Yes, I know — I go to the trouble of starting a new site, only to let it rust after a few entries. I have my reasons, though few are terribly compelling.
Basically, the current political/cultural climate sickens me so much that I prefer to read books about time travel and old Hollywood debauchery than type out broody observations. Rejecting a political writing career was a wise move, as the partisan noise that passes for commentary would have long ago had me gnawing on my straitjacket.
Perhaps if I were new to the scene, eager to tear through its rotting flesh. I once felt that way, raising the black flag and ready to cut throats, as Mencken put it. But everything now seems like a crude rerun. There are those who navigate this terrain well and they have my respect, however puzzled I am by their commitment.
I suppose it’s because I’ve seen too many minds warped by this environment. It’s a measure of how preposterous US political culture has become that such violence is commonplace.
I was reminded of this while watching TRUMPED, a behind-the-scenes campaign diary on Showtime. Political reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann follow candidate Donald Trump from his first announcement to his stunning victory. The basic arc is the same: Trump spouts crazy shit while the corporate media rolls its eyes and barely stifles its contempt. Halperin and Heilemann are especially smug, secure in the belief that Trump doesn’t stand a chance against the superior Hillary. Knowing what ultimately happens makes their behavior unintentionally amusing.
Indeed, their shocked expressions on election night made me laugh. The experts got it completely wrong. How could this happen to such smart people? It’s like they hallucinated Trump’s win and hoped that by morning their heads would clear to the proper reality of President Clinton.
What was presumably intended as a historical document comes off as dark comedy. Yet what really struck me was the lack of perception. I also assumed that Hillary had it sewn up; nearly the entire corporate political establishment was behind her. But I didn’t enjoy Halperin and Heilemann’s inside access to Trump’s campaign. If I’d seen what they recorded, I might have still bet on Hillary, though not as confidently. It’s clear that Trump tapped a serious, populist vein, regardless of intention or sincerity. Hillary and her followers ignored that, when not mocking the concept and demeaning those who gave Trump a shot.
Since then, American politics have gone haywire, primarily among liberals who peddle conspiracy theories while clinging desperately to the established Dem order — what remains of it, that is. Trump’s presidency is an erratic nightmare, but apart from Bernie Sanders and those radicals who support him, there isn’t much serious resistance from the liberal camp. For them, Trump is a stylistic embarrassment. They don’t oppose corporate capitalism, just Trump’s chaotic version of it. Their main belief is that once Russian interference is exposed and punished, things can get back to normal.
This is why I hesitate to write extensively about our present moment. Distributing political views in a madhouse holds little appeal for me. Maybe I’m selfish, maybe I’m tired. Maybe the laughs I do find hurt too much to share. I’ll let you know if my condition improves.