I think about what Hunter S Thompson would have had on tap for the vulgar impropriety of the Trump era. Never has it been more evident that the slick sheen that sticks over the corruption of Washington is a polite fiction. The thing is that Trump understands that he has all the people cynical enough to believe the only solution is a complete meltdown in the federal government, and all of the people too stupid to realize what a fiction his rhetoric represents.
In a way, he is mostly selling the McDonald's version of Obama's message. Everything is broken, and we need new politics to move forward. Where Obama pushed that people needed to stay involved and demand more from the establishment, Trump promises that he is the way forward. Obama's main problem was that it didn't take long for him to join the establishment.
His most significant failures stand out as extending policies people tired of from the Bush administration. The US ended up involved even further in the Middle East, spying powers expanded. Drone warfare became extrajudicial executions. In many ways, these failures were a clear sign the establishment wasn't going anywhere. No well-spoken politician is going to change the direction of Washington.
Trump doesn't need to succeed. If his party fights him, he still comes out as the champion. What's clear after a year is that this is fantastic television, but a terrible way to run the country.
It doesn't matter to the drown the government in the bathtub crowd. They know that each shutdown fuels cynicism in the government, while simultaneously showing the dependence on entitlements and what spending isn't essential. The fact that Trump is a reality show appeals to them the most, it finally dashes the veneer of dignity Washington tried to sell itself on. Instead, it's the show business for ugly people news junkies have known for years.
The left doesn't seem to understand if it's a social movement, an economic one, or some combination of the two. The more that the Republican party runs on White, rural identity politics, the more this divide on the left is going to be apparent. Sanders and other Social Democrats are campaigning hard as the heir apparent to Clinton's failure at the polls. If 2020 is a replay of 2016 on the Democratic side, they'll lose. That picture will become clearer as the primaries for 2018 rev up.
I have been saying for awhile that the internal divides in the parties are just as viciously divided as the two parties are with each other. The fact both parties chose to run such wildly unpopular candidates, meant that all we had to do was wait out the media cycle to see whose unpopularity spiked last. The blind cynicism implies that they're going to try and repeat the process.
Until one of the parties comes forward with a real platform and targeted policies, we're going to continue the shitshow. Reality TV has crept into the highest levels of culture. People on the left want their celebrity turn. Oprah, the Rock, even fucking Kanye have all be suggested drafts to run against Trump. 2020 is going to be a real turning point.
There are elements within the GOP who are going to try and primary Trump. That might even be a better chance to unseat Trump than whatever comes out from the Democratic bench. If we do end up with another celebrity facing off with Trump, it is going to be the final markers before we careen off the cliff of stupidity.
If we see some boring guy like Mitt Romney debating a firebrand Senator like Kamala Harris, you'll know that we learned our lesson. Hell if we see Ted Cruz debating Bernie Sanders, we're at least working with people who can coherently express policy. They can talk about spending bills and the minutiae of our failed Middle East policies. However, if you're seeing Doctor Oz and Scott Baio acting as surrogates on CNN for Oprah and Trump debating pee tapes and Oprah's net worth, we're screwed.
Tedious pragmatism is the way forward. The real issue is the Media complicity in making fake controversy a constant cycle of bullshit. They made Trump inevitable. And despite all the sparring, all of their shareholders are delighted that Americans are glued to watching the shitshow night after night.
We were supposedly at the End of history twenty years ago. We didn't have a narrative to drive events as we did during the Cold War. We made the War on Terror into a clash of civilizations, but also a permanent emergency. The permanent crisis has been used to justify the constant erosion of our privacy, the expansion of executive power, and a rise in private spying and military apparatus attached to the permanent wars.
We have serious problems with corruption. The election of a buffoon will likely mean another generation will pass before any outside reformer can run again. Our only hopes for reform is grim pragmatism driven by small actionable goals. Restrictions on FISA rubber stamps, the NSA, beginning to wind down our involvement in the Middle East, and term limits for Congress. Get those dialing for dollars assholes back to work. Dislodging people from decades-long job security can go a long way to helping get the bench moving for the Presidential races. Reigning in the executive is a bit harder, but still needs to be done.
Pragmatism and reform seem boring and hard, but they're supposed to be. If we want flashy and dumb, we can continue down this course as the federal government continues to chase crisis after crisis to keep the ratings and the donations up. At some point, someone is going to figure out that it all be better with just one guy in charge, and that'll be the end of the American experiment. Since we started as Roman Republic fan fiction, it'll be a fitting end.
Photo Credit: Valerie Hinojosa via Flickr
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