Canción de Trump
by Sam Kriss
This isn’t about… yeah, it is about me, I guess, when you think about it.
Donald Trump, November 2, 2020
In October, President Donald Trump suggested he might leave the country if he lost the election. Now, he’s lost. He won’t go, but I like to imagine him in Greenland. You might remember that only last year, there was a brief scandal when Trump suggested buying the island from Denmark. The Danes stuck their chests out and refused the deal, and everyone pretended to ignore the fact that the island is functionally an American colony anyway, dotted with US military bases and only barely, vaguely, fictionally under Danish sovereignty. Maybe that was why the sale never went through: so Trump would have somewhere to flee.
Imagine Trump in Nuuk, scraggly-bearded and swaddled in a parka, trudging through the snow with his rod to fish. A quiet man, a teetotaller on an island full of broken violent drunks. He has his own way of being broken. Imagine Trump in the island’s lonely hinterlands, a hermit. Greenland is a haunted country, numinous and cold, whispering; one of the last places that’s still truly wild. Reindeer nuzzle the close dark moss, seals bask on their floes, glaciers creak and there are monsters in the deep. Imagine Trump alone, watching the northern lights spin gorgeous threads across the sky, alone. What would happen to the man if he had nobody to watch him, nobody paying attention? If he had to be a person, a living subject, rather than an image and a symbol and a name? Would he develop a conscience? Would he become wise? Or would he just dissolve into motes, and drift away in the Arctic wind?
The Greenlanders know. Their monsters are the qivittok, spirits of the strange or unworthy people exiled from the community. No human can survive alone in this cold and beautiful place, and so the qivittok become something other than human: furry or antlered, gruesome mongrel forms. Some of them can fly. They live in the mountains and attack travellers, leaving piles of gnawed red bones in the snow.
In a way, the qivittok is what Trump has always been. Trump’s rhetoric centre around the community, the flag, the symbols of belonging, because this is what he’s always lacked. He’s never had relationships, only transactions, and even those are few. In his businesses, he avoids partnerships, shareholders, or joint enterprises. He grew up lonely, the son of an indifferent father, insulated from the world by his wealth. It takes a lonely man to plaster his own name over tall buildings. It takes a lonely man to need this kind of concrete proof that he really exists.
What it comes down to is this: Donald Trump is simply not like other people. He is something different, an alien walking among us. A creature from a haunted land. In his own way, a genius. Something bright and rare and strange.
Donald Trump doesn’t hold himself like an ordinary person. He isn’t straight and he doesn’t slouch; he bends. Creasing at the waist, torso angled forward to hide his incredible fatness, which means that his big round damp coquettish arse is constantly sticking out behind him. Most people acquire their bad posture from a lifetime of bad habits, but Donald Trump’s stance is deliberate. He came up with a terrible new way of standing on his feet, all by himself.
Donald Trump doesn’t look like an ordinary person. He is orange; the man is visibly orange. White around the eyes, like a painted clown. A soft, moist, puckered mouth. Everything about him is soft; you could spread one of his teeth on a slice of toast. His hair is an elaborate combover, extremely long on one side, folded back and forth over his scalp. In the old patriarchal schema, men were seeing subjects and women were visible objects, but Donald Trump is a thoroughly feminised man. He has to appear a certain way, with a full head of hair, because he dreams of being the reservoir of someone else’s desire. Sometimes, in high winds, the whole structure of his hair opens up, and you can see his shockingly white and crusted pate. You think that’s upsetting? Just imagine how Donald Trump’s hair looks when wet.
Donald Trump doesn’t talk like an ordinary person. Usually, when someone speaks in a non-standard form, it’s because they’re part of a language community that’s developed its own grammars and vocabulary. There is nobody on earth that speaks like Donald Trump. He is a language community of one. What he speaks isn’t even a jargon, it’s just bizarre. On the one hand, his speech is utterly impoverished. It’s incapable of conveying almost any of the major human experience. Everything he says is somehow integrally inappropriate. Here is a man who once described Frederick Douglass as ‘an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognised more and more.’ Like something out of Gertrude Stein: the black sludge of words, the sticky deposits left once language and communication have gone. But at the same time, his speech is incredibly fecund. The rolling rhythmic intensifiers that turn it into something like music, the way things are always very nice, very special, very good, or very, very, very… bad. Trump’s language never exhausts itself; he can fit a potentially infinite number of words between one concept and the next. This language really is a virus; a blob from outer space, breeding. Everyone I know has tried, at some point, to imitate it, and we all think we’re very clever. (Watching the chickens peck around the garden, I sometimes imagine them in his voice. We love mealworms, folks, don’t we love mealworms? Very wonderful mealworms, very nice and very delicious to eat. We love laying an egg.) But Trump invented this virus; he cooked it up in the strange secret lab inside his head. We just copy and pass it on. Infected. Transfixed.
