Is Trump the end or the beginning?

In 2016, a lot of people got caught with their pants down when Donald Trump won.

The national media began booking Cletus safaris to Rust Belt diners to come up with new terms for “racism.” The Democrats immediately explored if they could go nativist too. Plenty of white Americans looked at their neighbors with newfound horror as the worst, dumbest and loudest voters celebrated a victory over human decency.

It felt like a terminal reversal, going from Barack Obama in 2008 — he won Indiana, for fuck’s sake — to electing a racist caricature who waddles about like a bloated centaur. And it wasn’t just here: Modi in India. Johnson in England. Bolsonaro in Brazil. Even Le Pen in France, who didn’t win, but still managed to make the final round of voting as a glowed-up Nazi vowing to return France to Vichy rule.

A lot of people looked at Mango Unchained’s win in that context, saw his hold on parts of America, and resigned themselves to the Black Lodge timeline. And in the worst “Groundhog Day” rip-off ever, that’s all still possible. We could see him eke out another win, the GOP hangs onto the Senate by a fingernail and we get four more years of fascist Dada, leading up to a 2024 GOP primary between Tom Cotton and Donny Junior arguing over which one of them could murder more rioters from a helicopter gun turret.

Yes, the big wet president was riding high, and not scandal, not incompetence, not racism, not self-dealing, nothing could knock him off that rising wave.

Except … that’s not exactly what’s happened since Jan. 20, 2017.

***

Right now, the coronavirus is THE topic of conversation, political and otherwise. Should Orange Wannabe-Julius lose in November, the conventional wisdom is almost assuredly going to be that his nigh-murderous mishandling of it is what scuttled his chances.

But in that case, explain 2018, when the Democrats put an absolute hiding on the GOP even though they were disadvantaged by the 2010 redistricting? Why has his average approval rating never — as in not once in three and a half years — topped 46%? Why has his party suffered losses across the country in seemingly safe statehouses and easily winnable races? Why has there been a tsunami of retirements from GOP House members? Why does nobody want to work for his administration outside of rejects, morons, his cursed brood, warmongers or starfuckers? 

Perhaps most of all: If he were the colossus Fox props him up to be — and the national media shatters vertebrae to bend over backwards pretending he might be — why would he be down 10% nationally to a deeply uninspiring Joe Biden just four months before Election Day? And why is his absolute best-case scenario to get walloped in the popular vote again and sneak through the back door via electoral college shenanigans? 

Does this really feel like winning?

***

With a little hindsight, Trump’s win is less inexplicable than it seemed in the moment.

America is deeply and systematically racist. As a society, we prefer the cheap ego-boost of watching people we consider losers on “reality” TV than the hard work of being empathetic. We’re addicted to entertainment. We’re suspicious of expertise. We believe that freedom means we get to do what we want whenever we want it. We think long-term planning is equivalent to communism.

I can go on, but Trump scratches all of those itches in just the most satisfying way. His recipe was a Nixon-Reagan casserole served with a big helping of George Wallace on top … and it worked, because racism plays, especially after a black guy won and a hated woman was on deck for four more years.

Of course, Papaya Pol Pot isn’t a politician like Nixon or an actor like Reagan, so his campaign looked like a dumpster rolling downhill toward a tire fire. And he had, and still has, just one move: It’s the minorities’ fault.

But Trump was a novelty in 2016, and it cannot be overstated how big a deal that is. We’re a brain-wormed society that struggles with the line between “reality” and “reality TV”; he showed up to say he was the guy from TV, and a lot of people ate it up.

When “Survivor” first hit the airwaves, it was an absolute sensation. Its first two seasons, it was the #2 and then #1 show on television. It’s still on TV, and it’s still pretty popular, but what used to be 30 million viewers a week is now more like 6 or 7 million. 

Novelties wear off after a while.

***

Donald Trump losing in 2020, even bigly, doesn’t change what he did or make his loudest supporters disappear. It absolutely does not mean racism will melt away: If anything, Trump’s years have shown that those under the banner of white supremacy will only get louder and more dangerous as things begin to turn against them.

