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Taibbi on Trump

I love the writing of Matt Taibbi, even if I don’t always agree with him. He has published a very interesting article on Substack, titled “The Trump Era Sucks and Needs to Be Over” (subtitled “The race is tightening. Is America sure it’s ready to give up its addiction to crazy?”). Note that new polls show that the race isn’t really tightening, but if that meme is what it takes to get an interesting article out of Taibbi, so be it.

Here’s a few quotes from the article:

Donald Trump is so unlike most people, and so especially unlike anyone raised under a conventional moral framework, that he’s perpetually misdiagnosed. The words we see slapped on him most often, like “fascist” and “authoritarian,” nowhere near describe what he really is, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s been proven across four years that Trump lacks the attention span or ambition required to implement a true dictatorial regime. He might not have a moral problem with the idea, but two minutes into the plan he’d leave the room, phone in hand, to throw on a robe and watch himself on Fox and Friends over a cheeseburger.

The elite misread of Trump is egregious because he’s an easily familiar type to the rest of America. We’re a sales culture and Trump is a salesman. Moreover he’s not just any salesman; he might be the greatest salesman ever, considering the quality of the product, i.e. himself. He’s up to his eyes in balls, and the parts of the brain that hold most people back from selling schlock online degrees or tchotchkes door-to-door are absent. He has no shame, will say anything, and experiences morality the way the rest of us deal with indigestion.

Another extended quote:

Trump blew through the Republican primaries in 2015-2016. His opponents, a slate of mannequins hired by energy companies and weapons contractors to be pretend-patriots and protectors of “family values,” had no answer for his insults and offer-everything-to-everyone tactics. Like most politicians, they’d been protected their whole lives by donors, party hacks, and pundits who’d turned campaigns into a club system designed to insulate paid lackeys from challenges to their phony gravitas. Trump had no institutional loyalty to the club, shat all over it in addition to its silly frontmen, and walked to the nomination.

So long as he was never going to win the actual presidency, this was funny. The Republicans deserved it. Watching GOP chair Reince Priebus try to pretend he wasn’t being forced to eat the biggest-in-history shit sandwich by embracing his obese conqueror at the 2016 convention was a delicious scene, similar to what most Americans probably felt watching Bill Belichick squirm at the podium after the Eagles pummeled him in the Super Bowl.

The Democrats aren’t much better, though, and the spectacle of “inevitable” Hillary Clinton being too shocked to ascend to the Javits Center podium, instead sending writhing campaign creature John Podesta to announce through a forced smile that the mortified audience shouldn’t worry and should get some sleep instead, was also high comedy, not that I really saw it at the time.

They all deserved it, every last politician ruined that year. The country did not, however, which is why the last four years have been a nightmare beyond all recognition. The joke ended up being on us.

Unfortunately, Taibbi’s article ends with more of a whimper than a bang, but it is still worth a read. Taibbi’s take on what makes Trump tick is spot-on, and it is something I’ve never seen discussed anywhere else like this.



  1. EEMKAM wrote:

    Completely agree with your take. Don’t always agree with him, but his writing is always engaging… It’s Taibbi, btw.

    Friday, September 4, 2020 at 6:51 am | Permalink
  2. William wrote:

    That IS an interesting article. I think it “ends with a whimper” mostly in the sense that the most entertaining quotes come early.

    Instead, I think its analysis stops a step too short. Four years ago, the media channels essentially ran “The Trump-man Show” laughing all the way to the bank because “This guy’s GREAT for our ratings!” and then a few asking themselves after seeing the results “Um, did we do that?” As Taibbi points out, the actions of opposition folks saying “He said THIS!” and “He’s trying to do THAT!” may contribute to the chaos and play into Trump’s hands by keeping him and his actions constantly in the news and giving him more lines to trigger responses.

    Taibbi may have missed the “lesson” that some opposition groups may be learning from their responses or have learned even decades ago. Folks of my vintage or older my recall the “I know Watt’s Wrong!” slogan, and that the Sierra Club named Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior James Watt as their “honorary membership chair” as membership surged in opposition to him and his policies.

    Now of course, Democrats and other opponents see unprecedented “enthusiasm” and donations. They want those to continue. In part, this opposition continues to “fan the flames” and gives more visibility to Trumps words and deeds. While some have suggested referring only to “the administration” and avoiding the use of Trump’s name, they seems to suggest this mostly to avoid feeding his ego. They want the enthusiasm, engagement, and donations to continue, so will keep up their campaigns.

    With the polls continuing to favor Biden and the election season winding down, Trump may be getting desperate and making more and more outrageous statements and getting his flunkies to take more and more outrageous actions. He’s doing what he knows best, keeping his name in the news. The response is of course outrage, so enthusiasm and contributions, but also more publicity.

    While I have what seems like reasonable hope for a good outcome of the election, we do face unprecedented levels of chaos. I only hope that opponents don’t end up looking back and saying “Oops! Did we do that?”

    Friday, September 4, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  3. William wrote:

    A separate matter is the phases of chaos that we face. I see the following:

    1. Campaign chaos, now to November 3rd.

    2. Counting chaos, starting November 3rd and lasting perhaps a week or two, until each state announces its final results.

    3. Continuing challenges, up to the date the electors vote on December 14.

    4. Lame Duck season, from December 14 to January 20.

    5. Transition chaos, starting January 20.

    We can all imagine the different statements, actions, complaints, lawsuits, court actions, and civic unrest that could dominate each phase. While my biggest fear is that we fail to get a clear rejection of Trump in November, my second fear is that he will sew discord and unrest among the most radical of his supporters. If the Proud Boys or just hordes of “lone guns” feel a need to go out on the street and act out, we could be in for some VERY rough times, much worse than we’ve seen in decades.

    Friday, September 4, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Excellent comments! And thanks for pointing out my typo, which I fixed. That’s what I get for writing a post right after finishing a long and crazy day!

    Friday, September 4, 2020 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  5. ebdoug wrote:

    What Trump is: We now have a lot of “Americans abroad” because they couldn’t stand baby Bush and can’t stand Trump.
    Trump is a “German Abroad”. His Grandfather did not want to live in this country, he wanted to live in Germany, but they wouldn’t take him back because he hadn’t done his military duty. So he got a wife in Germany, came back, had two children and died in his 40s in the pandemic. While Donald was growing up, the language in the home according to Mary was German. The family was a displaced family. Their loyalty was to Germany. How could Trump have any loyalty to dead statues when his family didn’t come here until 1880 after the Civil war was over? Trump play the roll of being a patriot. This country means nothing to him. Only the money the family can get from this country. Has he seen any National Park? He cares only for the money.

    Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 4:54 am | Permalink