trump's america

A requiem for

American Morning Freshly Squeezed, Second Ave., Albany, OR, 11/17/20.

Who’s surprised? // A tedious and exhaustive recap of the magnificently bizarre and completely predictable ramifications of an election that sent an unqualified authoritarian bloviating con artist to the White House

01/06 UPDATE: A penultimate act of lunacy


A parade of horn-honking trucks sporting gigantic MAGA flags rolled down our street here way back on December 5.

They came through boasting and blasting their horns and waving and taking videos of each other, like sports fans or religious fanatics. The same thing happened on November 3, but that parade lasted a little bit longer. On that day, the paraders were supporting their candidate in the presidential election.

The much smaller December 5 parade was cheering a president who lost an election but still wants his followers to believe he actually won. And his followers believe him, and still want to strut through our towns waving their flags and wearing their red hats. The parade amounts to nothing more than a support group at this point.

It’s a sad thing to watch, but also a frightening one. The 45th president of the United States, through endless lies, exaggerations, boasting, and a complete rejection of science, empirical evidence, and critical thought, managed to build a fanatical base of cult-like followers. Almost 75 million of them voted to elect him to a second term. 


Who remembers when he extolled the bravery of the Continental Army during the American Revolution in the 1770s, saying they “took over the airports” during that war? 


And almost 75 million people still voted for him. 


Remember that time he suggested people could inject disinfectant to cleanse against the coronavirus? 


Remember when he called himself “a very stable genius”? 


He said John McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured. 


And almost 75 million people still voted for him. 


When millions of citizens took to the streets to demand justice after police killed George Floyd, a black man accused of passing counterfeit bills, Trump called for violence against the marchers, and had a group of them gassed and blasted with fire hoses so he could cross the street and stand holding a Bible in front of a church to which he was not invited. 


Black Lives Matter.  

(All Lives Matter.)


No, all lives don’t matter until Black Lives Matter. The people who retorted with All Lives Matter demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of not only the issue, but of sentence structure. 


The signs do not read “Only Black Lives Matter.” They read “Black Lives Matter,” because it has to be said at all, to begin. Social structures and policing methods show every day that Black Lives do not matter. 

That’s the message, that Black Lives Matter. 


From this new reality, Trump tried to declare himself a champion of Law and Order, while almost all the people who have worked for the outgoing president have been indicted, done prison time, or were fired. He lost his bid for re-election, and then sent a band of washed-up, ill-prepared lawyers around to sue the states he lost, arguing cases with no evidence and no merit, and they were whipped like donkeys in every courtroom. Judges have lectured and admonished the team for having no evidence and relying on anecdotes to attempt to make their case. In one of the most absurd moments of the doomed and sad effort was when a flatulent Rudy Giuliani brought in a half-lit, sassy, platinum-blond contractor who alleged the poll books in Michigan were “way off,” and went on to accuse the Republican lawmaker hearing her testimony of taking the poll book into a back room and “doing something crazy with it.” 


After she said that, she raised her eyebrows, as if she’d made an unassailable argument. And really, her attitude is right in line with the Trumpist movement. There’s a collective ignorance, augmented with a level of hubris so severe it becomes dangerous. 

Really. What were you thinking? All of you who voted for him? How have so many of you who have been alive through at least six decades been so incapable of seeing through the con that this reality-TV huckster perpetrated on you? I mean, I saw it when he came down the escalator and called Mexicans rapists. It was so clear what his game was.  

I’m certain some of you now feel regret for having followed him, but it really is inexcusable that you went for his con in the first place, because in doing so you have caused long-lasting, if not irreparable damage to our nation. 


The self-proclaimed “elite strike force” that is his legal team has lost nearly 60 lawsuits related to attempting to overturn the election.  This, of course, has not happened in our country before. When candidates lose an election here, they step down, because that’s how it works in a democracy.

But these are different and dark times. What were famously called “alternative facts” by Kellyanne Conway are in fact the social currency of a very large component of our society. This component is intellectually lazy, suspicious of higher education, and rejects not only science, but any presentation of reality that runs counter to how they very desperately want to world to be. But that’s his base: people without education. The pliable ones. A lot of you will argue, “I voted for him and I have a college degree,” and that may be true, but maybe a degree earned 50 or more years ago carries some level of atrophy. You’ve replaced critical thought with faith, or belief. You believe in a version of reality that comforts you, and because of that, you tossed in your lot for a monstrously dishonest and unqualified authoritarian.  


Yes, elections have consequences.  


Here’s what I wrote about it back in 2016: 


 We’ve been fermenting our collective intellect in the warm, yeasty bath of Reality TV for so long that we now expect it from our presidential candidates. But there’s no need to be sentimental for the past. The Magician has proven that the illusion of Reality TV has become so very seductive that winning is only a matter of dazzling with hollow boasts and mean-eyed insults. 


… A rambling screed on all the progress that will be reversed, scrapped, or forgotten would be valueless here. Maybe even a recap of all the ways he acted with vulgarity, ignorance, bravado, insult, and arrogance over the past 600 days would be pointless as well, because in the end, he pulled it off, and his followers validated his behavior. A consortium of angry voters raised their hands for his message of fear, division, intolerance, and chest-beating, wrapped up and offered as a wholesome dose of common sense and balance. 


That was four years ago. A lot more happened over these past four years, not the least of which was an administration that misled and endangered the population about the realities of a pandemic that has become the No. 1 cause of death in our nation. 


And almost 75 million people still voted for him. But millions more voted against him, so he lost. But his followers don’t believe it, because he told them not to. But he lost.  


The good news is that the illusion didn’t hold this time. His con rang hollow with enough voters to kick him out after one term. The bad news is that almost 75 million people still believe the con. So these last four years marked a turning point. It’s a requiem for American Democracy. Not because elections and voting won’t continue, but because what passes as real, honest, or a part of our collective value system has been forever compromised. 


