On November 9, when the unimaginable became actual, the fact of Trump, like the fact of Bush in 2000, was enough, more than enough, too much more than enough, to absorb.
The vileness; the oily manipulation some mistake for or confuse with charm; the in-your-face hypocrisy; the shape-shifting of fact --- in which the liar challenges you to prove that his lie is not the truth and overcomes you not with facts but with an audacity that leaves you tongue-tied and scratching your head --- should all have assured his loss to a dull, shopworn-but-competent candidate who would have made the status a little more quo. (Illustration credit: Paxonbothhouses)
NOT HOW IT WENT DOWN
But that's not how it went down. And my reaction, and my wife's, to how it did go down have been surprising. As if we were observing how two other individuals responded, or held those responses in check.
Before November 8, MSNBC was our shared narcotic. Along with the hosts, guests and commentators, we examined what might be the game-changing minutiae of every news-cycle, most seeming to confirm, or at least not challenge, our world-view and our expectations about the reality that would obtain, the day after we cast our vote.
When we turned off MSNBC and went to bed at 3 a.m., only a few hours before dawn on November 9, the outcome had become clear. When we awoke several hours later, the TV in general, and MSNBC in particular, were off and stayed off for several days afterward during which we tried to understand the how and the why, with little input from media and that little mostly from print. (Clip credit: MSNBC)
OUR MEDIA DEFAULTS
When we turned the TV on again several days later, it was with a kind of timidity, as if we were afraid of what we might encounter. How odd that the left-of-center perspective and analysis we'd come to revel in and depend on from MSNBC commentators like Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Joy-Ann Reid and Ari Melber (and others I'm forgetting, I'm sure) had come to seem too dark, too risky to our equilibrium to indulge.
We retreated to what seemed like the safer, more measured news (and broader programming) of PBS and the safer print equivalents --- The New York Times and The New York Review of Books as well as news and podcasts from NPR and The New Yorker. Not that we discussed, strategized or planned it. It was more a matter of recourse to the comfort of the known, to our media defaults, to centrist outlets where we could perch as we found our place and our positions, moorings that I hope will make us braver in this new world we never knew we'd inhabit.
When I began this post on December 10, the world and the way of Donald Trump seemed triumphant. Tweet by tweet, he was ushering in a new reality in which the only certainties, for as long as he chose to uphold and promote them --- several hours? overnight? a day? a week? --- were his characterizations of people and events.
Joy-Ann Reid (Photo credit: wicki-picky.com)
COUNTER VERSIONS OF REALITY
But now, two days later, counter versions of reality appear to be asserting themselves. The ever-reptilian leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has not endorsed the President-elect's skepticism about Russian hacking of the 2016 elections, preferring the expert research-based judgment of the CIA to the off-the-wall whisperings of Trump's chosen National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn.
And CNN's Jake Tapper has publicly declared his intention to hold politicians' feet to the fire, as is, he says, his job. In a recent interview, the Vice-President elect's feet were the first to feel the heat when he obfuscated and dodged Tapper's question about the transition team's attempts to get a security clearance for the son of Lieutenant General Flynn --- a guy who'd been promoting a fake news story that prompted a right-winger with a rifle to "investigate" the fake story on his own. Flynn's son was shown the door. (Composite photo credit: CNN.com)
If the Trump show is getting a little old even before it really starts . . . if people on the transition team and in government are starting, finally, to play down their association with this guy and to set some limits , , , then there may be hope. Not for a change in policy positions but for a landmark outburst that fans the flames of buyer's remorse and begins to chip away at his seeming invincibility. ###