But while very vocal and powerful, the number of people willing to take up that fight seems to be a lot smaller. 

While Nixon barely won in 1968, he annihilated the Democrats in 1972, with his “silent majority” of whites scared by desegregation bringing him a landslide victory only undone by his paranoid criminality.

Even after Watergate, it only took 8 years to get the band back together for Ronald Reagan to do the same thing with some of the harder edges sanded down. He won easily in ’80, and then thumped Walter Mondale so badly in 1984 that the Democratic Party still feels compelled to embrace Reaganism.

The standard national media story is always, endlessly, “Dems in disarray!” but Trump rebooted the campaigns of the two most successful Republican candidates in the past 50 years and … still didn’t win the popular vote. He even won a smaller share of white voters, itself a skinnier slice of the electoral pie than it used to be.

Moreover, like Nixon in ’72 and Reagan in ’84, he had a beatable opponent. This is neither the time nor the place to discuss Hillary Clinton’s legacy, but Trump got every possible break against her in 2016. Perhaps the biggest of all: He wasn’t taken seriously until late in the game and was “new” to politics. Meanwhile, his opponent has had so much right-wing propaganda shouted about her over the years that it’s actually become a trace element in our atmosphere: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.3% anti-Clintonism.

OK, I guess I should say second biggest, now that we have a white guy with a dong and 95% of her platform whipping the big wet president in surprising places: North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Florida (!), Ohio (!!), Iowa (!?!?!) and Texas (!?!?!?!!?!?!?!!!?!?!?).

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Biden is going to win all of them (or possibly any of them) but those aren’t even the polls that should be keeping the GOP up at night. It’s this one, about the nation’s attitude toward the Black Lives Matter movement. 

If people who used to be on the fence about the existence of systemic racism are hopping over to the side of justice, well, that’ll throw a party with a white supremacist standard-bearer into — you guessed it — disarray.

***

So we come to the big question: Is Trump the beginning of the next fascist age, or the death rattle of a soon-to-be bygone era?

This, again, isn’t to say that Trump’s gonna lose in 2020 or that America is anywhere near a better path. We should under NO circumstances let our guard down even one iota, because whatever the other side can’t achieve with politics, they’ll do with poison.

But there’s so much pro-Trump noise from the Fox News Extended Universe (and so much Democratic and media cowering) that sometimes I wonder if the counter-indications against him are underplayed. 

As of right now, the only thing keeping him in power is a Republican Party that’s even more afraid of his racist followers than the simpering Dems are.

And even they question his usefulness to them, the tell being their foot-dragging over a second stimulus package. Mitch McConnell would not hesitate to drop a few billion dollars to get more 27-year-old 4chan-trained legal minds in the federal judiciary for 50 years.

Cheetolini’s ads blare about how bad America is, but this time, the footage he’s showing is from his years in office. The wall isn’t big and beautiful. The pandemic is not under control. The bottom is about to drop out of the economy again. The ACA still exists and abortion is still legal. The “Dreamers” are still here. Maybe worst of all, the culture that enrages right-wingers continues to slide away from them, even as they retreat further to their safe spaces and Fox-approved bubbles.

And no, Biden doesn’t get my motor running. But I’ll admit it: Even semi-competent governance sounds fucking fantastic right about now to me and plenty of other voters.

***

Eventually a reckoning is coming for both parties. 

The youth vote on the Democratic side is a hurricane coming over the horizon for the Schumer-Pelosi axis. And for the GOP, what was supposed to distract the peasants, the culture war, has overtaken the leaders’ real mission of pro-business, pro-corporate interests. 

But I know what the future of the Democratic Party looks like, because we’ve already seen it: It’s Bernie’s policies and Warren’s fight. It’s AOC. It’s Ilhan Omar. It’s Katie Porter. It’s Cory Booker having a heart, even if I don’t love his policies. It’s a growing willingness to use government as a tool to fix wrongs and help those in need, the New Deal reborn for a new age of American crisis.