How did a country as conservative as the United States ever manage to elect a man as utterly weird as Donald Trump? For decades, politicians have tried to sell themselves to ordinary people by pretending to be normal. Look at me eat a hot dog at a diner, just like all of you gurning rubes! Cramming wobbly tubes of pork into their mouths: aren’t I relatable? Aren’t I your abuela? But Donald Trump eats pizza with a knife and fork. You could not get a beer with him. He would not shake your hand. You are nothing alike. And still it doesn’t matter. Who ever said that people want to be governed by someone just like them? That’s what the ruling classes think, because they’re all covetous narcissists who want political power to wear a human face: their human face. They want their little daughters to grow up believing that one day they, too, could maintain an extrajudicial kill list. But the great mass of the people know better. They know that political power is something distant and strange that comes down from the white northern wastes.
It’s the sheer strangeness of the man that made him so intolerable, far more than any of the evil things he’s actually done. Even before he was elected, a vast conceptual production system was churning, trying to produce The Meaning of Donald Trump. Reduce him down to a single concept, something we know and can understand, something assimilable. So, for instance: Trump is just a cipher for race. Reterritorialise him on the stark terrain of white and black; people voted for him because they’re racists and they wanted to do racism; white people have a congenital sickness and its name is Trump. They’re still saying this, even after he increased his vote share among every demographic group except straight white men. If Trump really is making racial dogwhistles, his actual supporters don’t seem to hear them. The only creatures pricking up their ears are the racially-fixated media classes.
Another: Trump is a fascist, and his Presidency was a fascist regime. We all have an idea of what fascism is and what it looks like, so let’s just stuff this strange new creature into an already existing box. This theory has lost some credibility since Trump failed to suspend democracy or invade Poland, but I think there’s actually something to it – so long as it’s understood that Trump is fascist in the Theodor Adorno sense; the way that, say, the Marvel cinematic universe is fascist, rather than the way in which Adolf Hitler was a fascist. He’s a fascist because we live in an age of irrationality and unfreedom, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are fascists too. (Especially Kamala.) In other words, it’s true, but it tells us nothing at all.
A weaker version says that Trump is simply an authoritarian. He’s like those gaudy dictators in countries with unpronounceable names, the ones who build giant gold statues of themselves and rename the months of the year after their horses. Country-scale interior decorators with the power of life and death. Which is fine, but you don’t need to go trekking out to the fringes of the Taklamakan Desert to find a model of authoritarianism. Trump was a businessman, and he promised to run the country like a business. Every beloved small mom-and-pop business is a dictatorship in miniature, helmed by some grubby little Napoleon who leches on the employees, issues memos on acceptable hairstyles, or forces them to listen to his favourite conspiracy YouTubes while they work. But while they might admire him, none of these people will ever be Donald Trump.
What all these interpretations miss is that Donald Trump is the only person to have ever become President of the United States by accident. He never really wanted power, and he didn’t know what to do with the thing once he had it. He had no programme and no politics. His whole period in office was an aimless meander: sometimes he borrowed some policies from the people closest to him, sometimes he made them up as he went along. He spent most of those four years complaining that dishwashers don’t give you the kind of shine that they used to. If he was actually a right-wing populist, he would have given out multiple $1,200 stimulus cheques during the pandemic, and then handily won re-election. But he didn’t. None of this was part of the plan. He simply wanted to win rather than lose – so people would pay attention to him, so he could continue to exist. That’s all. And around this tiny, dense, irrational core, millions of people built their own explanations, their own private reasons to love him or hate him and everything they wanted him to represent.
Trump has managed to form the passive centre for two personality cults: the one that loves him, and the one that’s no less of a cult for wanting him gone. To be honest, I prefer the first cult. They make better music. ¡Ay, ay, ay, ay, por Dios, yo voy a votar por Donald Trump! The negative cult thought they were resisting the man, but everything they did reeked of complicity. Obsessing over his every movement, freaking out under every one of his tweets. They ate up his turds one by one, greedily, smacking their lips, and then proclaimed: this shit is awful, it tastes disgusting, it’s poisoning us, and may I have some more? Rather than actually countering his worst actions, they were fixated on the idea that they could make him feel a certain way: mocking him, humiliating him. That stupid balloon of Trump as a baby that cost £16,000 – for what? To hurt his feelings? Why bother? All it did was charge him with subjectivity and substance – in other words, give him exactly what he’s always wanted. Even now, liberals aren’t satisfied with defeating Trump in the election, they want him to admit defeat. They want him duly chastened. They’re still trying to give the man a soul.
There are things that led to Trump. The millions consigned to surplus population, the hollow promise of the Obama years, the general social decay, the culture of fame and attention and narcissism in which he grew. All these conditions are necessary, but none of them are sufficient. Just like the world itself, Donald Trump has no singular meaning. He is an empty, misshapen container for others to fill with fantasy and desire.
Franz Kafka – the only man in human history to truly get it – tells a story about a crossbreed, a creature ‘half kitten, half lamb,’ inherited from his father. This thing also has no reason to exist. It should not exist. But against all reason, it does.
