A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 247

Friday, January 7

It’s a mystery to me how it works.

He wears Hermes ties and handmade suits. He travels around by private jet, flying to the fancy resorts he “owns” (along with the banks) in exclusive areas of Florida, New Jersey, and Scotland. And, perhaps most mysterious of all, he gained notoriety on a nationally broadcast television show where he played a boss who delights in screaming at people “YOU’RE FIRED.”

I mean, could you conceivably root for someone whose reputation rests on giving everyday folks a very public heave-ho? Do you hate your fellow workers that much?

And yet it seems this is the guy who a great many white working men feel best represents their interests. They celebrate their loyalty, flaunting Trump stickers on their Dodge Ram pickup trucks.

The anniversary of the January 6 Washington, D.C. riots has brought the weirdness of the whole Trump phenomenon back into relief. Here you had 10,000 protesters, many of whom had traveled long distances across the country, ferociously intent on reinstating to the Presidency a guy you’d never see down at the barbershop or local bar, much less browsing the secondhand trousers at the Goodwill outlet. Five people died during the riot and 140 police officers were wounded. Subsequent to the events, 700 rioters have been brought up on charges including assault and use of deadly weapons.

And while the action was going on, Trump was watching it all on TV from his private dining room.

One of the rioters on January 6 carried a banner inscribed with a pitchfork. As if they were there in support of “Sockless” Jerry Simpson, a firebrand Populist Party leader of the 1890s. Trump isn’t even Huey Long, author of what historian T. Harry Williams has termed the Long tradition in Louisiana politics—“the idea that the state had an obligation to use its power to raise the lot of the masses.” 

Huey Long said, “Every man a king.” Donald Trump said, “I’m the greatest.”

No, nowadays apparently all some voters care about is having someone who’ll throw tantrums, insult opponents and minority groups (especially women), and escort around a bevy of trophy wives and Barbie-doll daughters.

Please: Explain it to me.

Back to January, 2022.

This time, Mother Nature didn’t miss. Three days back, a storm dumped a foot of snow on D.C. and parts of Virginia and left hundreds of drivers stranded overnight on I-95. Long Island got away with a dusting.

Last night, we got hit…but it’s still no calamity. I’d say we got maybe seven inches, all very pretty. We have plenty of food and the heat’s working, so no need to fear.

Dinner: mushroom barley soup, corn muffins, green salad, and tapioca pudding.

Entertainment: we’re still binging on old episodes of the Britbox policier Vera. Last night, we also viewed the very wacky Bob Odenkirk (famed as Better Call Saul) vehicle, Girlfriend’s Day on Netflix. Hey, how many other shows feature unemployed greeting-card writers?

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 178

William Jennings Bryan, farmer advocate, anti-imperialist, and three-time Democratic nominee for president.

Wednesday, December 9

Historians will have a hard time explaining the Era of Trump. After all, he’s hardly William Jennings Bryan, able to hold a crowd spellbound with soaring rhetoric that addresses the crowd’s grievances. Hell, he’s a far cry from even being Huey Long.

So how did Trump, a New York City playboy and real estate swindler, win the fervent backing of so many rural and Midwestern working-class voters?  At this point, it only matters because there are sure to be many would-be Trumps vying to pull off the same act in the future.

Just ask MAGA crowd members why they like Trump, and you’ll hear something to the effect of: He tells it like it is. 

But in the face of so many Trump lies (20,000, according to a Washington Post tally), misrepresentations, and bits of disinformation, who could actually believe that? Only people who choose to avert their eyes from reality. Only people for whom things other than absolute accuracy are what really matters. Maybe people subjected to decades of talk-radio conspiracy-mongering.

[Ted Cruz’s father really was involved in the Kennedy assassination, you know.]

It seems like the phenomenon calls more than ever for psycho-historians.

For my part, I think Trump’s popularity boils down to three or four matters: his unvarying pissed-off attitude, his considerable notoriety thanks to his TV shows, and the clear disapproval of educated, somewhat privileged people. 

He is the victim-in-chief, addressing the legions of those who feel they’ve been swindled in the big three-card-monte game of life.

“We’re all victims,” he recently told the crowd at a Georgia rally. Everybody there should wallow in their victimization—with special emphasis on Trump’s loss of the RIGGED election.

Then he adds a side order of racism and sexism—something the white masses know they shouldn’t approve of but they secretly do. 

That friend who used to laugh at something racist that the likes of Andrew Dice Clay might say, or maybe a grotesquely vulgar comment about women— such a person might think: well, I could never say such things out loud…but you know, it’s true!

Get a half-dozen such people together and you’re on your way toward a MAGA rally.

To be honest, one strand of American comedy has contributed as well. Think about how, over the decades, comedians from Lenny Bruce to George Carlin to Chris Rock have pushed the boundaries about what may be said in public and laughed at. As a result, the very definition of what is vulgar or taboo has shifted. The American public, which once blushed at the mere mention of brassieres, divorce, or toilet paper, has been desensitized.

So when Trump mocks a disabled news reporter or says something profane about women…well it’s crude but, hey, he’s got a point….

Dinner: grilled eggplant with tomato sauce and parmesan, and a fresh mozzarella and tomatoes salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

Entertainment: Another episode of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.