Sitting here on (another) tranquil Sunday in island paradise (where the only drama is the Gangs Of New York-ish squirrel turf battle raging in the trees just off my porch) I’ve got to tell you that I’m starting to wonder whether the entertainment value attached to Donald Trump’s fast motion meltdown doesn’t outweigh the consequences of his being President.
I know this is an exceptionally selfish way to look at things, but unless Trump causes a mushroom cloud somewhere (which isn’t entirely out of the question), it’s highly unlikely that anything he does will ever materially affect me. So there’s a net gain involved on my end from the sheer hilarity of this trainwreck.
One thing I’ve noticed is that unlike those who made fun of George Bush (the second one) years ago, the folks protesting Trump’s travel ban don’t have even a shred of respect for this President.
Remember when people used to blast President Bush for the decidedly ill-advised invasion of Iraq? Well as vitriolic (and justified) as some of that criticism most certainly was, you still got the impression that people believed Bush believed that what he was doing had some merit. That is, there was still this begrudging acknowledgement among at least some critics that “this misguided redneck probably thinks he’s right – bless his heart – and at the end of the day, he is the President.”
With Trump there’s none of that. There’s zero respect. People are just outright making fun of the guy. I saw a poster yesterday that read: “Star Spangled Wanker.”
Have a look at this picture I posted last week:
In the eyes of many, Trump’s inner circle is guilty by association.
Sean Spicer was burned so badly on last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live (by Melissa McCarthy no less) that I’m honestly not sure how he’s going to come back from it…
And that was just one segment.
Earlier in the show, Alec Baldwin reprised his now famous portrayal of the President and this time the spoof came complete with a reference to Mein Kampf along with an appearance from Steve Bannon who, as usual, was dressed as the Grim Reaper.
Then there was the travel ban sketch which, again, was so spot on that it’s difficult for me to imagine how anyone can possibly be expected to take this seriously going forward.
And it’s hard to feel sorry for Trump. I mean this f*cker did it to himself.
He alienated a free press, apparently on the assumption that he was going to be able to censor it (Erdogan-style) going forward. The same way he alienated the judiciary on the assumption he was going to be able to flout the separation of powers.
Now, the press and the media are on a veritable crusade to crucify him and the judiciary is keen on (re)asserting its authority. Meanwhile, Trump is incredulous, tweeting about “so-called judges” and campaigning for someone to “buy the NY Times.”
He still doesn’t get it. America isn’t going to let this happen. This isn’t a business. And he’s not the CEO.
Last week, a great piece in The Atlantic outlined the path to autocracy in the United States. The reason the article is so jarring isn’t because it imagines a tyrannical Trump who seizes power and then proceeds to plunge the world into chaos Hitler-style. Rather, the author describes how the populace can be pacified without intrusion or disruption. Indeed, that’s often the most effective way to exercise control. Here are some excerpts from “How To Build An Autocracy”:
The president’s critics, meanwhile, have found little hearing for their protests and complaints. A Senate investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential campaign sputtered into inconclusive partisan wrangling. Concerns about Trump’s purported conflicts of interest excited debate in Washington but never drew much attention from the wider American public.
Allegations of fraud and self-dealing in the TrumpWorks program, and elsewhere, have likewise been shrugged off. The president regularly tweets out news of factory openings and big hiring announcements: “I’m bringing back your jobs,” he has said over and over. Voters seem to have believed him—and are grateful.
Most Americans intuit that their president and his relatives have become vastly wealthier over the past four years. But rumors of graft are easy to dismiss. Because Trump has never released his tax returns, no one really knows.Anyway, doesn’t everybody do it? On the eve of the 2018 congressional elections, WikiLeaks released years of investment statements by prominent congressional Democrats indicating that they had long earned above-market returns. As the air filled with allegations of insider trading and crony capitalism, the public subsided into weary cynicism. The Republicans held both houses of Congress that November, and Trump loyalists shouldered aside the pre-Trump leadership.The business community learned its lesson early. “You work for me, you don’t criticize me,” the president was reported to have told one major federal contractor, after knocking billions off his company’s stock-market valuation with an angry tweet. Wise business leaders take care to credit Trump’s personal leadership for any good news, and to avoid saying anything that might displease the president or his family.The media have grown noticeably more friendly to Trump as well. The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner was delayed for more than a year, during which Time Warner’s CNN unit worked ever harder to meet Trump’s definition of fairness. Under the agreement that settled the Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against Amazon, the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has divested himself of The Washington Post. The paper’s new owner—an investor group based in Slovakia—has closed the printed edition and refocused the paper on municipal politics and lifestyle coverage.
Meanwhile, social media circulate ever-wilder rumors. Some people believe them; others don’t. It’s hard work to ascertain what is true.
Nobody’s repealed the First Amendment, of course, and Americans remain as free to speak their minds as ever—provided they can stomach seeing their timelines fill up with obscene abuse and angry threats from the pro-Trump troll armies that police Facebook and Twitter. Rather than deal with digital thugs, young people increasingly drift to less political media like Snapchat and Instagram.
Trump-critical media do continue to find elite audiences. Their investigations still win Pulitzer Prizes; their reporters accept invitations to anxious conferences about corruption, digital-journalism standards, the end of nato, and the rise of populist authoritarianism. Yet somehow all of this earnest effort feels less and less relevant to American politics. President Trump communicates with the people directly via his Twitter account, ushering his supporters toward favorable information at Fox News or Breitbart.
Again, it’s a kind of creeping pacification of the electorate, the majority of which resigns itself to a system that everyone knows is inherently autocratic, but seems to be “working,” where “working” means people’s daily lives aren’t dramatically impacted.
But this can only become America’s reality if the new administration is shrewd. Clever. Cunning. And, above all, patient.
Trump is anything but. Which is why the autocracy imagined in piece excerpted above will likely never be realized.
Instead, Trump, Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and the rest of the inner circle will become a standing joke. Indeed, as the clips shown above and the complete lack of respect from large numbers of Americans clearly demonstrate, they already have. Each successive tweet and botched press conference will only increase the degree to which the administration is a parody of itself.
Eventually, Republican lawmakers will realize that they can achieve everything they want to achieve with Mike Pence running the show. And with Pence as President, GOP leaders won’t have to worry about how history will judge their unwillingness to stand up to an unhinged, would-be autocrat. Once Republicans come to that conclusion, they’ll move to impeach Trump.
After that, the only question will be whether those that voted for the President will understand why Congress had to paternalistically void the election.