Every issue of the Economist, perhaps the most intelligent, and certainly the most elegantly written, news magazine still available in this internet-infested Hellscape, includes a number of “think piece” essays written about major issues in the different regions covered by its correspondents. The authors, rather charmingly, are a rotating cast of pseudonymous writers who go by names evocative of the subject nations; the column about England is named Bagehot, the one about the European continent is called Charlemagne, and the one about America goes by Lexington. The latter, naturally, is particularly fascinating to your faithful scribe, and always provides an objective and dispassionate analysis that manages to be both witty and incisive, even as it sometimes terrifies.
This is from a recent Lexington, describing the correspondent’s interactions with typical voters in Trump Country, titled How construction workers in Ohio view the election:
Interviews with a score of workers on a large development project at Youngstown State University, involving several construction companies and sites, did not suggest Mr Trump had increased his local support. As in 2016, perhaps a third of the workers claimed to have no interest in the election. Yet almost all who had voted for him in 2016, even if tentatively, now vigorously endorsed him.
“He’s done a great job, he’s got everyone back to work. I’m pretty much 100% for him,” said Kyle, a 30-year-old electrician. “He shoots his mouth off but at least that shows he’s honest,” said Jason, a pipe-fitter, who said he especially liked Mr Trump’s commitment to reducing the national debt. “He’s done more for our country than the past ten presidents put together,” said an older builder, Jeff, skimming wet concrete on a new road. “He’s made—who is it, China or Japan?—pay our farmers billions of dollars. He got health care done, which the Democrats could never do. He built the wall.”
It seems incredible, but force-fed buckets of pure nonsense by Fox News, OANN, the various internet tricksters populating their Facebook timelines, and of course Donald himself, they’ve swallowed it all wholesale. Let’s break it down:
Everyone back to work – this in COVID-ravaged America, which has shed millions upon millions of jobs, and is slowly crawling its way back from 10% unemployment.
Honest – describing the filthy liar whose fib count now stands at over 22,000, as tabulated by the indefatigable Daniel Dale.
Commitment to reducing the national debt – when the debt has ballooned under Trump, even before the multi-trillion dollar outlays needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, spurred on by shameless Republican tax cuts that had the annual deficit north of a trillion dollars even before the shit hit the fan.
Made China – or Japan? – pay our farmers billions of dollars – a reflection of the oft-repeated Trumpian falsehood that when tariffs, a tax by another name, are slapped on imported Chinese goods, it’s the Chinese that pay them. Of course it’s American consumers who foot the bill, not just for the import duties but the billions in handouts given to the farmers whose livelihoods were devastated by countervailing Chinese tariffs on American agricultural products.
He built the Wall – when only a few miles of barrier now stand where there wasn’t one before, and about 300 miles of already existing fences and walls along the 2,000 mile-long border have been replaced by new construction that’s farcically inadequate, and prone to toppling in a stiff breeze.
He’s done more than the last ten Presidents combined – when, apart from helping McConnell stack the Supreme Court and relieve the wealthy of their tax burden, Trump and his merry men have accomplished absolutely nothing, unless eviscerating the federal bureaucracy, while cutting regulations meant to protect the health, safety, and economic well-being of ordinary citizens, count as achievements.
He got health care done – for the love of Christ, you gotta be kidding me! Of course the Republican effort to comprehensively gut health care failed early on in Trump’s tenure, thwarted by the blessed thumbs-down of John McCain. The only subsequent exertions on that front have been repeated legal efforts, one being mounted right now by the Trump administration, to declare all of Obamacare unlawful.
These assertions of the guys in hard hats, shared by millions like them, are all truths they take to be self-evident. How can anything factual and reasonable ever get through to these people?
Well, the answer is it can’t. They’re gone. We lost them. They’re all off somewhere in Donald’s cloud cuckooland, where the “news” is a disinformation free-for-all, and nobody sensible curates what little they manage to absorb.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the latest purportedly devastating bombshell to land on East Trumpistan has had little to no effect. When Bob Woodward’s latest tome, Rage, was accompanied by recorded conversations of The Donald himself, which caught the craven bullshitter telling a reporter, on the record, that he’s been lying all along about the severity of the COVID pandemic, nothing much happened. Not, at least, among those composing Trump’s unshakeable Base.
