Interesting Times

I was wrong about Donald Trump winning the presidency.  Hell, I was one of those dopes who thought he wouldn’t even be able to get through the GOP primaries.  But at least one of my predictions did come true.

From day one, I told anyone who asked that a Trump presidency would be far more interesting than any other 2016 electoral scenario.  Indeed, a Trump presidency would be one of the most interesting political developments of the last hundred years, maybe of the next hundred.  And I’m afraid I was right.

After all, these are, if nothing else, interesting times.

There are many reasons to be deeply interested in the festering, moldy pyrotechnics of Trump’s amateur hour presidency.  There’s the sheer comedic value of watching him fumble and roar.  There’s the absolutely stunning, slow motion reshuffling of America’s role on the global stage.  There are the painful undulations and muted screams of a Republican Party unexpectedly confronting its own impotence in the hour of its great victory.  And there are all the things you were absolutely certain would happen that will not.

All of these funny, alarming, surreal shocks and many more cry out for explanation.  Anyone who’s paying attention desperately wants to understand just what the hell happening.

This will help explain the rapacious market for juicy tell-alls that is almost certainly in the offing.  Sooner rather than later, expect a spate of books  from the striving flotsam and jetsam shed from Trump’s spiral, flaming rocket boosters.  Reince Priebus, Paul Manafort, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn: they and many of the other human buoys Trump leaves behind will try to cash in and rehabilitate their reputations.  It should make for good reading.

But in the meantime, we get to ponder a puzzle piece of the present: Pundits trying their darndest to explain the Magical Mr. Trump.

Peggy Noonan stupidly compares him to Woody Allen (because all outer-borough New Yorkers are the same?).  Some guy at The Natinoal Review likens him to wannabe alpha males who idolize Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (but Trump doesn’t wish he was an alpha male bully scumbag, he actually is one).  David Brooks hits the bulls eye by labeling him as infantile, but that’s hardly an insight.  And early on, PBS made the case that Trump is his hyper-competitive, racist father’s son, run through the machismo grinder of military school (well worth watching).

Personally, I think he’s a septuagenarian Joffrey Baratheon without the monarchal power.

Of course I’m probably just as wrong as Noonan and everyone else who strives to find the right metaphor for The Orange Muppet.  Yet many grasping expositions of Trump still make for interesting reading, even when they miss the mark.  Why? Because this Trumpist moment is so strange that anyone who recognizes its ludicrousness is immediately driven by a strong urge to make sense of it.

As Slim Pickens put it, what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?

Donald Trump’s presidency is the perfect metaphor for all of life’s surreal mysteries and existential angst.  It is the unimaginable shadow of ridiculous doom, cast into the harsh light of day, and demanding explanation.

It is neither the bleak horror of fascism nor the mundane grind of Bush-Clinton neo-liberalism.  It is something foggier and far sillier than the former, more chaotic and less competent than the latter.

It is a clownishly inept brand of right wing populism that, to date, can seem to do little more than spin in circles while mildly stoking white anger like a clever rat running over and over through the same maze to a sliver of cheese.

Much like life itself, it is funny, sad, infuriating, and ultimately frustrating to everyone involved, whether they relish and vigorously pursue it, or snarl and sneer with grim resignation.  And, for the most part, it is unknowable.  At least for now, says the historian

But of one thing we can be certain.  Like everything that has come before, it too will pass.

And then perhaps, as this Trumpist moment fades into yesterday, we may look back and shudder at its hideous figure, render a fuller judgment of those who partook in or supported it, issue warnings to those who follow, and smile at the new day ahead.

4 thoughts on “Interesting Times

  1. You hit the bullseye here, though that ridiculous shadow of doom (or shadow of ridiculous doom) to which you so correctly allude quite often alas IS imaginable!

    Just one thing to note in defense of Noonan: she likened him to the persona of a kind of absurd schlemiel-like Woody Allen WITHOUT THE HUMOR.

    1. But that reduces Allen to little more than his insecurities. Allen is largely characterized by his intellect, brutal self-reflections, and social indecisiveness, qualities so lacking in Trump as to define him through their absence.

      The only thing binding the two of them is that you can imagine Trump bullying Allen.
      Beyond that, I honestly can’t think of two white, male New Yorkers with less in common than Allen and Trump. But they’re all the same to Noonan.

  2. I’m not saying I totally agree with Noonan and yes, she seemed somewhat off the mark, but that caveat about his being humorless was important. We also could say that Trump is truly “indescribable.”

    The real moral conundrum here is whether we should cave, acquiesce like they want us too, stop watching the news, sit down, be quiet and eat our oatmeal; or continue to keep an eye on things, no matter how nauseating . . .

    In truth, there are many things we could say. (“See what you can do with a little money” or “What goes around comes around” or “There’s a tide in the affairs of [American] men. . . .” but why don’t we just conclude with “Where there’s life there’s hope” and continue to believe that the sun will come out tomorrow.

  3. One thing about academics and pundits is you can write and write and talk and talk and however wrong you are, which is A Lot, it will all pass, and you still have jobs.

    YOU progressive guys are hysterical about Trump!

    And like Hillary Clinton would be better!

    Sad! Also hilarious.

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