You'll miss Trump one day
His presidency has been a tragedy for America and an ego boost for Americans
I'm going to miss President Trump when he's gone. If you want his presidency to end as badly as I do, you probably will, too. The day he leaves office, I will be overjoyed. The day after he leaves office, I will be bored.
The post-Trump era will be less frightening but more dull. It will be an unpleasant time for Americans. Not only do we demand entertainment, but we demand it from everyone, all the time, even at the risk of economic collapse, a constitutional crisis, and a few accidental, simultaneous wars. I sometimes think the downfall of civilization is a small price to pay for the kind of entertainment Trump's presidency is giving us.
Sooner or later, it will end, as all reality shows do. If the Trump administration is like the Real Housewives, the next administration will be like the Real Housewives if the Housewives were librarians — in other words, like real housewives.
It's never been so easy to make fun of a president. All you have to do is quote him. "It's tremendously big and tremendously wet," Trump said last week, referring to Hurricane Florence. On Twitter, you can correct his grammar and call him a racist. If you're a grammar Nazi who hates Nazis, this is a busy and wonderful time for you.
Trump's presidency has been a tragedy for America and an ego boost for Americans. If you're an average human being, you are superior to the president — mentally, morally, and many other -lys. If you don't cheat on your wife with a porn star, you are, by comparison, a magnificent husband. If you can spell "too" and enunciate "anonymous" correctly, you have a knack for the English language. If you know that Frederick Douglass is dead and that Napoleon was the leader of France and not the guy in that movie who helped Pedro win an election, you know your history. Trump makes ordinary people seem extraordinary. When he leaves, we'll be exposed for what we really are, and that will suck.
Thanks to Trump, moral and political dilemmas have never been simpler. Do you like lies or truth? Do you think we should elect more sexual predators or fewer? Do you like it when espionage agents of a hostile foreign power subvert our democratic process, or don't you? Do you think counterproductive trade wars are sound economic policy or not? Do you prefer ignorance or intelligence, incompetence or competence, corruption or integrity, dishonesty or honesty? Most people prefer the latter, but too many people tolerate the former.
According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 32 percent of Americans think Trump is honest — that's 104.2 million people who are deranged, duped, dishonest, or dumb. You see what I just did? I just smeared millions of strangers with alliteration, which was cheap, unlike all of those non-disclosure agreements Trump signed with women he slept with.
I shouldn't be so haughty. Not liking con artists, molesters, money launderers, serial liars, and white supremacists does not make you a virtuous person. It makes you a normal person, which is a good start. In the Trump era, all you have to do to be good is to avoid being bad. "To flee vice is the beginning of virtue," Horace said, "and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom." To flee men who grab women by their genitals without their consent and then brag about it is, indeed, the beginning of virtue.
Before Trump, I had never tried virtue-signaling. Now I do it all the time. Sanctimony, I've discovered, is intoxicating. I don't want to give it up. This may be our only chance to exhibit moral superiority without doing anything to earn it. Simply by opposing Trump's lying, venality, and subservience to Vladimir Putin, I stand for what Superman stands for — truth, justice, and the American way. I'm just like Superman: a fake hero.
An unintended consequence of Trump's presidency has been the forging of new alliances between old adversaries. Liberals have made common cause with anti-Trump conservatives, who differ on policy but agree on the primacy of American ideals and institutions. I'm still amazed that Hillary Clinton retweeted Bill Kristol, a longtime critic of her and her husband, and that Brian Fallon, a former Obama official, admitted to Max Boot, a policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012, that Democrats were wrong for "mocking" their warnings about Russia. These may seem like small things, but it's nice to see somebody getting along. When Trump goes away, this amity might, too.
Bob Woodward's new book, Fear, reminds us of what we already know — namely, that Trump is a bad person and an even worse president. The details are new, but the message is the same. Why are so many people reading it? Because it's fun to focus on someone else's problems. Doing so distracts us from our own.
Scolding bad people makes us feel better about ourselves. In his essay "On the Pleasure of Hating," William Hazlitt wrote, "There is no surfeiting on gall: Nothing keeps so well as a decoction of spleen. We grow tired of every thing but turning others into ridicule, and congratulating ourselves on their defects." We hate other people as a way to love ourselves.
In the 1990s, William Bennett warned about the death of outrage. We are witnessing its resurgence. I'm not talking about faux outrage, the kind that ensues after a celebrity says something insensitive. I'm talking about real outrage, the kind that ensues after a husband betrays his wife or after a president betrays his country, both of which Trump has done.
We're addicted to outrage, and Trump is our dealer. Without him, how will we get our fix? We'll need someone else to look down upon, someone bad enough for us to disparage but not bad enough to blow up the world.
Fortunately, Trump has kids.