Trump is a maniac, but he might be exactly the maniac we need.
Back about a year ago, a few months before Jon Stewart gave up his show, I remember so distinctly his reaction to the news that Donald Trump was considering a presidential run: he folded his hands in mock prayer, looked heavenward and pleaded: “oh pleeeeaaase let this happen”.
I’ve always respected the wisdom behind Stewart’s humor, and so I’m reaching backwards now trying to imagine what the hell Stewart was thinking.
And … I think I see it. As f*cknuts-crazy as things have gotten, there is exactly one bright-side: this conversation I’m seeing everywhere about how did things go so wrong? I mean … we all knew the system was broken, right? No one thought a transactional oligarchy partnered with media designed to manipulate rather than inform was, you know, working out? It’s impossible to quantify all of the bullshit we became accustomed to, but Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone attempts it brilliantly:
For a generation, conservative intellectuals have successfully pointed the finger at big-government-loving, whale-hugging liberals as the culprits behind American decline. But the fact that lots of voters hated the Clintons, Sean Penn, the Dixie Chicks and whomever else, did not, ever, mean that they believed in the principle of Detroit carmakers being able to costlessly move American jobs overseas by the thousands.
I think we also privately knew that many of us are partly to blame, having accepted the cynical invitation to treat something as serious as representational democracy like it was the dumbest of team sports. We also knew — maybe even hoped? — that the 100% oppositional efforts to invalidate Obama’s presidency had to lead to an eventual reckoning … somehow, someday, with very big hair. Josh Marshall at TPM cleverly describes it as type of “ethical debt”:
There’s some metaphor or analogy here about a hostile takeover … that is the story of Trump — a raid on a hopelessly leveraged GOP ‘establishment’ which barely realized that it scarcely exists.
Steve Almond previously captured the same concept over at Salon:
Trump is the logical byproduct of this sustained campaign: an isotopic nihilist who could care less about conservatism, who feeds off the adulation of the enraged, self-victimizing masses bred by the conservative movement.
I’m not saying I’m enjoying this. But … I sort of am. Back when Stewart wanted “F*ckface Clownstick” to run for office, I thought then that he was cheering for the self-destruction of exactly one batshit narcissist. But now I think it’s more than that.
See, Trump is a maniac, but he might be exactly the maniac we need. Because he has destroyed a political institution that — in their abdication of principle for not much more than self-gratifying retribution — invited him to do so. Remember the 2014 midterm ads about Ebola-infected agents of ISIS invading across the Mexican border? Yeah, that happened. We’ve jumped so far past the shark, we’re never going back to whatever it was before. And maybe Trump was the only one who could break it this completely. But for as much as what’s coming worries me, it must be better than where we were, if for no other reason that we’ll be fully conscious when it happens.
And I think that’s what Stewart was praying for: a conscious electorate that takes its self-governance actually seriously. And yeah, for that: count me in.Charles P. Pierce over at Esquire says it like this:
The only way to stop … Trump is to re-engage as citizens of a self-governing republic again … It is not time to make America great again. It’s time to make America America again.
Are the stakes really high? Of course. But that’s my point — and I like to think it was Stewart’s point as well for all those years — they always have been.
Originally published on Medium.
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