Trump and the Audacity of Hopelessness
Last week Andrew Sullivan published a much discussed, much passed-around essay for New York entitled “This is What The Trump Abyss Looks Like” that more than lived up to its apocalyptic title.
The article’s free-floating despair and pessimism particularly resonated with me, because I am exhausted by articles depicting whatever unforgivable transgression Trump or his evil minions committed that day as the beginning of the end, and something that will have concrete, very negative and real consequences for Trump and his administration.
I want so desperately to believe the narrative that the never-ending parade of disasters and insults and eminently avoidable mistakes will cause irreparable damage both to Trump and his movement, leading to impeachment, possibly, but also certain defeat in 2020. I want to believe that, just as I staunchly, if delusionally, believed that Trump never had a shot of being elected President in the first place, particularly after the release of the Access Hollywood leaks.
I was wrong about Trump’s chances as a Presidential candidate. Perhaps more dispiritingly, I was also wrong about the American people. I’ve always known what a deplorable piece of human garbage Trump was but I thought the American people were too smart and too moral to give Trump the keys to the White House. I was wrong.
Sullivan captures the sense of hopelessness and despair people like me feel when he writes, “But by far the most important development in all this, the single essential rampart, is how, through all this, Trump has tightened his grip on 35 percent of the country. He has done this when he has succeeded but also critically when he has failed, because he has brilliantly turned his incapacity to be president into an asset with his base. No wall? Congress’ fault. Obamacare in place? The GOP’s fault. No tax cut? Ditto. The only way forward? A deeper and deeper trust in him. Only he can fix the Congress by purging it. Only he can fix the Courts through nominees who will never stand up to him.
And this base support is unshakable. It is not susceptible to reason. No scandal, however great, will dislodge it - because he has invaded his followers’ minds and psyches as profoundly as he has the rest of ours.”
The essay is full of brilliant, incisive, utterly depressing observations, but Sullivan’s comment about Trump’s base of support being insusceptible to reason is particularly adroit. People like me look at gaffe upon gaffe and blunder after blunder and wonder, “How can people still believe in this awful man after all of his lies and all of his ugliness?” as if Trump’s appeal is based in logic, reason and reality rather than fear, paranoia and hatred.
At this point, it’s increasingly clear that the American people did not elect Donald Trump despite him being mean, racist, sexist, bullying, narcissistic to a dangerous and alarming degree and dangerously unqualified: they elected him because they share those qualities. He is the hate that hate made.
From a medical perspective, Trump is a goddamned marvel in the worst possible way: how can a rage-fueled, overweight senior citizen who eats only garbage, never exercises, and who seems perpetually on the verge of a heart attack even have enough energy to be as awful as Trump is? Shouldn't Trump be dead by now, not just killing American Democracy? In yet another killer line in the essay Sullivan warns, “Do not underestimate the stamina of the psychologically unwell. They will exhaust you long before they will ever exhaust themselves.”
That is undoubtedly true. It’s been about a year since Trump was elected and I am already exhausted, dispirited and depleted. Yet I cannot allow myself the alluring fiction that Trump’s impeachment is imminent, or even possible, so there’s a very good chance we may have to deal with this Democracy-threatening awfulness for anywhere from three to seven more years.
I wish Sullivan was being unnecessarily bleak in his article, but judging by the last year I’d say he’s perfectly, necessarily, appropriately grim. I don't want to be a Debby Downer, but it may just be time to abandon all hope where Trump is concerned.
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