Sunday morning is the visiting hour. I sit with the little beast on my knees, and the children of the whole neighbourhood stand around me. Then the strangest questions are asked, which no human being could answer: Why there is only one such animal, why I rather than anybody else should own it, whether there was ever an animal like it before and what would happen if it died, whether it feels lonely, why it has no children, what it is called, etc.
They’re asking what the animal means, but Kafka doesn’t know. His creature seems to be happy. It likes to play, to dance, to purr, to run and skip around outside. In the proper order of things, something so unnatural ought to die. Watching his creature, Kafka decides that ‘the knife of the butcher would be a release for this animal,’ but that knife will never come. This monster was a legacy; a gift. So he looks at his crossbreed, and the crossbreed looks back, ‘challenging me to do the thing of which both of us are thinking.’
Today, we’ve beaten Donald Trump. We’ve banished the nightmare. We, the ungrateful of the earth, have done what Kafka couldn’t bear: we slaughtered the crossbreed. This is your victory. Enjoy it if you can.
PS: This really ought to be an entirely separate essay, but we’re all here now, so I might as well press ahead. About a week before the election, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled Why Leftists Should Vote for Biden in Droves. The actual argument is contained in a few sentences:
Mr Trump’s re-election would mean four more years of scrambling to shield the already insufficient Affordable Care Act, but a win by Mr Biden would allow socialists to go on the offence and push for a Medicare-for-all system. Mr Trump’s re-election would deal irreversible damage to the planet, but there are signs that Mr Biden could be pressured to adopt the ambition of the Green New Deal… These policies would not constitute the realisation of socialism, but they would help lay the foundation for liberating workers… Socialists should fight like hell to get Mr Biden into office – and then fight him like hell the day that he becomes president.
I disagree. I’m not saying there aren’t some upsides: the next regime will probably rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and ease sanctions on Iran, either of which could be worth the price of admission. But it will not create a more favourable terrain for socialism. Let me put forward another perspective: Joe Biden is going to eat you whole. Not aggressively, not deliberately, not with those white chomping teeth. He will consume you like a basking shark, trawling the seas with his mouth wide open, and you have already drifted right into his maw. His victory marks the end of the road for the American left as a significant political force. There will still be people with opinions, but they will never come close to forming policy. Joe Biden will do to the socialist left what Donald Trump did to the evangelical right.
Not so long ago, the evangelical right were genuinely terrifying. Under the George W Bush administration, they waged eight years of insane culture war, not to mention the actual war to reshape the Middle East. Abstinence and creationism in schools; the Ten Commandments outside courthouses, a curtain to cover the Spirit of Justice’s naked tits. Preachers screaming that Obama was the Antichrist. Gay marriage bans. Christofascism. And where are they now? Some of the churches those preachers screamed in are boarded up, and some have been converted into condos. Plenty are still going, but the parishioners are more likely to believe in some QAnon dribble than any imminent Rapture. Nothing collective and congregational; everything is scattered now, networked. It might come back – there are always revivals – but for now, organised Protestantism has lost its claws in American political life.
This is why. In 2016, the leadership of the religious right banded together to stop Trump winning the Republican primary. They were appalled by him, and for good reason. Donald Trump is, at heart, a New York liberal, a proud and open moral degenerate. How many abortions do you think he’s paid for? But when it came to the general, everything changed. What were they supposed to do – vote for Hillary Clinton? Don’t you know she eats fetuses? So they made their moral compromises, took whatever sops they were offered, and lined up behind Donald Trump. He’ll pander to them a little, when prodded. That’s enough.
Now, the Democrats have learned that this new revitalised socialist left can be cheated, backstabbed, connived against, offered absolutely no concessions whatsoever – and they will still vote for you. Not just that: the poor cretins will dance in the streets to celebrate your victory. So why give them anything now? The left has used up its last weapon, and they used it against Trump. Now they’re supposed to go on the offence for Medicare For All – but how? Pressure Biden for a Green New Deal – but how? Fight him like hell? But with what weapons?
One of the ugliest features of the Trump years was the way liberals suddenly found it in their hearts to forgive George W Bush. You can understand why they forgot his murder of one million Iraqis – they all voted for it, after all – but this was the president of Jesusland, the man whose mutant Christian army tried to get rid of their nice French cheeses and their nice French wine. In this context, though, it starts to make sense. Liberals could embrace the figurehead of the evangelical right because the evangelical right had become toothless; it was no longer the enemy. In the same vein, you can expect the right wing to start making similar overtures to what remains of the Bernie camp. In fact, it’s already happening. For instance, outlets like Quillette have started pointing out that class, rather than identity, is what really divides people. They’re right, of course, but why are they saying it? It’s not as if class analysis, even class analysis for babies, really gels with their ideology. Leftists can write for right-wing magazines if they want (I do), appear on their TV shows, spread the message; we all need to eat. I’m not here to pass judgement. But don’t ever imagine that some broad populist alliance is in the offing. The right will embrace you only because you are not a threat to them. You’re a legitimising trinket. They will wear you around their neck. This amulet that was your bones.
