Our long national nightmare is (almost) over – for now

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It would be fair to say I have a lot of feelings and emotions about the confirmation that Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States in 75 days. 

Of course, relief is the most overwhelming one. I’ve been very clear that the re-election of Donald Trump could have been the death knell for American democracy and seeing the shameful way Trump and his enablers in the right-wing media and in GOP politics have amplified numerous outright falsehoods about the integrity of the election only convinces me even more I was right. 

This was a close election, but ultimately Joe Biden is going to win as many states and electoral votes as Trump did in 2016, preventing the corruption of GOP federal judges and state legislatures from putting their thumb on the scales to tilt the election if it were closer, even if Biden tallied more electoral votes. 

The GOP disinformation machine was forced to stand down to the point where only the wingnuttiest of the ghouls in Trump’s corner like Rudy Guiliani, Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Kevin McCarthy were left to spout their falsehoods and lies about secret boxes, hidden back doors and (presumably) UFOs delivering votes in the night to inner-city precincts. 

It apparently didn’t occur to them that inner-city Blacks might have been a little incentivized to turn out and vote against the person who called their neighborhoods “hellholes”, but that’s another story for another day I suppose. 

For now, while jubilant that Trump himself has been removed from power, I’m still anxious and despondent that Trumpism itself has proven to be made of a bit more durable stuff and is going to be around for quite awhile I worry. 

To explain, it’s necessary for me to pay some compliments to Donald Trump, which runs counter to every instinct I’ve ever had, but critical for explaining why I’m still pessimistic about the future of the United States. I’ll also explain why there’s some hope for optimism as well. 

This election proved that Donald Trump’s political instincts remain very sharp. For the decades, the Holy Grail of electoral politics was figuring out a way to convince non-voters and first-time voters to participate in our democracy. Trump figured out the cheat code — appeal to their basest, most reactionary instincts and turn the presidency into a reality show.

Americans LOVE reality shows. Refer to Mexicans as rapists, call John McCain a loser — the thing or person or idea getting attacked is irrelevant as long as all of the attention for doing so is on Trump. 

This feedback cycle overwhelmed our media and overwhelmed us as a nation until he had managed to depress turnout enough to secure a narrow win in 2016 with the help of misogyny, the FBI and Russian hackers. Once installed as president, the media is forced to cover everything the president does as newsworthy, giving Trump not only the biggest reality show in the world with him at the center of it, but an enormous grifting trough, also as large as the planet.

He used that feedback loop to build the base even bigger. During a once-in-a-century pandemic that he bungled the response to — arguably worse than any leader in the world — Donald Trump is going to get the second-most votes of any presidential candidate in American history. That’s an amazing feat and created a strong downballot performance from GOP senators and representatives on the federal and state level. 

That we are lucky enough Trump himself is odious enough the idea of another four more years of a Trump presidency bound together every wing of the country from the center to the far left, from former GOP grifters like those in the Lincoln Project to actual socialists, ones that make AOC seem like the second coming of Phyllis Schafly by comparison.

Without a full repudiation at the ballot box, we are left in limbo —simply waiting for a more personable and dignified fascist like Tom Cotton or Josh Hawley to take up the mantle of continuing to build the GOP into a grievance-based white nationalist party completely disinterested in governing the nation and more interested in dismantling everything most Americans like about our society, from drivable roads to breathable air.

They may not have the showman’s chops to pull it off, but a frighteningly large segment of the American population have exposed themselves as credulous rubes, ready to believe anything sold to them by a snake oil salesman as long as they remained frightened by words they don’t understand like “election observers” or “socialism”. 

The marriage of Trump and the GOP was an unholy one — both once upstanding pillars of American society, even if both had already been tainted by years of impropriety and scandal well before their glory days of the mid-80s. Trump used the GOP and the GOP used Trump and now they’re both used up and there’s nowhere to go but all the way to the bottom. Will they take America down with them?

No, we’ve not heard the last of Donald Trump or Trumpism. He will be asked — BEGGED — to stump for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in their Georgia Senate runoffs and if he consents those rallies will be something to behold. Trump raging against enemies real or imagined, an unhinged arsonist standing on a pile of kindling.

If his legal future weren’t so uncertain I would feel confident Trump could remain a GOP kingmaker for the rest of his life, so powerful will be the allure of pure, uncut Trumpism to his jonesing, dope-sick base.

His future IS uncertain however. There will be many stories written about where he goes from here and the options are fairly infinite. There are scenarios for which he pardons himself for various crimes and parks himself at the Mar-A-Lago buffet until his oleaginous  heart finally bursts or the bile in his body finally reaches a critical mass and destroys him from the inside. 

