Friday, July 17, 2020

Trump is Us

The deeper we descend into the yaw of dysfunction, willful ignorance, and utter incompetence that is the Trump era, the more I recognize that he wasn't some Black Swan - an aberrant phenomenon no one could have foreseen. Trump's not a uniquely malign presence who wielded superpowers to seize power and make America grate again.
I'm less and less surprised by Trump's adoring base or his tolerators. They're not gripped by inexplicable madness. They're not uniquely susceptible to Trump's idiosyncratic basket of poison and poisoned candy. He hasn't brought us down; rather, we sunk and he was there, in the sub-sub-sub-sub basement, poised to step jauntily into elevator.

We're finally getting just a little bit clear on him. There's increasing consciousness - on both the Left and the Right - that what we have here is a guy who wanted the role, not the job.

We've always known this, at a blurry deep-seated level. As early as 2016, I could make even Republican friends grin at the suggestion that we appoint him King - letting him strut around in a robe and a crown while some real administrator does the actual work. They chuckled, and you'd have chuckled, too. We all knew the truth, beneath our outrage or adoration.

He wanted the position, not the job. This should spark deja vu for Slog readers endlessly subjected to this observation:
Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing. That's why most singers are so awful.
That's Trump to a tee. And that's all of us, as well. Not just the raving MAGAs, but also the progressive Resistance which spent four years Karenning over what a racist he is, diagramming his three-dimensional chess moves, delving into his psychology, and performatively setting their hair on fire over every trollish tweet, while, really, he's just malignant Chauncey Gardener.

In the long view, all you need to know is that he's that guy: the guy at the end of the bar spouting nonsense who nobody takes seriously, and who, normally, no one would want to see appointed Dog Catcher, much less President. We know the guy. We’ve always known him. He's not the embodiment of evil. Just a vain, loudmouthed ignoramus, and there are always plenty of them out there. We chuckle and shrug, deeming them edge cases.

This particular vain, loudmouthed ignoramus, enjoying some unique advantages (top four: 1. rich Daddy, 2. reality tv stardom, 3. slimy ability to flatter rubes, and 4. the tremendous benefit of a complete lack conscience), rose to the top in a system inherently lacking pre-filters. When he was elected, the loudmouthed ingorami finally had their moment. I'm honestly happy for them. Representative democracy doesn't profess to necessarily elevate the best/brightest - the candidate and policies YOU like. Democracy gives every strata a shot. So if your segment was too complacent, Karenesque, and counter-deluded to defeat the retards, don't blame the system (or, for that matter, the retards).

He's the proverbial horse spastically on the loose in the hospital. And to return to my point, he got here not via startling aberrance, but by being the very epitome of his times. He wanted to be president because he wanted to be president, not because he wanted to lead. And that's not surprising, opaque or mysterious. That's what we imperious rich aristocrats - inhabitants of the First World - do all day.

We use our copious spare time and unwavering sense of entitlement to project images of ourselves bathed in glory, feeling anger and resentment when those images remain unfulfilled, coddled though we are. None of us wants to actually do the work. We're a nation of special cases, each intrinsically superior, an entire society lost in you-go-girl imagery. This makes us susceptible to demagogues who voice our resentment.

So the nonsense-spouting guy at the end of the bar wanted to play president. I'd reference the banality of evil, but this isn't even evil, it's pedestrian. It’s the sequel to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” revealing how Jimmy Stewart’s character actually made out with his gut-level confidence in his common decency and good sense amid all the slick fancy types.

For reasons I can't fathom, people use the term "influencer" with a straight face. And this dude's the ultimate Influencer. This is where that road leads. While presidents post-Biden will likely be less stupid and self-defeating and racist and trollish and corrupt and incompetent, it may be a very long time before we get another president ala Obama, Clinton, or Bush the Elder who wants to do the work more than - ala Reagan, Bush the Younger, and Trump - s/he wants to play the role. Because as a society we're 100% about seeming, not being. We can hardly parse the difference.

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