Of course, the Trump camp have been instrumentalising the left in other, subtler ways too. Over the summer, watching the political violence, the shootings, the militia on the streets, the revolutionaries seizing whole neighbourhoods, quite a few people I know decided that the United States was close to collapse or civil war. It wasn’t, of course. (One thing that never once occurred through all those months was an actual exchange of fire.) Instead, the state had strategically voided its authority over certain small areas, like the area that would become the CHAZ in Seattle. This was an obvious election ploy on Trump’s part: create pockets of instability to frighten his suburban base into voting for a stronger, more brutal, more repressive state. He was counting on the left to dramatically fuck up with whatever wisp of power he gave them, and even if it didn’t win him the election, they did exactly what he wanted.
On June 29th, self-appointed security forces in the CHAZ murdered Antonio Mays Jr, a sixteen-year-old black boy. On July 4th, armed protesters in Atlanta, occupying the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police, opened fire on a passing car. They murdered Secoriea Turner, an eight-year-old black girl. Both crime scenes were heavily tampered with by protesters; the murderers of Antonio Mays and Secoriea Turner will probably never face justice. These names ought to be as famous as George Floyd or Tamir Rice. Why aren’t they? This is a genuine question: why? It’s fine for the left to turn itself into a circular firing squad over pronouns or microaggressions or awkward interactions – but not murder? After all, the scenario is very familiar: an armed authority claiming police powers indifferently destroys the lives of the same people it’s supposed to protect. But it turns out that these wonderful anti-racist abolish-the-police community defence units are actually far more sadistic and far less accountable than ordinary cops.
These killings ought to pose a major theoretical crisis for the insurrectionary left. These dead children should haunt your sleep. How is it that a movement against the police murder of black people ended up committing police murders of black people? What went wrong in your analysis of power, violence, and the state? How did this movement so quickly lose its moral right to complain? Because that right has absolutely been lost. It shouldn’t be hard to decry murder without hypocrisy, but here we are.
I don’t want to agree with him, but René Girard has an answer:
As soon as the essential quality of transcendence – religious, humanistic, or whatever – is lost, there are no longer any terms by which to define the legitimate form of violence and to recognise it among the multitude of illicit forms… The act of demystification retains a sacrificial quality and remains essentially religious in character as long as it fails to come to a conclusion – as long, that is, as the process purports to be nonviolent, or less violent than the system itself. In fact, demystification leads to constantly increasing violence, a violence perhaps less ‘hypocritical’ than the violence it seeks to oppose, but more energetic, more virulent, and the harbinger of something far worse – a violence that knows no bounds.
I would like the left to take power. But this left, the one we have, the one that systematically misuses whatever power it gains, the one that says nothing when children are gunned down in the street, does not deserve it. We blew it, and I don’t know how to fix this. But if you’re looking for a left case for Joe Biden, there it is.
Brilliant and very on point, except for a small detail (Trump has, in fact, invaded Poland).
I knew it. I knew that had occurred.
Great post as always, but I’m a little bit confused by these “leftists” and “conservatives” you’ve identified. I guess I think of the “left” as anti-woke, class-based socialists, as opposed to the BLM ethnonationalists who have been burning down poor neighbourhoods all summer because the white fragility squad didn’t venmo them enough reparations cash that month or someone didn’t use their preferred pronouns or whatever. I’ve also never heard Quillette characterized as “Trump-aligned reactionaries”… seriously?
The effect is a little disorienting and out of keeping with much of what you’ve written here. I agree with your analysis of what Biden means for the “left” (i.e. socialism), but not what it means for the wokies, who are extremely useful to the Biden/Harris donor base and will keep getting table scraps for as long as they’re needed to provide cover for neoliberal austerity programs.
you’re quite right about quillette; edited to correct that. as for the anti-woke left – i feel like the sector of people who hold the philosophical belief that class as a material expression of the relations of production is primary and that identities are at best marginal epiphenomena of those relations is small enough to be basically negligible. these different groups aren’t really defined by the philosophical positions they individually hold, but their collective relation to movements and collectivities. the fact that some in the bernie camp are ‘wokies’ and others aren’t probably has as much meaning, in the long run, as the fact that some of them have longer hair. how many active bernie supporters actually refused on principle to vote for biden? those that did obviously get a lot of attention, but my guess is that the number is very small
Brilliant writing, but could you explain why Kamala Harris is bad news, is she to the right of Tessa May and who cares?,
extremely demonic xanax mom energy
She’s a dark avatar of performative political Twitter.
Here, Read the list and weep:
Gabbard 2024 is my choice
Yeah, but if you point any of that out, that means you’re just racist and sexist and also jealous that Willie Brown didn’t offer you any favors in exchange for an affair.
It’s strange, to me Trump is recognizable as a creature of the daytime entertainment mire–a beast bred in the bowls of marketing, combining the reality TV judge (Trump in his “Wrathful” aspect), the libidinal 1970s gameshow host (Trump in his “Lustful” aspect), and the comedy relief (Trump in his “Fool” aspect) into the perfect American daytime television trinity.
