Life must seem very pleasant for Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) at the moment. Oh, to bask in the warm glow of media attention, to soak in the luteous adulation of Twitter users and part-time #RESISTers, to be the subject of an actual — gasp — New York Times fact-checking piece and come out on top of President Trump after some ridiculous personal quarrel.
A few days ago, you see, Corker gave an interview to The New York Times in which he made some bland criticisms of President Trump and claimed that the commander-in-chief is putting America "on the path to World War III." Trump, who has never found a situation he could resist responding to with a ludicrous unfounded accusation of conspiracy, responded by suggesting that Corker had been tricked by our paper of record. Then the president launched some childish insults about such pressing matters of national affairs as the senator's height — on Twitter naturally.
But Corker is no victim. He is just the latest example of what I like to think of as the "last honest man in the GOP" phenomenon, the tedious exercise in enthusiastic collective amnesia in which we agree to forget all the actual reasons Trump is bad — because his policies, insofar as they exist, are stupid and dangerous — and heap mawkish praise on the head of anyone who says bad things about him even if the person in question believes all or most of the same things or possibly things that are even worse.
To assign any significance to Corker's passive-aggressive sniping at the president is to willfully overlook the fact that Corker is one of the worst Republicans in the Senate.
This is a man who disposes of even the ordinary libertarian pretense common among so-called "right-to-work" activists that organized labor is a purely private matter for individuals and instead actively opposes union membership. He once took it upon himself to join a one-man filibuster opposing the extension of unemployment benefits and health insurance to long-term job seekers. He wants to cut taxes for rich people. He supported the Wall Street bailout but opposed the stimulus package. He is a former low-grade grifter who used the mayoralty of a medium-sized city in his home state in order to make a fortune selling off protected wetlands under the false cover of a blind trust.
Where was Corker when the previous Republican administration actually fought a war that took hundreds of thousands of lives and cost us trillions? Oh, that's right — supporting it enthusiastically as a Senate candidate. Today he wants to arm Ukraine in advance of a war against Russia. Talk about World War III!
While we all race to congratulate this soon-to-be retired incompetent public servant, we are blithely ignoring the fact that in this country there is no longer such a thing as governance or public policy. The only thing that matters is sniping at or symbolically defying Trump. To participate somehow in the endless feedback loop of bad tweets in response to media reports of gossip in the White House solicited in response to mean-spirited social media posts that resulted from accusations relayed in newspapers by anonymous officials who were disgusted with the president's crude suggestions on Twitter is what it means to participate in our democracy.
But the situation is, I think, more frightening than that. Something else has happened that has consequences far graver and more unsettling than a temporary cessation of our governing process.
America has undergone a metaphysical change. It is as if we have been swallowed by some hideous intergalactic Lovecraftian entity and transported to an alternate dimension in which the very ground of our being is Donald J. Trump. We're not on the same planet anymore or even in the same physical universe. We now inhabit a Trumpian ontology. We have Trumpian physics, Trumpian chemistry, Trumpian biology. Persons, objects, events only exist insofar as they can be defined in relation to the animate orange matter omnipresent on our screens, on the pages of our newspapers and magazines, on our lips, in our thoughts. Trump apples drop Trumpward to the Trumpian earth and are consumed by wild Trump deer or else rot, their Trump nutrients enriching the Trump soil; when spring comes, the Trump flowers will bloom with a hideous neon phosphorescence under the saffron sun. Trump has become omnipotent, the source from which all of creation proceeds. If tomorrow he were to assume the form of an enormous quasi-immortal space worm, he would not have more power than he currently exercises over every American, living or dead.
How do we escape from this gruesome destiny? Recalling, however dimly, the older, saner cosmology, the familiar universe of our ancestors, we must somehow find an exit, a portal, a gaping black hole, a time warp. Perhaps we must look for magic in unfamiliar places beyond the stars, put on our spacesuits, recite long-forgotten mystic formulas, whisper occult passwords into the jacinth void.
Or maybe we should just try to ignore Trump once in a while.