Dystopia Journal #16: Hard Times in Trumpland

With a constant drumbeat of depressing and infuriating news filling the headlines, we have to take our consolations where we can. For me, one of those sources of satisfaction is the schadenfreude of watching Trump’s supporters go through one humiliation after another. They helped create him, they yoked themselves to him, and now they’re living the consequences. Nobody wins because of Trump, not even other members of his party or people who supported him.

Let’s start with Congress, where Republican incumbents are heading for the exits in droves. As of April, a near-record 41 House Republicans are vacating their seats, either because they’re running for other offices or leaving politics entirely. That number includes Paul Ryan, who announced his retirement this month. (The Democrats have to take back 23 seats to win a House majority.)

Granted, Paul Ryan probably has his own reasons for giving up. No doubt he found, like his predecessor John Boehner, that the House GOP is ungovernable and the Speakership is a no-win job. But when the man third in line to the presidency announces he’s done with politics, you can tell that a party has become severely dysfunctional, severely unpopular, or both.

The GOP is also having more than usual difficulty recruiting challengers for Democratic seats. From all the evidence, they believe that a wave election is coming, and many of them don’t want to fight a contest they’re almost sure to lose. That perception can only have been boosted by upset Democratic victories like Doug Jones in Alabama or Conor Lamb, who won a Pennsylvania House seat in a district that went for Trump by almost 20 points.

These contests must have been demoralizing to Republicans who are nervous about associating themselves with Trump but also mortally afraid to disavow him. It’s obvious to everyone that Trump is a massive liability, but if they abandon him, they’ll be cast down by their own angry, resentful base.

Next, there’s the White House. As we’ve seen before, it’s in a state of chaos, with a constant stream of staff members quitting in disgrace or being humiliatingly fired while new ones step in to replace them. Some may be motivated by delusion or stupidity, while others are operating out of cynical calculation that they can boost their own careers by a stint in the executive branch. But if it’s the latter, they’re in for a rude awakening. Many ex-Trumpist staffers are finding that no one wants to hire them:

Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists…

The leadership at a prominent, bipartisan Washington public affairs firm went as far as to make an active decision not to hire from the Trump White House because of the “reputational risk” associated with it, a former White House official was recently told.

Whether it’s the slowly tightening noose of the Mueller investigation, the taint of Trump’s racist and wildly unpopular policies, or just the toxic aura that hangs over the White House like smog, these no-longer-useful idiots have found that their association with this president is a stain that won’t be cleansed.

Last but not least, there’s Trump and the GOP’s base, the racist, misogynist alt-right. You might think it was their moment in the sun. Instead, according to a Washington Post report, that movement is “imploding” in infighting and acrimony.

The Nazi rally in Charlottesville last year was a turning point for them, but not in a good way. The alt-right was too sure of its own impunity, too confident that they could expose their faces in public and face no consequences. That turned out not to be the case.

In the wake of Charlottesville, many of these Nazi wannabes were fired from their jobs, dumped by partners, or disowned by their families. Social-media sites like Twitter banned many of them in a hesitant step toward enforcing their own anti-hate-speech rules. Many web hosting and fundraising companies also dropped them.

The infamous neo-Nazi website Stormfront is going under because it can’t pay its bills. One of the largest organized white-supremacist groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party, collapsed when one of its co-founders accused the other of sleeping with his wife. Prominent figures on the alt-right like Richard Spencer have had to cancel speaking events for lack of an audience, or have gone into hiding to duck lawsuits. And then there’s this enormously entertaining story of wannabe fascist Milo Yiannopoulos fleeing an NYC bar after he was yelled at and heckled by other patrons.

The alt-right’s problem, as some commenters and former members have noted, is that they don’t like each other very much. They may hate the same people, but that’s all they have in common. And that’s not surprising because, to put it politely, they don’t represent the best that humanity has to offer. Most of them are angry, insecure, unsuccessful, and looking for someone to blame. The same qualities that make them so vicious toward outsiders lead them, all too easily, to turn on each other.

Image based on HARRIS.news via Wikimedia Commons, released under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

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