So many of his “riffing” appearances remind me of the original host of Family Feud, who used to slur and grope his way through every episode (perhaps he coined the phrase “Grab them by the pussy!”). He was such a fleshy, hungry thing–a figure of impulse and sordidity. Yet, the quaint country people who appeared on the show more than tolerated his transgressions–they were titillated by them. The matronly contestants would blush at his wet kisses, his flatterer’s prattle, would drink in his whisky breath.
But this man could never have been president. After all, a president is a “decider,” and a decider, properly, has wrath in them. Trump’s wrath comes out in his firing–has any president fired more people? And with such fucking glee? He has, in essence, “voted them off the island,” his vote being the only one that matters. It is this aspect that made him “presidential,” and his campaign really began with “The Apprentice,” where for adoring millions he revealed his wrathful aspect.
Perhaps Trump’s most ineffable quality is that of the fool. It’s difficult to discuss–difficult because the fool is me. I reflect with embarrassing clarity on all those times I droned on about a subject I pretended to know something about to try impress people I was, anyway, contemptuous of! Why? To wrestle control of conversation, to get some attention on myself, and ultimately, honestly, to flail in the limelight but to think, in the moment, that I was blowing the audience away. And maybe, by trying so hard to fake it, I actually was. Who other than the fool is fully human–who other than the fool is allowed to live, is unrepulsed by the bulbous, farting, hairy, sweating, aging, ungainly body, to the degree that they maintain their vanity even and especially in ugliness! The fool, by all accounts, is a body that should be dead–either by breakdown of the flesh or by stupidity and error–and yet is more vital than the greatest King.
Who is more the human being? Prince Hal, having become King Henry, or Falstaff:
My king! my Jove! I speak to thee, my heart!
I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
I have long dream’d of such a kind of man,
So surfeit-swell’d, so old and so profane;
But, being awaked, I do despise my dream.
Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape
For thee thrice wider than for other men.
Reply not to me with a fool-born jest:
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn’d away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.
When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
The tutor and the feeder of my riots:
Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death,
As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
Not to come near our person by ten mile.
For competence of life I will allow you,
That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
Give you advancement. Be it your charge, my lord,
To see perform’d the tenor of our word. Set on.
Americans did not “despise their dream.”
They elected it.
Who is “the more human being?”
Falstaff, most def!
>”After a month or so, executives tried to put an end to the kissing, according to Dawson, by claiming the sponsors felt kissing women without knowing their martial status or getting their permission was uncomely. In the interview below, Dawson insinuates that it may have to do with him kissing two non-white female contestants.”
fantastic writing, as usual–thank you
In his essay “Appearance Counts,” Paul Fussell enumerates the ways in which the ruling class found Reagan’s aesthetics off-putting, and even upsetting; pretty much every one of them Trump manages to magnify tenfold.
This essay misses the main point of the Trump Presidency. There is not a liberal or conservative party in the US.
The republicans have a conservative sect and the democrats have a liberal sect (as well as a Progressive sect), but the controlling sect in each party is allied with each other. Their opposition to each other is fake, they may differ on the means, but ultimately they agree on the ends: globalism, multinational corporatism, a battered middle class, a cowered lower class, both with just enough freedom to continue to produce and consume (though less of the latter than in the past because there was too much of that and it was starting to interfere with the elites enjoyment – this is what environmentalism is about).
To see the truth all one needs to look at is the Foreign Policy of Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Different means, but same ends.
Trump exposed the uniparty, hence the need for the uniparty to destroy Trump. Wonder why the Democrats embraced Bush? Because they never really opposed him. They were the same kind. Had Sanders been up against Jeb in 2016, the IC would have destroyed Sanders. The swamp protects its own.
Trump never did anything remotely “authoritarian” (that was Mr Pen Obama). To think otherwise merely shows you are still trapped into believing there is a left or right in control in this country. Trump, for all his faults, pulled the curtain so that we can see the truth of politics in this country. Alas, far too many people, so assured of their intelligence, refuse to see reality because then they would have to admit that maybe they weren’t so smart after all.
well, i don’t think i ever said that trump was actually any more authoritarian than obama. this is, i think, a somewhat undialectical account of political oppositions. obviously there is a great deal of stifling consensus in american politics. this doesn’t mean that what antagonisms do exist are simply “fake,” only that they operate on a level somewhat below the ultimate identity of identity and non-identity. besides, in what real – ie, non-discursive – sense did trump do anything to actually oppose or undermine this consensus? he gave tax breaks to the rich, fiddled very slightly with a few trade deals, and bombed syria. hardly radical stuff. this is precisely why the essay focuses on the level of appearances – that’s the only realm in which trump is at all meaningfully distinct.
I actually feel guilty leaving this comment, because I loved reading the essay, but Trump is not some glittering unicorn. He’s not some mythological beast. He’s not even especially “special.” He’s a con man, a demagogue and a snake oil salesman, and he’s a narcissist. Who managed to slip past the gatekeepers because the Dems were stupid enough to make HRC their candidate. It was a fluke. Google “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” if you want to understand the Rosetta Stone that totally explains Trump’s personality. But still, points for the artistry, the poetry, plus also use of the word “numinous,” which I am always partial to.
