We Watch, Alarmed
We watch, alarmed. On every screen at every moment we are given cause for alarm. We thought it would end once Trump was gone if (let our prayers be answered) he would be gone. Well, now he is gone but somehow IT’S not gone, that sense of dread and apprehension. There is, of course, good reason for us to feel that way. The background is very real; covid, death, the turmoil is very real, neo-nazis storming the capitol and threatening to return.
What I think we’re missing, and what we’re not talking about enough, is how much we’re winning. How pathetically inept the other side has become.
Trump started losing the day after he was elected in 2016. By then he had already completely devoured the Repuplican Party — remember, they came out of their convention with no platform, Trump WAS the platform — and so they, the Republicans, have been losing every day since then as well. On day two — marking a perfect Aristotelian beginning — a worldwide Women’s March drew seven million in an a priori repudiation of Trump. The middle was marked by the 2018 midterms answering, with a resounding “yes we can,” the question of whether the Women’s March eruption of outrage could or would translate to votes. The ending came brutally in 2020 with the loss of the Presidency and the Senate. Fittingly, the death-wounded animal lashed out in murderous rage on the same day that Georgia was called and the inexorable electoral vote count turned the final key in Trump’s loss.
All of the thrashing death throes to follow — the pressuring calls to elected officials, the strong-arming of Mike Pence, the storming of the Capitol, none of it ever had a real chance of overturning the election. Belief that it somehow would was simply delusional. Of all the coverage of those events, from election day through the inauguration, for me one of the most chilling moments came on the morning of January 20 when a MAGA hatted man intoned solemnly that he believed some celestial hand would come down and stop the inauguration. Spoiler alert — it did not.
So, Trump lost and we won the Senate, and yet we are filled with dread and watch with alarm as Marjorie Taylor Greene rises up. Trump dies, but his soul is reanimated in the body of this Georgia woman as if in a zombie movie. She’s not alone. To discard one metaphor for another, Trump is shattered in pieces on the ground — voted worst President ever, impeached twice, about to be sued and charged criminally in dozens of jurisdictions, abandoned by all those (big money) who truly matter, thrown out of SAG, and only embraced by the hordes of suckers that he suckered. The worst kind of people, really, the last people he wants to hang with. He abhors them, they make him sick, these real Americans. So don’t be fooled by whatever remnants of his always tacky lifestyle he will, going forward, still manage to display; Trump is shattered. But the shards of his shattering — and this is why we are alarmed — the shards are now scattered into thousands, allright millions, of mini Trumps. That’s an alarming thought. But they are just shards. The power is crucially, fatally, diminished
The Republicans are splitting apart, they are the weakest they have been in a generation and getting weaker, and they have absolutely no one to blame for it but themselves. It took generations to create the monster they are now stuck with. To be specific, Republican politicians cultivated and pandered to a constituency eager to have their grievances directed towards a smorgasbord of others — the media, jews, black and brown people, foreigners of all origins, government. Misinformation and conspiracy theories were always part of the recipe — Jews have horns, Blacks are unintelligent and lazy. Those are ancient. Fast forward to Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Fox, Newsmax, Parler, OAN, Infowars, and — abracadabra — the greatest con man in the history of the world manages to get first 63 million, then 74 million to drink his poisonous Kool-Aid. THAT’s impressive. But now… the curtain is pulled back. The great OZ is melted like the wicked witch or Rudy’s hair dye, but the 74 million (or a sizable portion of that cohort) are still stumbling around, again, like zombies. Very dangerous, yes, but ultimately quite weak. Brainless people fueled by fear and hate are not very effective. They run into walls and can do a lot of damage, but they are not a real threat. They are in the process of devouring each other and, frankly, we should mostly sit back, watch and enjoy the show,
The Q/Marjorie Taylor Green faction of the party; there are quite enough of them to have the effect of completely boxing in the politicians who rely on their votes, but not enough to win elections. If you look carefully at the faces of these people — you know, the politicians who go on TV and rant the most absurd things — what you are seeing is fear. They are trapped in the lie they told their followers and their only play is to double down on the lie and go deeper and deeper down the Q rabbit — or should I say reddit — hole. Meanwhile, the few that are still standing on the sidelines watching helplessly as the rabbit goes down — the Romneys, Adam Kinzingers, Cheneys — are only enough to fracture what might have been a winning coalition. These “good guys” of course also have no one but themselves to blame. Each of them should google, print out and hang on their office walls the famous quote that begins, “First they came…”.
Their losses are compounding in real time. The lie that failed has backfired spectacularly. The big donors are bailing. The big corporations are bailing. The stench is so overpowering, no one (who matters) wants to get near it. Dominion and Smartmatic, stupidly used as props in the morality play staged by the Trumpists, switched on a big reality light when they sued Fox, Lou Dobbs, Bartiromo, Pirro, Newsmax, Giuliani and Powell for billions.
An audiobook I narrated last year, The Queering of Corporate America: How Big Business Went from LGBTQ Adversary to Ally by Carlos A. Ball, opened my eyes to the ways in which progressive change can be driven — incredibly, ironically — by big business. The reason is simple: politicians are mostly responsive to and/or controlled by narrow constituencies defined by demographics and geography, while big businesses like Walmart and Amazon and even Chick Fil-A must allow for the needs and beliefs of a much broader array of customers and employees, both current and potential, even when the personal views of Board members and CEOs tend toward a far more “conservative” worldview.
With all those forces in play, Republicans are not likely to win national or even congressional elections for some time. (The Qrazies will win primaries in red states, tipping general election voters toward Democrats.) That’s a damn good thing, because if they do somehow win in 2022 I have no doubt they will seize every lever of power possible to ensure that Democrats lose power and are NEVER able to take it back. They have shown us their true selves, so we’d better stay strong and keep winning. How?
- We FIX stuff. We use the power we have to do good. (Go Joe.) We fight the pandemic properly, we provide a real safety net for the desperate and we ignore the hysterical braying of “Socialism!!!” that always ensues when you try to help people.
- We ORGANIZE relentlessly. Lots of talk in this last cycle about how when Covid hit, the Ds stopped door knocking but the Rs did not and that’s why we almost lost. Well, the pandemic will soon fade (not magically) so we can get back to work. Thank you Stacey Abrams for showing us the way.
Trump will be acquitted. He may even run again in 2024. Good. The acquittal will only further stain the party, while a reanimated, stumbling zombie Trump will draw only a fraction of what was already a diminished electoral cohort. For four years the essential political equation in this country hovered in the range of 60/40. Trump’s approval rating never broke 50% and now stands at 38%. Biden’s approval rating was 53% on inauguration day and is now approaching 55%. Let’s relish and build upon our ascendancy.