David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

The End of the Trump Era?

Brandon Sun, November 2, 2020 – David McConkey


Tomorrow, American citizens have a big decision. They can extend the Trump era by re–electing the president. Or, they can go in a different direction by electing Joe Biden. Today’s column challenge: summarize where we are right now. An impossible task, but here are some phenomena that could happen only in the Trump era.

Considering our situation reminds us of how consequential the Trump era has been – including for those of us outside the U.S. Figuring out what the heck has happened will take years. Like living during the pandemic, we know we are seeing history being made. We just don’t know exactly what we are seeing.

BLEACH

One small episode says a lot about the Trump era. During a coronavirus news conference in April, Trump seemed to recommend drinking bleach as a treatment for COVID-19.

This episode generated an ocean of newspaper ink, a skit on “Saturday Night Live” and hours of TV commentary and late night jokes. Biden raised the bleach episode in both presidential debates. Barack Obama did as well in the last few days on the campaign trail. The “mainstream media” and “liberal elite” reaction has been shock and horror. How dare President Trump riff on his own wacky ideas instead of respectfully listening to the experts?

In contrast, the reaction among many Trump supporters has been delight. Trump is putting on a good show and putting down the liberal establishment. The point isn’t governing, it is trolling. This is called “owning the libs.”

In effect, this is the Trump supporters’ retort to those who were offended: Ha! Ha! Trump fooled you again! We don’t take Trump seriously or literally. You are still talking about bleach six months later? That shows how much Trump has gotten into your heads, a condition called “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

QANON

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any stranger, they got stranger! Trump forged a bond with his supporters more like a religious prophet than a political leader. As Trump gloated, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.”  

Now we have QAnon. This conspiracy theory started in 2017 on the internet and has spread like wildfire. It has become more popular during the pandemic when people are more anxious and spending more time online.

What is the conspiracy theory of QAnon? Some members of the elite – including top Democrats, billionaires and Hollywood stars – not only run the country but also engage in child sex trafficking. And, oh yeah, they worship Satan and might be lizard people from outer space. (I kid you not. You can look it up. Just don’t get sucked in!) At some point, Trump will round up the evil-doers and march them off to prison. Finally, Hillary Clinton will be locked up!

QAnon is believed by millions. A majority of Republicans subscribe to some or all of it. Some observers speculate that QAnon could morph from crazy cult to another religion. Trump is portrayed as a messiah; his influence will long outlast his presidency. Get used to seeing more of the QAnon motto WWG1WGA, the abbreviation for "Where We Go One, We Go All."

TRASHING

As a Canadian, I find the most surprising aspect about Trump is how many Americans embrace his trashing of their own country. To Canadians, of course, Americans can come across as loud and boastful. But we know they have a lot to brag about it. We see why Americans thought of themselves as a fundamentally good people who succeeded everywhere, whether in business, science, technology, the arts or popular culture. The American brand was excellence.

Trump ridicules the idea that Americans are a virtuous people, that their experts are worth listening to, that their elites are worthy of admiration. We Canadians wonder: wouldn’t Americans benefit themselves by drawing on their goodness, their optimism, their expertise?

Instead, Trump extols meanness, cynicism and ignorance. As historian Anne Applebaum says, from Ronald Reagan to Trump has been a descent from “the politics of idealism to the politics of despair.”

ZEITGEIST

Trump enthusiast and “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams heralds Trump as a “clown genius.” Adams notes with glee that before Trump, we could never imagine a U.S. president who “ignored facts, science and even common decency.” Adams concludes that Trump will forever change “how we view reality” and “humanity’s sense of identity.”

I fear that Adams is right and that Trump has changed for the worse the world cultural zeitgeist. Of course, the biggest change has been in the U.S. But we have all been changed.

Will the Trump era be solidified or brought to an end? The choice is up to American voters tomorrow.

* * * *
See also: 

The Trump Impeachment – What the Heck, America?

On Tyranny: Learning Lessons from History

Is Donald Trump the New Joseph Smith?

Canadian Leaders in Resistance to Trump

We Must Resist the Trump Culture – Here's How

Takeaways From Trump’s Unbelievable Victory 

 

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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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