Of course not, right? Yet to the naive among us out here in what’s left of the real world, this imperviousness still beggars belief. How could it have little to no effect? Good Lord, people, look, there he is, in his own unmistakable goofball voice, telling Woodward that the virus he’d likened in public to a typical flu that doesn’t even infect young people, and was soon to vanish of its own accord anyway, was indeed a vicious and exponentially more deadly plague that just destroys its victims, young and old alike, and hits the susceptible so hard they don’t even stand a chance. In the spaces where the sane dwell, this was all over the airwaves and permeated every corner of the internet. Surely, it had to matter. Woodward had him dead to rights! On tape! Unambiguously and incontrovertibly! Yet over there in Donaldland there was nothing but the usual sound of contented workers (or just as likely the unemployed, these days) whistling their happy tunes.
That’s because a) hardly anybody in the Base heard it, and b) those who did hear it were informed by their most trusted sources that it was all pure baloney, designed, like every such thing thrust at them by the perfidious Fake News, to unseat Dear Leader. Thus in the aftermath of Woodward’s revelations, which, to repeat, had Donald laying out the actual perils of the pandemic in his own voice, we observed not a mass epiphany among his fervent supporters, but this:
That’s an anti-mask flash mob storming through a Florida Target, every one of the MAGA monsters convinced, beyond any chance of changing their minds, that the whole pandemic is a cunning liberal hoax, and that the virus either isn’t that dangerous, or doesn’t even exist. Just listen to them. Masks are oppression! It’s all a lie! We’re not gonna take it!
Yeah well, you say, that’s Florida for you, which yes it is, but it’s not just Florida: this piece was produced by a local news crew in Utah:
This kind of thing is happening all over America, and the anti-mask movement is growing.
It was ever thus. Remember the Access Hollywood kerfuffle? It seems like a thousand years ago now, but still, who could forget it? Then as now we had Donald, on tape, his gloating dumbass voice unmistakable, talking about what sweet fun it was getting away with sexual assault. Not only did he sound like a reprehensible (and indeed criminal) creep, he came off like a jumped-up juvenile delinquent, and a none too clever one at that. This had the beleaguered folk of the shrinking population of non-crazies jumping for joy. Now we have him, by God! Let’s see him squirm out from under this! His campaign is over!
Not so much, eh?
I’m not saying that the latest Trump revelations will have no effect whatever on anybody in the general population. I’m hoping most fervently that the sound of Donald’s stumbling syntax as he tells the truth, for once, might permeate the world of all those fence-sitting undecided voters I lambasted in my last column, and tip the balance narrowly in Biden’s favour come the election. But the base? Forget about it. And really, who knows about the undecideds? Pussygate didn’t flip all of them into Hillary’s column in 2016. Why should this new stuff from Woodward push them toward Biden? There’s a number of factors at play, of course, including some measure of fatigue with the lying imbecile, the special betrayal felt within the especially vulnerable (and vote-rich) over 65 demographic, and the brute fact that Biden isn’t Hillary. Still, one wonders.
Meanwhile, it’s only sensible to expect the 40% who’re always in the Trump camp, come what may, to stay put. This is a deeply deluded and fact-starved segment of the electorate, rife with anti-vaxxers, Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, and the disciples of QAnon. Nothing can bring them back. They’re in their own hermetically sealed bubble, where only the conspiracy mongers on the internet and the likes of Tucker Carlson ever get through to them. They’ll believe anything they’re told (look at them crowding into close quarters at his rallies, risking their very lives), and this ought to be even more frightening than usual, given that Trump is now telling them that the only way he loses is if the election is rigged. What will they do when he claims victory on election night, despite what’s bound to be an incomplete vote tally, and orders them into the streets, bearing the arms they wield as their sacred birthright?
What if he doesn’t have to, because he really did win, fair and square?