Unwelcome empathy

“He’ll become presidential when it’s time,” assured an army of gibbering halfwits at the end of 2016, when Donald Trump was behaving like the idiot he always has been and forever will be. “The stupidity is all just an act! You wait and see!”

Here’s where we are a year and a half later. Things are exactly as bad as, or worse than, any objective and learned observer could have predicted. Trump is, if anything, even less intelligent, more temperamental, and more dishonest than he used to be, which makes sense given the stress he’s now under.

The convenient thing about being credulous enough to have ever swallowed such obvious nonsense about Trump’s brainpower and leadership potential is that your Trump excuse bag will never come up empty.Most Trump supporters I know don’t really believe that he’s smart or a remotely decent human being. (I do know one former associate who does believe this and a raft of similarly untenable things, but she also believes that she has an IQ in the 190s based on one of those ubiquitous online tests.) They saw two shitty candidates in 2016 and rolled the dice hoping the one they picked would do things that on balance improved their lives. They don’t care that Trump is a ferociously ignorant racist, not because they’re on board with all of that but because such issues are simply less important to them than the personal benefits they believed Trump was more likely to deliver than Clinton. They have been wrong about almost all of this, but that’s better than having acted in bad faith from the outset.

But the large subset of Trump supporters I have blessedly little contact with are a different story. I’m remembering their words after the election: “We suffered under Obama for eight years and now it’s your turn.” The fact that none of them could establish how their lives had supposedly worsened thanks to Obama’s policies is immaterial; the key point is that they were motivated by pure, undisguised spite. They considered Obama a dividing force, and they wanted revenge. They are not blind to the fact that their Medicaid and food stamps are more likely to end under GOP leadership; they just sublimate this concern so as to better focus on their blind resentment.

I think I fully understand this mindset for the first time. My life hasn’t gotten worse since this idiot took office and methodically began peppering his cabinet with hilariously crooked, stupid, and immoral people; in fact, I haven’t had a better overall year and a half since the 1990s, and the only tangible consequence of Trump being elected is losing a couple of friends who had already proven annoyingly daft and feckless anyway. Yet I would still like to wake up to the news that something extremely grave has befallen people high in government. Worse than that, I feel like America’s white-trash, cross-waving hillbilly faction should suffer for their role in the ongoing tumult. Just like a lot of people who didn’t want a mixed-race president, ipso facto, I can’t stand the reality of having a proudly stupid lying old criminal as president. And as a result, I have slipped further into chronic callousness than anyone really should. I thought it was great when Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a cunt, despite the utter pointlessness of it all. I like it when people make fun of Sarah Sanders’ make-up lopsided face and make meth memes about KellyAnne Conway, because it increases the chances these assholes will not want to keep their jobs. I revel in the idea that everyone who gloated about liking Trump on account of his anti-PC manner of expressing himself seemed to forget that gratuitous verbal cruelty always cuts both ways. (The idea that liberals and Dems are intrinsically less inclined to use choice slurs to describe their political and other adversaries hasn’t spent a lot of time alone with liberals and Dems, but that’s a different story.)

I find myself repeatedly hoping not for a “good” administration next time around, but one that is inclined to punish people I don’t like and never have to see. For example, it would be great to have an entire cabinet purposefully stocked with black and Latina transgender lesbians with doctorate degrees, regardless of their qualifications. It would be funny to see noises continually made about banning private firearms ownership, just to keep right-wingers in a state of perpetual discomfort. I relish the idea of a Muslim-American secretary of state and the imposition of a 75 percent tax on NASCAR events, cable line-ups that include Fox News, and pickup trucks. It’s fun to imagine a couple of the more worthless SCOTUS justices retiring or dying and being replaced by hardcore feminist loons. I would like to see the 501(c)(3) tax loophole done away with, but that’s an actual stance, not a joke, so I’m not sure I should mention that here.

I guess what I’m saying is that at least I get it. I don’t think the Yosemite Sam faction of the U.S. had many good reasons to be upset at Obama, but they were, and they remain unapologetic dickheads about it. I feel like I’m capable of laughing at things that would really only add to the public misery quotient by keeping a sizable fraction of the electorate on edge. I enjoy the notion of Evangelicals operating under around-the-clock roaring anxiety. Those are completely ignoble thoughts, and though it’s apparent that they are part of a widespread phenomenon, I can’t say I’m comfortable with them.

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