I agree with you, great and entertaining writing that makes a sad simple fact a lot more complicated and mystical than it really is.
For a similarly artful and funny take downs of the man that are also grounded in reality and good politics I recommend all of David Roth’s Trump takes.
I think people keep ascribing qualities of foresight and planning or purpose to Trump that simply aren’t there. An amoeba might have elegant solutions to consumption using its limited tools in repeatedly successful and efficient ways but that doesn’t mean you’d call it fucking Rembrandt. He exists to survive and be viewed and is the ultimate example of the arguments against inherited wealth.
If someone so inept in functionality can rise through the system to the highest office in the land then it’s a double indictment in inequality and a broken education system.
If someone so cosmically moronic needs nothing but a gilded safety net and a platform to charm all the poor and uneducated into thinking he’s more than plated then this is the dumbest game we’ve ever payed as a country, and though we might deserve it I really don’t think everyone else does.
This is probably the best writing about Trump I’ve seen to date. Poetic and funny.
You’re such a uniquely excellent writer that I feel moved to explain why many of your central points are so far off.
Respect for you if you feel like reading or responding. Or even just let this comment stay up.
1) Christian fascism is stronger than ever, a much bigger factor now than in the Bush years. (I grew up in, am surrounded by, and follow this community obsessively). Bush gave the reins to MIC bureaucrats and Republican business lobbyist lifers. While these were obviously given pretty free reign under Trump as well, they weren’t “at the wheel,” and in fact were largely disgusted with him.
Trump feeds on and catalyzes the most purely symbolic, identity based reptile brain politics imaginable and the unification of his worldview with evangelical Christianity is one of the great meta-stories of our time (and explains almost 100% of his limited “inroads” with blacks and latinos).
Back in the Bush years evangelicals still pushed for some ostensibly Gospel-derived programs like $ to help AIDS patients in Africa. Today their politics are almost totally unhinged from any feints at compassion, a good example being Franklin Graham, formerly the head of the 2nd largest Christian humanitarian charity, pivoting to professional pundit who argues for defunding the WHO and UNICEF.
Q-Anon (whether full-fledged or diet “Save Our Kids” versions) is absolutely rife throughout the church-going populace. It picks up where the movement to criminalize abortion left off… as the perfect self-righteous club to beat back all other calls to Christian morality as spoken plainly by Jesus. Kids are starving? SO WHAT, MILLIONS of BABIES are MURDERED EVERY YEAR!!! That’s still insanely powerful, but right-wingers will slowly realize that even a clear high court majority won’t really make abortion illegal (at least where most people live). Q-Anon gives a much more lurid weapon against real world compassion since it hits the most reptile brain buttons we have, family, fear, sex, vengeance, all in a fun (let’s be honest) and supportive trivia game / RPG format, the perfect community for an increasingly atomized and voluntarily deranged populace.
All of this is much bigger than Trump and while he midwifed it it will long outlive him.
2) What I get from your second section is “people who hate Trump and obsessed over how messed up he is are worse than the people who love him and are also all #Resistance clowns intent on ‘triggering’ him rather than organizing for a tangibly more humane world.” That’s way sloppier and more irresponsible than any neat metaphors or turns of phrase can save you from.
I hate and am obsessed with the man because of the evils he reveals and superchargers in humanity, particularly my countrymen.
3) The comparison of conservative evangelicals to democratic socialists flies in the face of demography. Evangelicals are inexorably on the decline while a majority of voters under 45 backed Bernie in the large majority of states. Sure that’s the primaries BUT… Bernie’s key issues are strongly supported by majorities of Americans under 45 IN GENERAL, not just Democrats.
Under 45s will see some increase in wealth over the next generation but (unfortunately I guess) not enough to cause the major shifts to the right that “pundits” expect, especially since social media and social self-sorting will bake those preferences in a lot more than in the past.
Biden is not a “victory” for socialists. He is buying us a bit more time before a more competent non-Trump fascist tries to crash his wave against the unprecedented and consolidating social democratic / democratic socialist wave in a future likely to be much more worrisome due to accelerated climate and resource crises and an economic inequality machine that will have just barely relaxed it’s foot on the accelerator for the next few years.
4) Out of respect I have to chalk your misunderstanding of the BLM / Defund The Police movement to being in the UK and absorbing everything 4th hand through online contrarians. But politics can’t just be about cleverness, it has to have a basis in real life inconvenient facts. ⅓ of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by cops, with dozens of times more injured and abused for no good reason. In exchange we (in CA at least) pay them $200k a year each in full compensation, equating usually to a majority of city budgets (just as the military is the majority of the federal discretionary budget, under both parties).
THIS is what people want to end. “Abolishing” the police or prisons are probably unhelpful utopian tropes. But defunding out of control police spending and (critically) using that money to directly turn back (at much lower cost) the real drivers of crime – addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, mental illness, labor black markets, etc… that is the most practical course imaginable and it can be enacted on a city by city basis without having to pray to the soothsayers of 538 every four years. (That’s why politicians hate and fear this movement so much… it asks for REAL POLICY CHANGE that they CAN do rather than platitudes.)
