llustration by Victor Juhasz
January 2018. We’re trapped in an intellectual prison from which there is no escape. The modern American experience has been reduced to a few grim lines: President Donald Trump says something crazy; we freak out. A leak comes out; we obsess over it. Someone gets fired; the deck chairs on the sinking ship of state get rearranged a little. Trump says something crazy again. Rinse, outrage, repeat.
It’s a fatal mind loop worthy of an early Twilight Zone episode, and if you think about it (although the next presidential tweet will likely pre-empt that possibility), we’ve been riding in this same moronic circle for more than two and a half years. Cycling through the Twitter opinions about the president’s latest brain belch has become an irresistibly shallow national ritual. It’s clearly a monster distraction from something. But what, exactly?
At the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, several crises seem to have quietly worsened under the cover of Trump’s insanity. A big one is the continuing collapse of the two major political parties – particularly the Republicans, whose dysfunction now seems beyond terminal. With characteristic myopia, the GOP establishment spent most of the past year trying to rid Washington of alt-right icon and former chief Trump strategist Steve Bannon, instead of worrying about the larger problem, i.e., the voter rage that put Trump in the White House.
An intense inside game of leaks targeted the self-proclaimed Lenin of the alt-right. Bannon was blamed for the violent neofascist-march fiasco in Charlottesville and booted from the White House in response to it, despite being the only staffer to correctly predict the boss’s inability to believably denounce Nazis in public. Then Bannon was chucked from Breitbart by Trump’s billionaire pals, the hedge-fund Mercers. That was after sleazebasket wallflower author Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury depicted Bannon dumping on Trump’s “treasonous” Large Adult Son and Fredo-esque ex-bed-wetter, the embarrassing Donald Jr.