I have no clue who the GOP turns to after Trump. They can’t go back to respectable types like Mitt Romney. They’re certainly not going to run a bible-thumper; those people are to be harvested for votes and never allowed power. It’s dumb culture warriors or proto-fascists or phony populists — and none of them are going to scratch the itch like Donald Trump did. The detestable Ted Cruz? DWI maven Matt Gaetz? My neighborhood climber Elise Stefanik? Unpleasant fascist Tom Cotton? 

Republicans in power got lucky with Trump in a way. He only cares about settling personal scores; it’s no accident that the only legislative achievement during his time was a coffer-draining tax cut for the rich. The next Trump might have ideas of his own and want to put them in place, and that’s a terrifying thought both for the country but also that person’s Republican enablers. 

The rot goes even deeper into their ideology, though. Since Reagan, the drumbeat has been small government, small government, small government. Welp, we’ve seen that in action versus the coronavirus and it was scored a first-round KO for the virus. The federal response of “no-can-do!” left a power vacuum of confusion with thousands of people dead and millions more angry and scared. When we needed someone to step up, small government could only blurt out “I take no responsibility.”

That obviously bodes poorly for Trump, a guy who — I remind everyone — barely won in 2016, but perhaps it goes further than that. Just this century, the Republicans have presided over 9/11, disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the coronavirus mess. Not to compare United States citizens to your run of the mill Karen, but why wouldn’t the government’s customers, y’know, US, just demand better service at this point? 

OK, OK, now I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re not there yet, and probably won’t be for a while. 

But unless he can pull another rabbit out of his hairpiece, it’s growing more and more likely that we’re going to look back at Trump as a historical error, a short coda tacked on to the end of the civil rights backlash of the 20th and 21st centuries, and not the second rise of the übermensch. 

If, that is, we all do the work to make that happen over the next few years.

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About Clever Name Here dba "Black Rod" 100 Articles
Vell, Clever Name Here just zis guy, you know? Sometimes funny. Often annoyed. Once I saw a blimp.

21 Comments

  1. The last 4 years have been the Death Rattle. This is it. It’s the end for them. One last gasp. 
    But…
    It’s up to us. It’s up to us to stamp this shit out for good. Like a still smoldering cigarette butt, we need to snuff it out. Otherwise, it keeps burning.
    Once we win, we have to drag these fuckers into the 21st century kicking and screaming. The green deal, defund police, Medicare for all, BLM, EPA protections, gun control, gas guzzler tax, dark money. And on and on. 
    The dems should be planning for this RIGHT NOW. Have legislation ready to go on day one. Let’s make their heads spin for the next 4 years and put them down for good. 

    • Basically, yes. The number one priority should be to end voter disenfranchisement. Establish vote by mail for everyone, eliminate gerrymandering, allow every citizen to vote. I keep saying it, but if EVERYONE voted or was allowed to vote, the progressive agenda would take care of itself. Even Trump said voting by mail would destroy the Republican party, proving that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. We’re suffering at the hands of a troglodyte minority now, but I truly believe that most people want what’s right. Their voices have just been silenced. We fix that, we’ll fix the rest by default. 

  2. eh….i dont think trump is a beginning or an end…
    just the same old shit getting riper by the year
    really…if you stay in the room long enough…you stop smelling it
    in any event….we’re gonna need a deep clean…

    • …the fact that the same fetid thinking bubbled up in a bunch of places lines up with the same old shit thesis…& I guess I do suspect that advancement to the point of eradicating that kind of thinking entirely from humanity may prove to be beyond our collective ability…certainly the co-opting of “the will of the people”, “the national interest” or “the common man” to the cause of narrow & self-serving interests that most often work out poorly for that first set seems like a historical trope of some solid standing

      …the line between slavery & indentured servitude can be hard to see even before the prison industrial complex hoves into view so there’s no end of catching up to do in no end of places before the situation makes it from drowning to waving…much less onto dry land

      …but in some ways (at least in the US…not sure the same goes for the UK or the bits of the EU that have their own infestations) it has been looking for a while like (cross-your-fingers-&-pray) the GOP might have overplayed their hand & wound up finding that their hole card isn’t the ace it was last time they checked?

