continued: “Read enough to stay informed but then plan activities that give you a regular break from the issues and the stress they might cause. And remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to other areas of your life.”

That is precisely what many people are doing: turning away from Trump, to the degree they can, and pouring their passions into pet projects, things they can actually control, things close to them where they feel they can make more of a difference.

But, even as such, Trump is still somewhat inescapable. He has seized on America’s obsessions. He has bored his way into our brains. Even when you are not obsessively consuming news about him, he is still omnipresent.

Trump has arrived at a moment of supreme voyeurism and compulsive fame whoring. He has stepped into our flaws and stretched open our shame. He is a genuine danger, but also a perfect object for political mania.

Still for some people, being checked out means they consume less of the poison, and that is the only way they feel they can survive.

I struggle with how to evaluate these people. In a way, I completely understand. Sometimes I, too, take a day or a weekend away from the insanity to preserve my own peace. But is a sustained disconnect irresponsible and a demerit on one’s political citizenship? Does disconnection represent a drift toward cynicism, self-defeat and apathy?

I don’t think it has to be, but I worry that on some level it is inevitable.

I see two main groups of people who want Trump gone: the exhausted and the excited. The exhausted just need this nightmare to draw to a close. The excited have a replacement candidate about whom they are passionate. The former, I believe. lean more on the electability argument, and the latter promote the more transformative candidate.

Both groups can be highly motivated to vote, but I will concede that it is a much better feeling to vote for someone rather than against someone.

The exhausted contingent simply lacks the spark of excitement. Outrage, while essential, isn’t by itself sufficient.

So, I say to the people who have tuned out: I get it. Take some time. But, re-engagement is essential. The resistance is not dead. It’s not even flagging. I know that it can be dispiriting that Trump has done so much but suffered so little for it.

But, this is your season of action and influence. On Monday the electoral stretch kicks off with the Iowa caucuses. America has a choice to make, and you will be part of the choosing.

Get excited! Manufacture enthusiasm if you must.

Democrats have options. Yes, they each have hurdles and negatives, but there are also some striking positives. But none of this will matter if, in November, Trump’s opponent isn’t pushed over the top with overwhelming electoral energy.

You simply can’t afford to stay disconnected.

Charles Blow joined The Times in 1994 and became an Opinion columnist in 2008. He is also a television commentator and writes often about politics, social justice and vulnerable communities. @CharlesMBlowFacebook

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