More than three weeks out from the election I’d have thought it a safe time to write about all the things I won’t miss about Donald Trump–the lying, the mendacity, the malice, the bigotry, the narcissism, the cruelty, the trolling for enemies, the cowardliness, the scapegoating, the indifference to governing, the leer of sadism and lust for demeaning all for the pleasures and powers of the one.
As Anthony Burgess (of “A Clockwork Orange” fame) put it, “A Caligula or a Nero is recognized as a temporary aberration, a disease that cannot hold power for long because it can choose nothing but the destructive.” But Trump is nowhere near ending. He started running for reelection with his American carnage inaugural four years ago. Eighty million Americans sent him packing. He’s already running for 2024 on the wreckage of his Lost Cause. His refusal to concede is his first campaign ad. As Trumpism goes, as Trumpism has always been, destruction is the strategy. The more of it the more fealty among those swarms that didn’t send him packing and that now act like modern-day flagellants, their pogroms for now limited to murdering reality. It’s Jonestown writ large.
On they march with flags for whips, fabricating stories in tandem with his or Newsmax’s or the conspiracy theory of the moment. Hard to tell them apart anymore. It wouldn’t have made a difference if Biden had won a landslide, taking Texas, Florida and Greenland for good measure. The only thing Trump would not have called a fraud, as he said it himself as far back as September, is if he’d won. Of course he knows he’s lost, of course his followers know it too. This isn’t about that. It’s about keeping the destruction going. Without it, there’s no Trumpism. And Trumpism is here to stay and keep doing what it’s been doing for the last four years–seethe and corrode and decimate in the name of a cult freebasing in the predeterminism of its own delusions.
It is the psychosis of nihilism, of the fanatic, of the suicide bomber (as long as he’s not the one blowing up), enabled and amplified by his amen corners in Congress and governorships and state houses where his basest collaborators are doing vote-counting of their own. They know the score. Their servility is a symptom of their self-hatred: They know they’re lost at the next primary if they don’t embrace the lie. These are the same Republicans who swallowed whole Trump’s birther conspiracy–not because they believed it. No one did, not even Trump. But because they saw nihilistic gold in it, the gold of white grievance and self-pity that powered his 74 million votes, and without which they have no chance in two and four years. There’s no doubt about those votes. They’re not fraudulent. They only voted for a fraud. But a fraud that glows: even Nero was hugely popular among the populist mass, when no one ever accused a Roman of discerning fact from circuses. Why govern when you can rage even as America burns.
The covid-19 pandemic is fast approaching 300,000 deaths in the United States alone, and six times as many worldwide. The third wave in the United States is overwhelming the numbers of the first two combined. Americans have been dying at a rate of two 9/11’s a week until now. By the time the third wave crests, we could be approaching a 9/11 a day.
What has our acting president been doing just since Nov. 4? There’s an actual tally. He tweeted 550 times, three-quarters of those variations on the same lies and attempts to subvert the results of his defeat. He had lunch with his amoebic vice president a couple of times. He made a cameo at a ceremony for the veterans he called losers. He took part in a couple of virtual meetings. He treasonously kept Biden from accessing intelligence reports and getting his transition under way until this week. He pardoned the latest executioner in his seraglio of corruption. And he played golf six times. Meanwhile, 25,000 more Americans died of covid, about 230 of them for every hole of golf he played as the pandemic raged. The guy who boasted of holding five rallies a day during the campaign can’t be bothered to worry about a daily massacre. Maybe it’s best. He never had a clue anyway.
But getting Trumpism out of there is a different story. With Trump it’s always been about Twitter and TV. His own show. It’s being cancelled, and his feed is about to be shut down. Pathetically, he’s doing what he can to keep that from happening, so he’s not conceding. More pathetically his followers are admiring him for it.
In less demonic times when the country would go off the rails, as when Nixon, drunk and suicidal, was asking Kissinger to kneel and pray with him, a group of his own party’s leaders trooped to the White House and told him that for the good of the nation, it was time to go. Even Richard Nixon, until then as much of a Caesar as the country had known, knew it was time, and left. No one is trooping up to the White House now, except bootlickers. No one is really surprised that Trump’s petulance is metastasizing. Cancers of his type always do. But you’d have expected his vassals to rise above their station for once and put country first. But no. What passes for Republican leadership is not only enabling the subversion of the election. It’s dumpster-diving it for electoral strategies to come.
Liberals would be fools to think the election was a turning point. It’s why the election result even for us lefties has nothing exuberant about it. To the contrary. I sometimes catch myself wishing Trump had won, so he could complete the demolition and reveal himself the irrefutable hoax he’s been all along–like Andrew Johnson did with more efficiency in his one miserable term–rather than leave his successor trying to fix his wreckage while Trump plays martyr. Biden may be to Trump what Pertinax was to Commodus: a healer of cruel, venal brutality. But like Pertinax, Biden will find his assassins in the praetorian catacombs of Mitch McConnell and his robotic clones across the land.
The next four years will be as much a trial of democracy as the last four, just more diffuse, the cancer cells of Trumpism poisoning states and localities, as we’ve already seen locally in the last couple of years. Not the America we know? If you’ve been paying attention since 1980, it’s exactly the America we know. As Malcolm X famously said of a more literal assassination in 1963, it’s the chicken coming home to roost.