Every election in my lifetime has been “the most important election” of my lifetime, and every election in that same span has also been the dumbest. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive, and once paired it is impossible not to yearn for forgetfulness.
This year is no different. Grab a drink. We’ll be here a while.
Let’s start with Captain Obvious, Donald Trump, an orange sorbet mistakenly served to the world with a discarded Eighties New Wave wig atop it. Last Thursday he tweeted a picture of himself eating a taco salad, along with this thumbs-up message:
“Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”
I love Hispanics! That’s definitely going to fill that nativist hole dug with a backhoe for almost a year. Paper over the Grand Canyon and drive a limo across.
This is dumb pandering via point-blank gunshot to the chest, so self-evidently stupid that one almost wonders if he thinks Mexican food is made out of Mexican people. Maybe he thinks people feel a physical synonymity between themselves and their food. Maybe he thinks the French resistance just threw baguettes at the Nazis. Picture him eating a Pizza Hut Pizza Stew-To-Go: “I love the Meat Lovers Deep Dish Despair Cauldron™! Meucci invented the telephone first! Viva Italiano!”
Trump inarguably possesses a formidable animal cunning about his base’s rage and his opponents’ weaknesses, but he’s also inarguably the least prepared presumptive nominee in history, with an amnesiac’s adhesion to his own statements. His solution to being unfamiliar with the concerns of the office and even things he’s pledged seems to be total contempt for any record stretching back further than this morning. Who you gonna trust? Me, or the concept of memory?
On Sunday, Trump reversed his rejection of a minimum-wage hike, coming out in support of it. He also suggested his tax plan would likely eventually see tax hikes on the rich, reversing an earlier reversal on his tax policy for the wealthy.
This promises to be an election where history reveals itself as merely an unreliable tool that misleads the future, with yesterday receding into myths and legend that only threaten the real and certain urgency of getting through the next 24 hours. It is a dumb process premised on the notion that all of us are broken-brain stupid, beginning each day via some kind of Memento mental reset driven by pig ignorance, and Trump couldn’t be paired with a better opponent in this regard.
Speaking of that animal cunning of his, seven hours after his taco bowl tweet, Trump highlighted Hillary Clinton’s backtracking her message on coal.
In March, she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.” It was a bold pledge, and a welcome one if you happen to live on planet Earth and would like your descendants to enjoy doing so as well. Last Monday, her message changed when a coal miner confronted her. She also said “we’ve got to do a lot more on carbon capture and sequestration [CCS] and … get coal to be a fuel that can continue to be sold and … mined.”
CCS is a fancy term for “clean coal,” which is a fancy word for “coal.” Clean coal is a thing in the same way that “resuscitative murder” is a thing.
Two decades in politics is enough to put a lot of inconsistency on anyone’s record, and the bozo hot air Clinton and her supporters have relied on to keep poll numbers aloft and inconsistencies obscured contains enough flammable stupidity to fuel an ICBM.
You have to spend the campaign wearing the current (black) president’s legacy like a flak jacket when you once gave a racially tinged speech about “super predators.” You have to slap rainbow symbols on your Twitter feed when your record on marriage equality stretches back three long years after over a decade of opposition. You have to hispander and let someone compare you to an abuela when you touted this kind of anti-immigrant record, rubber-stamped a Honduran coup, then called for refugee children fleeing the highest homicide rate in the world to be sent back to “send a message” on immigration to their parents.
That kind of Janus look makes a candidate seem unlikable, which is why enlisting naturally, marketably likable people to like a candidate helps. In fact, people who work in TV want to “Netflix and chill” with Clinton. That’s relatable! You’re probably waiting for callbacks about your pilot script too.
Stupidity wouldn’t be so exhausting if it didn’t have help, but whenever it flags, the media is there.
This cycle, “explainer” media invented math nerds being granularly and grandly wrong about the election, partnering them up with traditionalists, like this idiot who’s probably paid a quarter-million per year to generate failure. TV media got Donald Trump desperately wrong last year while cackling. On Thursday, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell hosted the terminally wrong Bill Kristol to promote a doomed third-party movement.
None of those people saw Trump coming, because its difficult to understand anger when you take home six figures to live in an incestuous media-political enclave perpetuated by self-interest.
It’s just easier to be stupid. It’s easier — and effortlessly profitable — to swarm like flies all over the latest luxurious outhouse offering from Trump’s Twitter.
It’s easier to view a candidate walking into coal country to reverse her call to end coal dependency as bravery. (Acolytes of the David Broder centrism cult horked up the word “bravery” all over NPR on Friday.) It’s brave politically, but to humanity it looks like delayed climatic suicide. That’s fine if your grandchildren will never have to lift a finger to purchase a stone fortress set atop the high ground, but a few billion of the rest of us live near water and don’t have gills.
Now the thing to be stupid about is the alleged principled conservative revolt against Donald Trump, where the smart money of the party will go to reject an intellectually incurious carnie with a spare billion dollars. But this isn’t a revolt, and these people have no principles. The louder you hear a conservative reject Donald Trump, the more certain you can be that it’s a self-preserving branding exercise based on the hunch that there is more to gain if Trump loses.
Paul Ryan is withholding his endorsement to extract concessions, and when he and Trump reach any agreement, Trump will be viewed as “presidential.” The Bush family is resentful on a personal level, and everyone knows it. The McCain family is rending their garments on the way to an endorsement. And neocon vampires will indulge their disgust with Trump’s isolationism and their good hunch that, after Libya, Clinton’s good for at least one Syrian intervention. Blood runs downhill.
The rest of the Republican apparatus will fall in line. After years of claiming that America is one election away from a continent-wide Watts riot if anyone but a Republican wins, after months of resolving differences during GOP debates by repeating “anyone but Clinton,” that’s the only choice left.
They fell in line behind Mitt Romney, even after his advisor said the campaign would reset the primary and the general, like an Etch-a-Sketch. They championed the opponent of Obamacare who invented the damn thing and ignored his career flip-flops on abortion. If anything, 2012 presents as a dry run for institutionalizing the electoral principle that yesterday — literally yesterday — is meaningless.
And before that the Republican principled class shamelessly lied and championed that great imperial idiot whose White House ignored terrorism warnings before 9/11, revenged themselves by sprinting in the footsteps of Alexander and the Red Army into Afghanistan, detoured into Iraq on false pretenses and ignored Bin Laden entirely. They are the cinder block on a makeshift front-lawn auto-body shop: dumb as a brick and capable of supporting anything.
So we’ll beat on stupidly until it ends. One candidate tweeting like a teen troll sadist with zero object permanence, the other trying to efface 20 years of statements with a flurry of “fleek-washing” hashtags on a celebrity guest-curated Instagram and demographic thirst.
All of it will be covered with excruciating, instant myopia, because that’s all we have to talk about. We have lashed ourselves to a stupid and amnesiac and ceaseless cycle because we know the achingly stupid truth underlying it all: that most of us paying attention and/or wedded to a party already know who we’re going to vote for, that we don’t need this, that none of us asked for it, that it is the least necessary prolonged spasm of calculated asininity ever devised.
If we must endure every day of the next six months in spite of that fact, we might as well do our best to forget the day before, because we know we can’t escape another tomorrow. We have 182 more to go.