Alright then… you pretty crassly bring up the deaths of two black youth in a way that reminds me of hell resident Andrew Breitbart turning purple yelling “STOP RAPING PEOPLE! STOP RAPING PEOPLE!” at the Occupy Wall Street camp that directly led to the Bernie movement 4 years later.
Police have not released details on suspects or motives in the case of Antonio Mays, which is truly incredible considering they put out full press releases whenever someone allegedly threw a canned good at a protest during those weeks. Of course a lack of evidence didn’t stop them using his death to destroy the physical manifestation of a powerful growing movement in their city. (To give just one example of how critical the moment was, just a few weeks before a national poll had found MOST surveyed felt the BURNING DOWN of a Minneapolis police station was JUSTIFIED at the time!)
In both the Atlanta and Seattle shootings nearby protesters thought a car was trying to run them down. Although that wasn’t the case I suspect you are ignorant of the DOZENS of attempted rammings of protesters (including several successful ones) in the US in the last few months, concurrent with attempts by Republicans to get such murder of protester by car to be LEGALIZED.
“These killings ought to pose a major theoretical crisis for the insurrectionary left. These dead children should haunt your sleep.”
Uh… What exactly are you suggesting “the insurrectionary left” do about these tragedies? Go sit in our rooms and feel sad? Join the right wing Andy Ngo’s of the world in stirring up Der Sturmer style conspiracy theories and online lynch mobs against ideas like police reform or anti-racism in general, as you appear to be inches away from doing already?
And why should these 2 deaths take precedence over the millions of kids dying each year from poverty, the hundreds of thousands from war, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of kids whose families are broken apart by the justice system every year? Why are these 2 deaths somehow opposed to what needs to be done to rectify the other ones?
Ps – I also fear and dislike Kamala Harris, but she joined with Bernie in writing a bill to give every American $2,000 a month, aka a Double-Yang, until the pandemic ended. Calling her more facsist than Trump is, like the anti-BLM stuff, boring cliched contrarianism.
this is a very long comment, and i probably won’t be able to give it the full response it merits, but here goes anyway.
1) i don’t doubt that the monsters of the christian right are still around and still exercising an iron grip over any communities unlucky enough to harbour them. but i’m not sure that anything you say here actually contradicts anything i wrote in my post. you mention, for instance, that the politics of the christian right now have nothing to do with any kind of compassion or anythin rooted in the example of the gospels. yes: this is precisely my point. once, the christian right were a governing faction; they had a coherent understanding of the world, and a programme they were eager to fulfil. now? they’re pantomime creatures, screaming and clawing at a set of institutions that they can no longer hope to colonise. qanon might be full of christian themes (or the themes of what passes for christianity in america), but it isn’t a dominant ideology; it’s a weird lumpen cult. actually, i think you describe it perfectly: a ‘community for an increasingly atomized and voluntarily deranged populace.’ these people are not in the driver’s seat of history, they’re smashing their heads against the windows, trying to get out. and, as you mention in point 3), these people are inexorably on the decline.
2) i’m not really interested in how much ‘worse’ any one set of people is than any other. we’re all dumb flailing cretins. you might be obsessed with the man for entirely ethical reasons, but not everyone is so pure. i know myself well enough to understand that part of my fascination with trump has nothing to do with loving what is good and hating what is evil, and a lot to do with his strange personal magnetism. in a way, that’s the whole point of the piece.
3) see above. more broadly, if recent electoral history shows anything, it’s that people can believe or support whatever they want; what actually matters is what they do with those beliefs. young americans might prefer socialism, but they will also take bidenism if that’s what’s on offer, and as long as that’s the case then bidenism is what they’ll get. to be honest, nothing would make me happier than to be proved wrong on this one. as i said, it all remains to be seen. but – and maybe this is my post-2019 despair speaking – i really don’t think i will.
4) i guess this is the big one. you write that the police are out of control, that they kill a truly horrifying number of people every year, and that they are rewarded for this with increasing sums of state money that could be more usefully spent on actually addressing the root causes of crime and violence. well, sure. no disagreements here. i have no love whatsoever for the grim, venal, brutish spectre that is the american police state, and i’d be the first to insist that the whole rotten structure needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. fuck the pigs. fine.
but look: the fact that you’re fighting a hideous enemy doesn’t mean that anything then becomes excusable. my critique of what happened in chaz and elsewhere is precisely that it remained within the paradigm of policing. the people who murdered antonio mays were cops, plain and simple: the state had given them jurisdiction, and they used it to kill. and – not to be rude – the apologia you’re delivering for this act of police violence reads a lot like a lot of other excuses for police violence. ‘they thought it was a ramming attack.’ ‘they were scared.’ sorry, but even if this were excusable (it’s not), we have footage of what happened. ‘oh, you’re not dead, huh? you want to get pistol whipped?’ you can see videos of people milling around a car streaked with blood, laughing. this is cop shit: this is the psychopathy of power, and i want nothing to do with it. the fact that various tedious losers like andy ngo or whoever are instrumentalising this to make grubby little political interventions is immaterial. i don’t let people like andy ngo define the boundaries of my ethics. it is not a right-wing position to believe that murder is bad.