      …the deep clean thing seems like a timely suggestion, either way

      • tight rope act over here…. trump getting in gave the right a boost pretty much across europe
        buuuut then britain went full retard….and the rest of europe took a step back and figured…hey.. lets see how it works out for those fucking idiots
        aaaand then rona… so now they’re starting an economic disaster on top of an economic disaster….i figures….it wont be pretty
        but…if by some topsy fucking turvy logic this ends up working out for the uk….europe is doomed

  3. It’s entirely possible that Trump wins again this fall via electoral college (not through the House), because the DNC would rather be right than happy.  It’s also entirely possible that we will see a political tidal wave not seen since Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but in favor of the Democrats.  However, let’s not hold our breath waiting for the corporate wing of the party to see the light and take its collective death grip off of all the money they’ve been raking in over the years and just handing the reins over to a bunch of avowed socialists.  That may not even happen in our lifetimes.  If Nothing else, the 2020 primary process proved that socialism still has a very long way to go in this country.

    • It does, but I also feel like 2020 shows that it’s here to stay as part of American politics, and certain ideas are in the political conversation in a way that I couldn’t have even imagined a decade ago.

      I don’t think coronavirus is going to have a real long-term political realignment effect, but I’ve already seen it dawning on some moderates and business types that a national health care system would have handled all this a lot better — and did basically everywhere else in the world that’s now open for business and has sports and events and what have you. That wouldn’t be the worst takeaway from 2020, even if it’s still Joe Biden as the candidate. 

    • The Democrats are as complicit in the rise of  Trump as the Republicans. At times, the party tent is just too big. You’re not going to be able to please all of the people under it. You cannot, simultaneously, end systemic racism, climate change, economic inequality and a pandemic, all while trying change the culture of a nation of this size. Everybody feels very strongly about their pet issue(s), and that is all well and good. But we can’t do everything first. Some things have to wait, and when people don’t see their issue tended to first, they get pissed with righteous indignation and demand even more radical change. The majority of this country resides between left-center and right-center. Social media has given the lunatic fringes on both sides a powerful megaphone to shout through but most people tend to be more central. But most of us aren’t there, even if we can agree with some of their positions. not everybody wants a firebrand like AOC or even Bernie running the party, let alone the country. So the Dems are stuck trotting out lukewarm candidates. After being held in the grasp of HRC for nearly 2 decades, the party stagnated. People leading the party would have realized how many people truly did not like her if they had taken a moment to pull their heads out of their asses. And so the most unprepared, unelectable, undignified man ever to run for office is shitting all over the Constitution from the Oval Office. This is the death rattle but it is not the final spasm of Trump’s kind. Change like that is bred out over generations. 

  4. I appreciate your optimism about the future of the Democratic party. I wish I could be a believer.
     
    I haven’t been alive long enough to have a historical perspective on how this all turns out. Clinton’s presidency and surplus was met with GWB and his disaster. Obama cleaned up the mess and Trump has been on the war path to destroy his legacy. Rinse, repeat. 
    Trumpism will probably not have the same bite if he loses, but it will exist well into the future. Trump won’t be able to keep his mouth shut while he’s sued into oblivion so we are stuck with him, no matter the outcome (c’mon, stroke!). One of his acolytes will surely find themselves in a place of power, 20-30 years from now when history doesn’t want us to think too hard about how awful the past four years have been. 
    Globally, this continues. Shinzo Abe, Putin in Russia as president for life, Chna’s stranglehold tightening in the places we’ve left a power vacuum.
    The only thing we can do is fight. When we have power, make it difficult for the progress to be undone. Make it difficult for Presidents to unilaterally act without Congress. Have our leaders lead in condemning injustice wherever it crops up. If this country could live by it’s principles, we might actually be great.

