People Really Hate Trump

A lot is being made of early polling that shows Warren or Biden winning the primary despite his/her widespread unpopularity. The assumption is that all the haters will coalesce behind Trump in a replay of 2016.

But it occurs to me that the polling hasn’t captured Trump’s deep-seated unpopularity. Setting aside that basket of deplorables who genuinely like him, I suspect that a significant slice of habitual Republican voters genuinely despise him as much as all Democrats do. They hate him so much, in fact, that he’s poisoned their view of all politicians–even clean cut, unspoiled ones like Buttigieg, self-described moderates-who-share-their-heartland-values like Klobuchar, and especially sure-thing, born-to-do-this next-Obama-or-RFKs like Harris or Booker or Beto, who they see, rightly or wrongly, as media creations that are too-good-to-be-true.They hate him so much that they likely even hate the people (Biden, Warren, Bernie) that they reluctantly intend to vote for to replace him. They’ve at least been around long enough, and in Bernie and Warren’s cases, are outsiders enough that they assume they won’t be as awful as Trump..

This is more in the realm of psychoanalysis than polling, but polling normalizes things in a way that has to distort them in a time that is as out of joint as ours is. Let me put it this way. If you spend all your time looking at those deplorables or weighing the Democrats’ unfavorables, Trump seems unbeatable. His partisans would not only forgive him for shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, they would like him to build death camps for their enemies. But there is a significant majority that hates him. Trump’s strategy is not to win their votes, but to suppress them.

They’re All Criminals

When you’ve been where I’ve been for the last few weeks (grave illness, surgery, etc.–can it really just be weeks?), you hope to come out of it with a deeper, richer, fuller perspective, or at the very least, with the benefit of, as Dr. Johnson put it, a mind that has been “concentrated.”

So what do I see? I see that the human propensity for abstraction, combined with language, gives us the capability of philosophy and technology and civilization and art-making, but at the same time blinds us to the obvious and makes us stupider than our fellow non-speaking, un-contemplative mammals. Dogs and cats, for better or for worse, know who they like and who they don’t, and who is potentially threatening. They can’t tell you why, and they’re often wrong, but they react. They can’t necessarily see or name forests, but they can certainly recognize trees.

Humans vest way more credence in forests than they should. This is the essence of cognitive dissonance reduction and the engine of conspiracy theory, but it is also a factor in basic human nature.

How can I put this? If you stripped Trump of all the abstract qualities that have been attached to him (“billionaire deal maker,” “populist politician,” “master of Twitter,” “hero to forgotten working class whites,” “commander in chief,” “target of the deep state,” “racist,” “fascist”) all that would be left is a big, loud, alternatively clownish or bullying man of questionable intelligence in a loosely cut suit, incessantly bellowing about himself. From all appearances, certainly from a dog or cat’s perspective, he is entirely about appetite and self-regard, whether he is screwing a porn star without a condom while his bought-and-paid-for wife sits at home with her anchor baby, or locking up refugees’ children in cages.

If you looked at Manafort from a dog or a cat’s perspective three years ago, you saw an amoral factotum of dictators; an international criminal who was way over his head in his personal life (buying $20,000 snakeskin jackets to make his mistress think he is younger and cooler and richer than he is) and his professional life (‘borrowing’ millions from Russian gangsters and then coming up short). Clearly he grabbed hold of Trump’s campaign as an opportunity to “get whole” with the people who were threatening to murder him–we have that in his own words. If you looked at Lewandowski, you saw a nasty ex-cop with a short fuse and an eye for the easy opportunity, who couldn’t hold himself back from striking a Breitbart reporter, stealing campaign money (remember the fake advertising agency he set up? no one else seems to either), or landing a CNN deal as an official Trump apologist.

And three years later, that’s still pretty much the whole story. The Trump campaign was filled with crooks, not least the candidate himself; everyone in the Trump presidency is either a crook, a scoundrel, an enabler, or a tool. All this talk about ideology and racism, all of this hand-wringing about norms and the Constitution–but what it all comes down to, what it has ALWAYS come down to, is simple human depravity, in all its many flavors and varieties, Our problem is that we dress it up as something much grander.