you ask why these two deaths should outweigh the millions that die each year from poverty and injustice. the answer is, of course, that they shouldn’t. frankly, i’m somewhat baffled why you think i’d say anything else. no life should outweigh any other. the idea that you can balance up one murderous evil against another and decide which is preferable is, i think, another pathology of power. but what really mystifies me is the idea that these two deaths were somehow opposed to all the others. what did we buy with these children’s lives? did we get anything good out of these murders? were they somehow necessary to achieve a better world? or were they part of the exact same system of violence and injustice that kills so many other children every day of the year?
anyway, i’m sorry this response has come so late – i’ve been moving around a lot. i’m sorry the piece didn’t convince you, but thanks for your thoughts regardless. oh, and ps: if you think pushing for $2000 payments automatically makes someone better than donald trump, i have some interesting news for you about donald trump.
The US needs a bit of Balkanization (infusion of states’ rights). We’re beholden to two political parties: Dems and Reps. We’ve loaded the Federal Government with so many responsibilities that it’s getting harder to get through a week w/o interacting with the Feds –Federal laws and regs increasingly involved in daily life (comparing today to 25, or 50, or 100 yrs ago).
W/ so much involvement, and only two ideologies, national politics has become a war —no matter who wins, half the population will feel oppressed. So we vote along our lines, and the politicians know they count on our vote because we’re not going to vote to feel oppressed by an ideology we’re antithetical to.
Politicians only have to be accountable to antithetical image of their opponent.
Politics are loser when you have 11 million voting in New Jersey, or 11 million in Georgia.
Really good piece on Greenland but I had to roll my eyes at the CHAZ whining. You say the state’s strategy was to provoke errors to use for right wing propaganda and mobilization. If nobody talks about those killings, the state’s strategy failed, right? So why do you want everybody to drop everything to talk about them? Pick one or the other.
because i believe in an ethics that transcends immediate partisan political calculations!
[…] de Trump” [Idiot Joy Showland (ObjectiveFunction)]. Let it never be said that good old-fashioned blogging is no longer going on. […]
“What all these interpretations miss is that Donald Trump is the only person to have ever become President of the United States by accident. He never really wanted power, and he didn’t know what to do with the thing once he had it. He had no programme and no politics. His whole period in office was an aimless meander: sometimes he borrowed some policies from the people closest to him, sometimes he made them up as he went along. He spent most of those four years complaining that dishwashers don’t give you the kind of shine that they used to. If he was actually a right-wing populist, he would have given out multiple $1,200 stimulus cheques during the pandemic, and then handily won re-election. But he didn’t. None of this was part of the plan. He simply wanted to win rather than lose – so people would pay attention to him, so he could continue to exist. That’s all. And around this tiny, dense, irrational core, millions of people built their own explanations, their own private reasons to love him or hate him and everything they wanted him to represent.”
This further blows up the entire russiagate conspiracy theory, which shouldn’t need further demolition, as it was ludicrous on its face, but Team D true believers still take it as an article of faith.
Donald Trump and his spawn are grifters. No joke. The man was behind the operation of “Trump University”, to name but one recent example.
That does not make the russiagate conspiracy theory true any more than it means that Trump must have been behind the murder of Mickey Mouse.
In fact, if Putin had half the intelligence that russiagate conspiracy theorists routinely ascribe to him, he’d have enough sense to pick a patsy with less obvious baggage. Putin certainly wouldn’t let said patsy do bonehead things like pay porn stars out of campaign funds or give the foreign policy establishment the vapors by calling for rapprochement with Russia before he got elected.
Instead, he’d pick a flunky that looks and talks too good to be true, charming and devoted wife and 2.43 well-scrubbed and seemingly well-adjusted kids. He’d pick a flunky that says all the right things on the campaign trail, one whose every utterance doesn’t set a million internet Russia experts, volunteer FBI agents, and amateur spy hunters and MSM talking heads frothing at the mouth.
Putin would also pick a candidate who reserves his true passions for ten-year old Polynesians of either sex. Not some shameless doofus who couldn’t even be blackmailed by pussygate, because everyone already knows, that’s just how Trump rolls.
Of course, if Putin had as much sense as God gave a kitten, he’d make sure that his puppet was well prepared and had a whole list of appointees, all carefully vetted and prepared and compromised in advance. Not the clownshow that was the Trump transition. Not the Keystone Kops omnishambles that has been a hallmark of Trump administration staffing even from before Day One.
And lastly, once Putin carefully slipped his stooge into power, he’d quietly make sure that his stooge undertook policies that favor Russia. Not policies identical to those of a meaner, more reckless, more dysfunctional version of a Dubya administration.
To believe the russiagate conspiracy theory, you have to believe that Putin has superpowers bordering on the occult. At the same time, you have to believe that Putin has no idea how to use these superpowers.
I like it..