    • I think my short answer is that I’m not optimistic about the leadership of the party, but the Biden cliff among young voters shows that at some point that’s not going to matter — voters are going to tell the party what they want, and that will be that (see Trump, Donald in 2016, for a better-organized and far more authoritarian group.)

      Also, part of this is that “Trumpism” — really just a more narcissistic Southern Strategy in a longer tie — already doesn’t have the bite it used to. Like I said, I don’t think those voters are going anywhere (I suppose beside to a grave) but if Trump is anywhere near maximizing them as a strategy, then they sure look like a spent force right now.

      • Voters vote the way the party tells them to.  Not in a direct USSR kind of way, but more in a gatekeeper that offers extremely limited choices kind of way.  When boat rockers like Sanders and Warren get involved, the party shuts that shit down in any way they see fit.
         
        We are suffering from a political duopoly that ultimately has little to no chance of ever changing.  They have structured the political process in such a way as to ensure that they are the only two viable parties from which to choose.  I honestly see no way out of this cycle.

        • …it’s a sincere quandary (to me at least) since it’s hard to imagine things shifting to a point where voting for a third party/independent candidate rises to being much more than a vote in favour of the one you like least out of the two that might actually have a shot

          …so I figure in at least so.e ways the overton window side of the equation is kind of the whole ball game from a voter’s perspective?

           

      • I think there is a significant growth in new energy in the party, and a better understanding of organization, although the olds still have a strong grip overall. I think the fights going on over cancel culture are really a sign that establishment thinkers are getting worried, and they are getting embarassed by their lack of ideas. I’m not expecting any of them to give up easily though, and they have a huge advantage in terms of money. If this country can keep it together — not a sure thing — I think the massive depletion of ideas is going to doom the centrists and righties. But it will be a slog.

  5. I want Jesus to come back. Not like the rapture though. I want the table-turning, righteous fury, can-you-smell-what-the-Lord-is-cooking!? Jesus to come back with an Elbow of Justice so painful these shitty little cretins cannot even fathom. 
     
    I want to watch them getting smacked with The Truth. 
     

    • You know full well that if Jesus did return, the moment he said anything that didn’t satisfy the illogical beliefs of the evangelical right, we’d be ankles deep in #fakesavior and #notmychrist tweets. They don’t realize how antithetical their own beliefs are to the book they claim to know and love. 

  6. Is Trump the beginning of the next fascist age, or the death rattle of a soon-to-be bygone era?
    Yes.
    In all truth, I believe that–depending on who wins this election, it really could be either…
    If Trump wins, the oligarchs/Kakistocrats win, and we could be well & truly fucked as a society, because the Millers, Bannons, Parscales, Barrs, and other assorted grifters (DJTJ & Jar-Vanky), & Oligarchy class will still have nearly unfettered access to the levers of power behind the curtain we used to believe was “The Dignity of The Presidency.”
    BUT, if that happens, those fools win, and they try to do what they want to do, I believe we likely COULD have the Revolution 2.0 that the Boogaloo-boobs have wanted…. just not going in quite the direction the White-Supremacist dumbasses *think* it will.
    On the other hand, YES, since O was elected (and Michelle was our FLOTUS, and two little black girls did most of their growing up–supported by a live-in Black grandma–in a White House which had been primarily built by Black people like them💖), I feel like we’ve been hearing the death rattle.
    I will NEVER in my life forget, election night in 2008, when Obama was announced the winner.
    I was ELATED, because O was my guy–and had been, since I’d heard him give the speech at the 2004 DNC convention–THAT speech was what made me realize the party was gonna lose ’08, if they didn’t run *Him.*
    I was onboard for Obama, from the moment he announced his candidacy, I was only mildly… concerned (think in the Susan Collins way😉)… about O picking someone with a deeper political history as his running mate… and after listening to ALL the candidates speak for months on NPR/MPR, I admit, i was hoping he’d pick either Chris Dodd or Biden. Once he chose Joe, I was ALL the way onboard with Obama/Biden.
    And I knew by early July of  ’08, when I was up at my then-roommate’s (VERY Republican family!) Family Shindig, that it was literally Obama’s race to lose.
    Because while ALL of the R’s in her family liked McCain “ok,” and respected him as a war hero, they also didn’t have one iota of the feelings for Palin, where the D’s had “He’s OK and respectable” feelings for Biden, and fierce passion for Obama.
    Back to my point about election night in 2008, though, 
    Both on election night, and in the first days afterward, as was to be expected, many of the pundits and politicians I’d listened to & respected for years, were interviewed on Obama’s historic win.
    I remember Donna Brazile being interviewed, and her admitting surprise that Barack Obama had won the votes of so many white folks.
    But the gut-punch for me, was hearing either Jesse Jackson, or John Lewis (I honestly can’t remember which, and can’t seem to find a written copy of what I heard)–one of the men who was Cohorts with Dr. King, and part of his movement–saying basically, That while he’d *hoped* that one day, a Black man would be elected president here in the United States, he’d never expected to see it happen *within* his own lifetime.
    That one SHOOK me, to my absolute core, and  still brings tears to my eyes today.
    Because, as a child of the 1970’s & 80’s, who was 4 when Reagan beat Carter, and then was 8 the year that Jesse Jsckson Sr., Geraldine Ferraro, and my “Mr. Fritz” Mondale were all candidates in the run-up to the D-side Primary…
     
