[Think of this as me journaling on atmospherics, with dirty words and without confession. Writing stuff down just helps me think.]
Stuff that happened, July 24-30, 2017
The Senate’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) died, only maybe it didn’t. Talk of North Korea having secret launch sites and a reported capacity to hit the States with a nuke felt important, but somehow less important than the bizarrely erotic railings (verb intentional) against (and somehow into) his new colleagues by, Jim Scaramucci, the skeazy Wall-Street-spawned media-whore/recent hire by Trump’s White House.
Anchor Article(s): Paul Waldman’s half-dazed meditation on a political movement that is bankrupt in every possible manner except financially, seconded by George Will’s high-brow, yet catty column on Americans getting what they didn’t know they needed.
The week held more lows, including Donald Trump ranting like an angry old coot in front of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree. He followed that pathetic recitation of his (self-inflicted) grievances and imaginary triumphs by indulging in tough-guy role-playing in front of a bunch of (I think) Long Island cops. Both events had the unspoken purpose that underlies everything Trump does or says: forcing people to take a side in some weird war that American citizens failed to realize we were fighting till the bile and bullshit lapped against our chins. That’s Trump being himself (i.e., just a terrible human being), but he only has power to the extent that one political party and a large, hugely pissed-off segment of the population props him up (and let all sane, decent people rejoice that Trump wields that power so, so incompetently).
Waldman’s op-ed directs most of its words and anger at the Republican Party as a vehicle to promote values and policy and, again, the exhaustingly dishonest means of promotion. He spends some time on the policy aspect – e.g. the projected roll-out/damage of the GOP’s “healthcare” reform (was never about healthcare), the ugly anti-LGBT directives expounded over twitter – and that’s important, probably more important than what I’ll shift to below, but some of that at least goes to places where genuinely reasonable people can reasonably disagree. (For the record, LGBT rights are non-negotiable, but that's another post for another Sunday.)
There’s one tiny detail I want to extract from Waldman’s op-ed, and that in service of an argument. 20+ years of extreme rhetorical cynicism by movement conservatives birthed the empty-headed rage of Trumpism, and Trump really is, as Waldman puts it, “the fullest expression” of that…god, what’s the word? Words like “thought” and “sentiment” allow for too much complexity; even “impulse” or “reflex” feel like they come from somewhere higher in the brain. Trumpism comes from something truly primal, say, an insectoid nerve cord.
This gets back to that business of choosing sides. The country is now six months into the Trumpublican experiment, a parade of lowlights on every level from corruption (emoluments, Russia, staffed almost entirely by clear idiots and shameless sycophants) to incompetence (just everything), but the thing that really stands out for me is the thorough, vivid ugliness of the Trumpian worldview. Its animating logic grows from the “ethos” of fuck the other guy before he fucks you, something that persistently results in bad impulses and worse decisions. It’s the entire country's worth of people snarling at one another from atop of a pile of worldly possessions that, for most of the country, keeps shrinking. The most striking thing about Trump’s America is its manifest, global lowliness, the selfishness, the pettiness, all day every day, suffocating all of us in failure and bullshit. And that starts with the man up top.
To finally get to Will’s article, that speaks to some kind of confidence that American citizens will clock this panoramic flaming shit-show for what it is and tell it to fuck off by way of secret ballot. It’s a happy thought, and the counter-argument – e.g., “we have met the enemy, and he is us” – is, by now, nothing like bold or novel (it’s a lightly nihilistic surrender, really). Trump keeps prodding Americans to choose a side and tens of millions of people choose Trumpism. That’s tens of millions of Americans choosing “fuck your neighbor” as a societal goal. I’m waiting on the moment when I can believe that’s changing, but the country hasn’t stopped sliding down the same stupid slope for the 20+ years Waldman noted in his op-ed, but clear signs we’ll stop haven't shown up on the roadside so far.