“We had a good run,” I would joke with my editor, Mike McInally, back in 2016. “Two-hundred years and change.” 


It wasn’t a terribly amusing joke, but we laughed a little each time.  


We had a good run. We really did. But it’s not the same nation anymore. White supremacists supported the 45th president. If white supremacists support a candidate, that’s really all that should be necessary to decide against voting for that candidate. But the reality is that almost 75 million people are either OK with white supremacists or too misinformed or willfully ignorant to notice. 


Either way, we had a good run. He may have lost, for now, but there are a whole lot of people out there who believe he’s practically The Messiah. They’ll keep having their parades, and flying their gigantic flags with his name on them. It’s the new Confederate battle flag, the banner of a defeated group too pathetic to let it go.

Even as his litigations fail, Trump and his team continue to appeal to his supporters for cash, and they're sending it to him. It's the same model used by megachurch televangelists. Think of it: A failed president duping his supporters out of their money. They're paying into an imagined cause only because they've been suckered into it. 

Just one day after the Supreme Court on Dec. 11 unceremoniously rejected a motion from Texas that hoped to invalidate millions of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, a march on Washington erupted in violence. The crowds of Trumpists massed with their gigantic flags and red hats, chanting, “Fight for Trump!” as the outgoing president flew overhead in a chopper, prompting cheers. The opposing side, known as Antifa, clashed with the marchers, which led to stabbings, fistfights, and general violence. Police arrested 23 people.  


This is not going to get better. There will not be a gradual quieting of the outgoing president’s fanatical base, because they believe they are saving their country from a Leftist takeover. They believe that, and that is all they need. The Proud Boys are trading blows with Antifa, and Texas GOP chair Allen West has put secession on the table after the Supreme Court rebuke. West said “law-abiding states should form a union” after the rejection of the suit. Of course, such a remark suggests any state that disagrees with the Texas suit is not a law-abiding state, which the Trumpists will most certainly accept as fact.  


This is it. Civil War. Not in any “massed armies taking territory" sort of war. This new war involves asymmetrical violence, state-level rebellion, and a de facto establishment of enclaves for each side. No matter how historians will describe it, we’ve already waded knee-deep into the war, and there is no indication things will calm down until these events bring a decision. 


Michael Flynn was back at the White House on Dec. 16. He did some time for lying to Federal investigators about his dealings with Russia, but Trumo pardoned him, and then brought him back into the circle. When he suggested Trump declare martial law and seize voting machines, the Oval Office devolved into a preternatural cage match of career politicians. Apparently, there was screaming. A steady procession of GOP leaders have come out to express their shock at the Martial Law suggestion, but all of them helped to create the monster, so you’ll forgive me if I show no sympathy for or belief in their concern. The lines are drawn.  


These are strange days. We haven’t seen the outgoing president in weeks. Some in his closer circle fear what he will try in the coming weeks, and even after Jan. 20 he’ll have 75 million followers, with something to fight for and something to prove. 


We had a good run, but elections have consequences. 

Epilogue: The Tantrum (01/06)

I was making maple popcorn for the kiddos after we spent the afternoon sledding when I read the headline: Capitol Breached.

After a few seconds of thinking maybe some lone crazy person had gotten past a guard, I realized  an organized mob of ignorant MAGA thugs had forced their way into the Capitol building.

People were injured, and a woman was shot and killed. A total of four people perished that day.

The mob showed up after Trump and his favorite lunatics incited a crowd at a rally just that morning to march on the Capitol building during the electoral vote count. Trump told them that only strength will win back the country. Don Jr. told them to be heroes not zeroes, and Rudy Giuliani called for Trial by Combat.

They did. Of course. 

“What is that, dad?” asked my daughter after noticing my surprise at the story.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told her as she sounded out the words in the headline.

Next, the popcorn burned and the teapot preparing the water for the hot cocoa boiled over.

That’s where I was when I got the news that an angry mob of misinformed and dangerously dumb MAGA people smashed out windows in the Capitol building and paraded around wearing Trump flags as capes. Where were you?

In fact, where were you in 2016? Because if you voted for him back then, then you did this. If you voted for him a second time, you’re not only a fool, you’re a mean one as well. 

If any of you want to pretend to be surprised that it would end this way, you are lying and valueless. If you really are surprised, then you’re astonishingly dumb.

A bunch of White House staffers resigned, GOP leaders turned on him, and a growing chorus is calling to remove him from office before Jan. 20, many saying he has lost it, that he’s out of his mind.

But it’s too late.  The damage is done. And it’s also a product of our idiot society, that so many people can be manipulated into committing blunt acts of pointless violence, believing in lies and conspiracy theories.

We’ve been head this way for a while. 

And by the way, any one of you who are just now deciding to abandon Trump are inexcusably harmful to our nation.  It took this long for you to think, “wow, um, maybe we shouldn’t have supported him” ?

What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was a violation, to be sure. But it revealed just how fragile our institutions are. Just like that, they were smashing windows and vandalizing offices. The cops were somehow caught off guard and took an hour or so to mount a response. When the Black Lives Matter protests raged, the cops were jocked up for war. When Trumpists stormed the Capitol, the cops were barely there.

That’s the GOP now. If you voted for Trump even once, those people walking around the Capitol with Trump capes and little red hats are your people. 

And now what? We just return to the way it was? No. This is who we are now, because there are enough of you out there that have been steeping in the Big Dumb for so long there is no hope for you. And you’ll take the country down with you, and you won’t even notice. 

And that is the tragedy.

O, Beautiful: For Specious Guys, Second Ave., Albany, OR, 12/10/20.