The Story is Getting Away from its Would-be Authors

Re Trump’s seemingly abrupt collapse and Warren’s inexorable rise–it’s not what people believe about a political figure; it’s how they make them feel. Warren feels fresher and livelier than the people who are supposed to be more broadly appealing, just as Trump did three years ago as compared to Jeb Bush. Advertisers know this–it’s really hard to get people excited about a product that they’re not mostly sold on already. Just as Bush or Hillary Clinton did in 2015, Kamala Harris seemed market-ready on paper, but she failed to launch. Even without Trump’s international rat-fucking, Biden was already faltering. It happens.

I mean, you can say you’re strong 1000 times a day with ruthless message discipline and broadcast it in 100 well-made ads a minute and that will get you somewhere to be sure, but if you actually ARE strong, that will get you further. Trump seemed not just strong but invincible to the people who didn’t hate him three years ago. He still does to some of them, but if you weren’t all in before, you’re probably seeing him differently now that he’s acting like a loser. It’s a whole lot harder to convince people that you are winning when you are having a big tantrum.

As for the mystery of how so many people could have NOT hated him–well, that I can’t fathom, but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with ideology, policy, or principles of any kind. As conservatives used to say, it probably has a lot to do with people’s characters.

I Surrender

Forgive me for staying away. Epstein has made me question everything skeptical I ever wrote about conspiracy theories–clearly the Illuminati does exist, runs Hellfire Clubs, and works closely with the British royals. My best guess is that he is a reptilian from the planet Archon. This morning I woke up to Roy Cohn’s protege’s Twitter-howls about Israel-hating Communists. The smartset on Twitter says it’s a ploy to distract us from the concentration camps on the border and the roundups in the cities. Concentration camps? Roundups? Jesus Christ.

In August 2016, I sat down and read through THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA and IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE, as a kind of just-in-case–if he did get elected, I wanted to have some literary takes on what a fascist America would look like. Now I know.

No, I haven’t really surrendered. But sometimes I get the distinct notion that the Democrats have. I don’t pray, but if I did I would pray that I am wrong.

Trump is the Devil

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Jelani Cobb had a great post on The New Yorker’s website about Michael Cohen.

What I love about it is this: “The hallmark of a great team leader is an ability to make his teammates play better; Trump has an uncanny ability to bring out the worst in those around him.”

It’s not just uncanny, it’s unarguably true, even if you are a Trump cultist. I mean, if Cohen is such a pathological liar, then why else did Trump keep him around for so long except to lie about him? Frankly, it’s why Trump has restored my faith in religion–because I’m so sure he is the Devil. If this was the Twilight Zone, the camera would pull back to reveal the audience, and we would realize that we are all minor (and some of us major) characters in a morality play. If this was Dallas, James Madison would wake up from a nightmare and realize that he needed to rewrite Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution to better-specify “treason” and “high crimes.”

An impeachment bid will undoubtedly fail in the Senate and probably provoke a fatal political backlash. I can easily imagine Biden winning the nomination by arguing that left wing Democrats have gone too far, effectively handing 2020 to Trump. But how can Congress not impeach him? A day doesn’t go by in which he doesn’t commit three or four impeachable acts. Honestly, I don’t think they have any choice. Which is also why I think he’s the Devil.

Sledgehammered

My mother, who lived to be a little older than Nancy Pelosi is today, and who was tiny and ethnic and stubborn and opinionated all her life, would have been so tickled to see that the first politician to humble Trump is cut out of the same cloth that she was.

“You have to be respectful of the office that he holds,” Pelosi says dryly. “Perhaps even more respectful of the office he holds than he is.” And, “You always start with a feather, until you get to the sledgehammer.”

If you just look at the words Trump read off the teleprompter yesterday (before he got to the duct tape stuff), you’d think the federal workers had gone on strike to support him and that with their help, he had brought Congress to its knees. But if you looked at his face, you could see that he was broken.

It was a good look.

Things May be Tipping

I get nervous when I am feeling optimistic, because I understand that Trump and Trumpism are symptoms of a much deeper and systemic rot, but it seems to me that things are tipping pretty dramatically right now.

Michael Cohen’s testimony on February 7 is going to be a huge event, and Mueller’s report is likely to follow pretty quickly. If the report is suppressed, that will be almost more devastating than if it is released and it is certain to leak. And I can’t imagine that Trump will even deliver a State of the Union address if the government is still closed.

Yes, a Pence presidency will be worse in many ways than a Trump presidency, because Pence really does have an agenda and the Trump courts and McConnell’s Senate will back him up to the hilt and Lindsay Graham will become his favorite golf partner. And yes, it’s likely that the Democrats are going to make a mess of things during the primary season. But it really does feel like the fever is starting to break.