I’ve been thinking political lately. And by lately, I mean for the last four years. Holy shit, it’s been a ride. But for a few months, I’ve had a particular post I’ve been working on mostly in my head, and now, less than an hour before the polls start closing, I’m finally slapping it together.
Donald Trump is no political genius. In fact, he’s one of the dumbest motherfuckers we’ve ever seen. He’s not smart, shrewd, or savvy. He’s a colossal dumbfuck, and it’s been by pure Chauncey Gardner luck that he ever managed to make it. He’s a simple guy who loves to watch TV and to hear people cheer for him. His primary personality traits are spite, vanity, greed, and laziness. The only reason he’s ever accomplished anything, good or bad, is because he’s got an entourage of more competent people, somehow more awful, people who are just competent enough to do it for him.
Mike Pompeo, Betsy DeVos, Steven Miller… these are all people on their own mission. Everything Trump does is the result of whichever lickspittle is able to whisper in his ear most recently.
Look at Bill Barr. People talk about him like he’s some kind of obedient lapdog for Trump. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trump is constantly throwing Barr under the bus and Barr is just fine with that. The abuse comes with the territory, and the tradeoff isn’t even in question. Barr is a shrewd operator with an agenda to get new legal precedents on the books and take advantage of the courts that Trump packed. He was smart enough to ingratiate himself to Trump by writing him a fawning love letter telling him how great he is and how bad the Democrats are. He’s an absolute weasel, and he played Trump like the fool he is. Trump has the power, but he’s doing Bill Barr’s bidding. He just doesn’t know it.
Trump is devoid of any actual political ideology. He lives only to hear people cheer his name, and make money, but he’s too stupid to think big. There are many, many issues facing this country that enjoy broad popularity, but Republicans hate: Higher taxes for the rich, a better healthcare system, abortion rights, $15 minimum wage, COVID mask mandates, gun control, climate change, and others. If he had the slightest bit of political savvy in him, he could have used this to his advantage to win new admirers. Sure, most people would have never become Trump fans, but he could have gained a degree of reluctant respect for tackling some of these issues in line with popular sentiment.
Progress could have been possible because he has an army of followers who are also devoid of any particular ideology other than racism. None of this popular issues would have been a problem until he made them a problem. In fact, he owes a much of his luck as a candidate to the fact that he’s willing to say racist and offensive things because because these people cheer when he does it. Doing a little bit of work to gain the respect of the people who find his racism offensive is beyond his capability. He can’t see past the next applause line. Lying, cheating, and swindling are the only way he knows, and it works to a degree because there’s a tacit understanding between him and his followers. They know they’re being lied to, cheated, and swindled, but they love it because they think he’s sticking it to other people even worse. Putting in the work never even occurred to him.
For how fucking dumb he is, he does seem to recognize that Americans are burnt out on war. It’s why he put so much emphasis North Korea early on. He thought he would get credit for being a master peacemaker. The only problem was he thought he could just swindle his way into a Deal like he was ripping off a carpet contractor in Atlantic City. There was work involved to make progress, so he gave up. There was also work involved in starting a war, so he thankfully didn’t pursue that either.
I think constantly about how, all the human suffering notwithstanding, this whole ordeal may turn out to be a long-term blessing in disguise. That’s not to say that real damage hasn’t been done. Lives lost will never come back, but relationships can be mended, and lost progress can be remade.
This was a was a wake-up call; a warning shot. Trump successfully exposed the many weaknesses in the system. Some of them held up, others did not. But now we know where they are. Where norms sufficed, we can enact laws. Where laws broke down, we can pursue amendments to the Constitution. We have one last chance to repair things before a smarter Trump comes along.
For a while, I’ve been wondering what Trump is going to do as a lame duck should he lose. There’s a chance he might just fly to Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday, where he can send miserable tweets, and never even pretend to work again, but I’m not counting on it. This may be his last chance to cause chaos, but I have a feeling he won’t get much done. His cabinet and army of law-breaking advisors will all suddenly find themselves in legal jeopardy, just like he will be. My best guess is that they’ll be too busy finding their next grift, throwing each other under the bus, and generally running for the hills that he won’t be able to accomplish (or destroy) much.
I think Joe Biden realizes the stakes. I don’t think he’s quite the establishment character that many on the left make him out to be. He knows he’s a man out of time, and has the capability of surprising us. With any luck, he’ll have a dark blue House, and a filibuster-free Senate to send him legislation. If they manage to get Medicare-for-All done, would he veto it? Fully legal marijuana? Free college beyond his plan? I don’t know, but I certainly wouldn’t write it off. No matter what, fixing the holes in the system have to be a top priority.
Better things will be possible, but it’ll be up to us to push our Senators and Representatives to do it. I live in one of the most solidly Democratic areas of the entire country. For the last four years, it’s been assumed that they’ll do the right thing, and they always have. I look forward to actually writing them letters, making calls, and attending town halls, because for once, the right thing might not be the default thing. I expect them to take a little bit of prodding to get them where I want them.
Of course, all of this is dependent on what plays out over the next few hours and days.
And now we wait.