    I never DOUBTED that the United States would have a Black man as President within my lifetime, and that we will have Women as President, too.
    Because back in 1984? 
    When the D’s were in that primary battle, and out there talking about their platforms & policies?
     
    The man with the BEST policies for the MOST Americans, in this 8-year-old little poor (living 100% on welfare!) white-girl’s opinion, was Jesse Jackson.
    The frustrating thing, to me, about the current “Progressive Push” leftward–developed in the opinion of MANY by Bernie Sanders?
    Read THESE platform planks, and tell me, what they sound like, y’all;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Jackson_1984_presidential_campaign
    These were MY positions, and have been, since I was Eight Years Old.
     
    Before I was fully behind my “Mr. Fritz and Miz Ferraro!”?
    I BELIEVED in Jesse Jackson, AND HE was the man I thought ought to be running this Nation.
    Because HE HAD PLANS, and those plans were GOOD, and they were gonna solve PROBLEMS.
    And I both love, AND find it incredibly frustrating, that–aside from needing to declare SA a rogue-state, These policies are STILL 100% valid & could be dropped *directly* into use today.
    1984 man.
    We HAD this shit all the way back then… 
    Thirty-six motherfucking YEARS ago!!!
    So death-knell/death rattle?
    YES. I believe it likely is.
    But, y’all….
    Some of us have been WAITING for folks to catch up, for nigh on 4 DECADES now💖🤨🤨🤨

      • He really was, wasn’t he?
        It’s been frustrating me, since I finally remembered to look up the stuff at that Wikipedia link, HOW amazingly progressive, but *now fairly mainstream* Jackson’s ideas are today.
        I loved them when I was *eight,* and felt like they were exactly what this country needed, and, I STILL feel it today.
        More than a generation later.
        It’s *also* frustrating, that his ideas fiiiiinally have traction, seemingly because they’ve been “watered down a bit” and are now pushed by older, white folks (as much as I LOVE Warren & do like Bernie)…
         
        I feel inordinately frustrated, too, for the Black women (and other WOC, too!), who’ve been saying, “We’ve been TRYING to tell y’all this, FOR YEARS!” 
         
        Because they HAVE. And they Did. Yet too many damn folks–even today–still won’t listen.
         
        Jackson’s platform positions ARE doable. If *nothing* else, the federal financial response to COVID–including the PPP has proven that.
         
        It’s just that too many folks make $$$ from the system as it stands, and they currently hold the power.🤬🤬🤬

    • Now that we’re not allowed to leave the US because the rest of this country would rather yell about trivial freedoms than do the common, decent thing (AND WEAR A FUCKING MASK), the only safari we can go on for the foreseeable future is a Cletus safari. 

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