He could (and should) face the full force of the federal justice system for countless crimes against the people of the United States, which if we’re being sporting could be limited to financial crimes alone, but would still probably render him confined to a minimum security federal pokey for the rest of his miserable life. 

Or maybe Melania justifiably takes a 3-iron to his dome and skedaddles back to Slovenia. Like I said, sky’s the limit really. 

I do know that the future for the GOP is Trumpism. They have no other paths now, no other North Star, no other guiding lights. Even Mitt Romney has sold his soul. They were heading that way anyway, but they hitched their cart to a narcissistic, misanthropic, misogynistic white nationalist and a not very subtle one at that.

If that makes you a little depressed, here’s where I explain why I have some hope. 

While praising Trump earlier for his accidental organizing skills by bringing together all aspects of American deplorables under one tent, where conspiracy theorists are free to mingle with white nationalists, climate change deniers, Holocaust deniers, Rush Limbaugh and other assorted right-wing scum, he also accidentally built a national resistance and cemented over a lot of left-wing fissures that he was able to exploit successfully in 2016. 

The story of the American left since the 1968 Democratic Convention is that trying to convincing yourself any kind of lesson learned is folly, but millions of new voters and organizers have been added to the ranks of the politically conscious. 

What is done is harder to undo — liberals and centrists alike have gotten a taste for the fight and might not be as willing to recede into the background and quietly govern as would have been the case if Hillary had squeaked out a narrow victory in 2016. 

Yes, the federal judiciary has been packed to the gills with semi-literate Trump acolytes for a generation and there will be no changes to that for at least two years, but if – a HUGE if to be sure – the factions of the left can maintain their detente to both govern and bend the will of the public to a new kind of liberalism, it will not be hard to inspire voters to the polls every two years for the foreseeable future to prevent a repeat of the past four years. 

If you want to be really, really optimistic that could be the worst of the best-case scenarios.

Yet another possibility is without Trump on the ballot, there is no Trumpism. If you think that’s not possible remember the GOP got smoked in the 2018 midterms without Trump on the ballot. The two runoffs in Georgia might be the canary in the coalmine that the Republican Party has sealed its own demise by getting in bed with the likes of Donald Trump.

At least a few million Trump supporters were brought into their devotion and fealty as first-time voters in 2016 and 2020 and could realize the extent of the way they were conned as news reports steadily dribble out about his corruption and his distain for his supporters. Q is not arresting anyone. There is no one pulling the strings, no evil mastermind behind the curtain.

This backlash could be what ultimately destroys the Republican Party.

Once America is returned to good (at least competent) governance under a Biden administration it might start to dawn on a lot of people that they were effectively held hostage under the whims of a madman for four years and the media was complicit in amplifying his every utterance as breaking news (as would usually be befitting the President of the United States). Trump exploited the media against itself and against the American people and should pay in the court of public opinion if nowhere else. 

His enablers in the Republican Party will have no excuses, no rocks they can hide behind. Everyone knew who Donald Trump is. Everyone knows who Donald Trump is. The debasement of the GOP was almost completely total. If association with Donald Trump becomes a non-starter politically in this country, the Republican Party will essentially no longer exist.

He is a charlatan, a con-man, incurious, unorganized, self-absorbed and cares not one iota for the United States of America. These stories will come out. They might come out before Trump is officially out of office. His loyalty is not to the Republican Party any more than it is to the United States. His only loyalty is to Donald John Trump. He might bring down the whole circus on top of his head just for fun or to show that he can.

After all, no one likes to be used or played for a fool.

For now, while there is still damage he can do his final weeks in office, he has finally been exposed as the emperor who has no clothes. His political impotence as a lame-duck president is already palpable as is his fear of prosecution and ridicule.  

Not my (our) problem any more. I don’t know how the saga of Trumpism will end — with the GOP gone the way of the Whigs in four years, a new ascendant center-right conservative party interested in governing jointly with the Democrats taking up the necessary role of a conservative counterbalance in our politics. 

Or with the burgeoning ranks of Trump-lite copycats like Matt Gaetz and Devin Nunes — ignorant in their own way, but with a tiny, tiny bit more dignity and class and a little less panache figuring out they too can lead America’s too-large populations of bigots and imbeciles to do anything they ask so long as they make sure to wrap it in the flag, unfounded fears of socialism, and owning the libs. 

That’s gonna have to be good enough for me. I knew that months ago Trump had a very good chance to win this election and did what I had to do to protect my family, my assets and my sanity. This week proved me right in a sense, even if I’m beyond elated ultimately I was wrong. 

For now, that’s something to celebrate. 

Published by Brian

Your humble narrator on a hopefully epic journey.

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