Chronic Trump Fatigue
When you're too exhausted to be outraged
You might have already noticed. But I put the “Slack” in Slack Tide again this week, failing to give you my Johnny-on-the-spot hot take. To dutifully man my rage station in order to apportion the proper doses of blame with all the new Donald Trump scandal action, which feels a lot like the old Donald Trump scandal action. I figured you wouldn’t miss it, with a couple thousand other huffy’n’puffy op-eds to choose from all across the ideological spectrum: Down with Trump! Down with the FBI! Give us Barabbas!
Trump’s post-presidency has felt exactly like his presidency, a perpetual-motion-machine of controversy, resentment, and civil-war-stoking. For anyone hoping that he’d retire to a life of quiet contemplation, maybe teaching Sunday School like Jimmy Carter, or painting portraits of his Scottish Terrier, a la George W. Bush, well…..guess again. Trump doesn’t have much use for Sunday School – he’s allegedly said ministers are “all hustlers.” (And if you look at the ones who’ve publicly aligned with him, he might have a point.) Neither does he believe in having pets, unless you count Kevin McCarthy. Showering affection on a canine companion would take precious time away from the only creature he’s ever truly loved: himself.
Such snark, of course, regularly gets me charged with having the dreaded Trump Derangement Syndrome. Which, as I always point out to my TDS-accusers, could be defined as: I state an obvious truth about Trump, and when I do, they become deranged. I, of course, put friends’n’family relations on the line when I say such things. But a man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. As the experts tell you in the cult-deprogramming literature, cultists don’t like to have their favorite tangelo-flavored Jim Jones questioned. Former cult members Sam&Tanner have actually distilled this with ten signs that prove you might be in a cult:
1.The Leader is the ultimate authority.
2. The group suppresses skepticism.
3. The group delegitimizes former members. (See Liz Cheney, who voted with Trump 93 percent of the time before she decided he was a seditionist, several of Trump’s former lawyers and chiefs of staff, et al.)
4. The group is paranoid about the outside world.
5. The group relies on shame cycles.
6. The leader is above the law.
7. The group uses “thought reform” messages.
8. The group is elitist. (“Your group is the solution for all the world’s problems.”)
9. There is no financial transparency.
10. The group performs secret rites.
I don’t know how many of your cult bells are dinging when considering Trumpbotism. But aside from the secret rites bit (attending Matt Schlapp’s CPAC-authoritarian ball-ticklers or Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA Trump-youth rally is done out in the open), my scorecard is showing nine out of ten on the cult front.
Yet no fewer than three friends/family/frenemies have accused me of TDS in just the last week. I assured them as we discussed the Mar-a-Lago raid, in which the FBI seized top secret documents from an unsecured golf club – at least the ones Trump didn’t manage to flush down the commode - that I wasn’t all that scandalized by the implication that Trump might have committed espionage. After all, betraying his country is old hat and settled law. We don’t have to ask if he’d do it. He already does it, nearly each and every day, and in public. We’ve had a lot of bad presidents from both parties over the years, but none that I can immediately recall tried to serially overturn an election that he lost handily, sicced his fanboy droogs on Congress to protest that fact (getting five people killed, and 150 or so cops beaten bloody), nearly got his own vice president hanged while not lifting a finger to stop the mob, and recruits other candidates to perpetuate the fictions that set all this in motion. The question, for any clear-thinking person of any political stripe, is no longer: “Would Trump betray his own country?” But instead: “How many times and in how variegated a fashion?”
There were a lot of lies told in the past week or so. The Trump team’s story about why he was holding such documents has still not been sufficiently articulated, and has repeatedly evolved (a polite word for “lying”). Since the Republican party, which I’ve belonged to my entire life, is no longer a straight political party, but a crime syndicate animated by a Trumpian revenge fantasy, Wyoming Republican congressional nominee Harriet Hageman, (a former anti-Trumper whose most salient campaign issue became echoing Trump’s election lies), became so accustomed to prevaricating that she even lied about Liz Cheney not making a concession after her rout. Oops.
But an incontrovertible truth came from an unlikely source this week: Fox’s Laura Ingraham. While, on the few occasions we’ve met over the decades, Ingraham has always been perfectly delightful to me, I’m not in the habit of agreeing with her much these days. Since Trump took office in 2016, she’s tended to be so in the tank for him, she should do her show in Trump-branded scuba gear. (The man who has branded everything from steaks to vodka might as well get a piece of the in-the-tank action.) Yet on a recent podcast, Ingraham said: “The country, I think, is so exhausted. They’re exhausted by the battle, the constant battle, that they may believe that, well, maybe it’s time to turn the page if we can get someone who has all Trump’s policies, who’s not Trump.”
I wish Laura good luck in finding someone in the party who is a viable candidate who has not adopted Trump’s thuggishness and looseness with the truth. Trumpism is no longer politics, but religion. (And the smart money says Larry Hogan and Liz Cheney aren’t posing any immediate electoral danger.) I can’t speak for the nation. But speaking only for myself, I agree with Ingraham entirely: I am exhausted by Trump and all his Trumpiness. What was once a sideshow, an entertainment, has become the country’s enduring albatross. His lies. His raging narcissism. His ginning up support by feeding off division. And as of now, barring all his pending prosecutions, he’s poised to win the Republican nomination yet again. Even if he’s yet to win the popular vote, and has already helped Republicans lose the House and Senate. He might not be as tired as Sleepy Joe, but he’s tiresome. And so no, I don’t suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome. But yes, I do suffer from Chronic Trump Fatigue.
The questions shouldn’t be: Who did what in the Mar-a-Lago raid? And who is to blame? The questions instead should be: Why are we still doing this? And can’t we do better?
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Bonus track: A year ago this week, the brilliant Texas singer-songwriter, Nanci Griffith, sadly left us. Here’s one of my favorite performances of hers, along with the flame-haired Irish singer Maura O’Connell, doing “Trouble in The Fields”:
Double bonus track: While we’re talking Nanci Griffith, here’s one more of my favorites. Because why the hell not? (There are many.) She didn’t write “Yarrington Town” - Mickie Merkens did. But here Griffith is doing this gorgeous tune, from her wondrous 1998 “Other Voices, Too” album: