Drew Magary

Trump Is Not a Cosmic 404 Error

In his debut GEN column, Drew Magary implores Biden and other moderate Democrats to wake up and smell the permanent damage

Photo: Andrew Spear/Stringer/Getty

TThere’s no way out of this. I am like many of you in that I would like Donald Trump to disappear forever so that I can finally fucking exhale and never have to think about his dumpy ass ever again. His family, too. But it’s too late for that now.

There’s gonna be an election in 2020, and while you could easily categorize the current tussle between Democratic candidates as a battle between middle-of-the-road capitalists and more progressive social democrats, there is a more subtle-but-pronounced fracture emerging into view: between candidates who are offering real ideas and candidates whose core message is, “Let’s just get rid of Trump and things will go back to normal.” Leading the latter pack is, naturally, Joe Biden, who hasn’t had a new idea since he decided black kids shouldn’t get bused to better schools:

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change. Because these folks [Republicans] know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

This is not a new message from Biden. This is his normal. As Nick Visser reported over at HuffPost, Biden tooted his horn about Republicans having a whole Scrooge-on-Christmas-morning epiphany back in 2012 as well. SURPRISE… They had no such epiphany. Quite the contrary. Biden has spent this new election cycle selling people on the idea that if we simply get rid of Trump, everyone will get along again and we’ll be fine. That’s an appealing thought, one that’s rooted in superficial truths (people out there can be genuinely nice and friendly sometimes!) and one that plays directly into the hands of a political media that thinks the mythical aura of “electability” is the only thing that makes candidates electable.

All Trump did was give Republicans a permission slip to fully unleash their conservative id, which was always rotten in its bones.

Biden’s is a promise of comfort via stasis, and it’s an effective (though hollow) one because certain voters, especially white ones such as myself, are always demanding change but would like that change to happen slowly and imperceptibly and often without requiring them to change anything they do personally.

Case in point: There’s a reason that “you can keep your insurance” has become an effective one-liner against Medicare for All, even though it makes NO goddamn sense. It posits that M4A is scary because you might have to fill out a few forms to possibly ensure that the rest of your life is free of worry from medical bills. GASP! Imagine such an uneven trade. You might even have to pay a little more in taxes just so you don’t have to pay thousands in premiums and deductibles! Terrifying shit! Paperwork is so awful in health care right now that insurance companies, and the candidates they buttress, can frighten voters by using the monstrous bureaucracy they’ve created to warn people off of accepting any residual bureaucracy that might be required for government-provided coverage. This grift was around long before Trump became self-appointed Holy American Emperor, and it won’t go away when he does.

The insurance lobby is just one of many clandestine forces that wants you to accept what is “normal” in America right now as optimal, and puds like Biden are encouraging that acceptance. That acceptance is why things are good and fucked right now.

I wanna believe there’s some tranquil, idyllic American past worth reverting to (Trump, of course, has made this his guiding slogan), but look around you and tell me that Trump is the only problem here. You can cry out THIS IS NOT NORMAL all you like. That’s not gonna change the fact that gun companies have welcomed mass shootings as everyday business. It’s not gonna change the fact that a real majority of Americans have been spiritually (if not literally) disenfranchised for the sake of a plurality of white Americans. It’s not gonna change the fact that people in charge of every industry are alarmingly well-versed in the kind of vacant doublespeak used by shoddy political aspirants. It’s not gonna change the fact that we’ve set the Arctic ablaze. And it’s not gonna change the fact that ICE exists, and that the CBP exists, and that no one at either agency feels free, or even desirous, really, to speak out about family separations at the border, with thousands of people supporting their efforts and chanting SEND HER BACK in public without fear of reprisal. We’re at the point where people have to raise money to get their own government to stop abusing human rights now.

You can’t just remove one particularly vain and miserable agitator and then assume we’ll all hug it out. This isn’t an old episode of Entourage.

Trump didn’t orchestrate this all on his own. All of this shit didn’t just magically happen. America was waiting to become this. The table was already set. All Trump did was give Republicans a permission slip to fully unleash their conservative id, which was always rotten in its bones. That id is entrenched everywhere now: in business, in law enforcement, in certain newsrooms, and especially in judicial appointees who will hang around long after Trump finally chokes to death on a Whopper. It was the brainchild of a corrupt GOP operating efficiently in whatever America was before Trump proved fertile ground for that plan to come to fruition. This isn’t a fucking anomaly. It’s not a fad. It’s easy to think of Trumpism as such because the man himself is so absurd and his everyday musings and doings are so repulsive and freakish. But there’s a reason Trump now holds the GOP under his little thumb. He is an unpopular president, but among his base he is frighteningly popular, so much so that I have to sit here and genuinely worry about whether or not he’ll willingly leave office once his tenure ends, and what his people will do if he actually does so. He will have protégés. Many of them. He already does.

That’s America right now. That’s the America leaders need to reckon with, and that reckoning does not mean you just remove one particularly vain and miserable agitator and then assume we’ll all hug it out. This isn’t an old episode of Entourage. Cory Booker, though he may be an opportunist of the highest order, made it clear in one of last week’s 2020 demolition derbies. From the AP: “Sen. Cory Booker says the nation’s ‘crisis is Donald Trump, but not only Donald Trump.’ Booker says beating Trump ‘is the floor, not the ceiling.’”

He’s right. Getting rid of Trump is not the fix; it’s merely the start of what has to be fixed. The hatred and spite that Trump has unleashed was never his creation. It was always there, deeply rooted in America’s history. And now his adherents feel freer and more alive than they’ve ever been. They don’t “know better.” They know this is EXACTLY what they’re supposed to be doing.

I need this to end, and I know you do too. You and I need every day to stop being a surreal procession of racist tweets and violent scandal. You and I need a goddamn rest from this bullshit. But what Biden and other suckers don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that the second you take a rest from what’s going on in America right now, the worse things will get. The next generation of Trumpist shitbags can’t wait for people to let their guards down. To assume that the current president’s reign is some kind of cosmic 404 error that can be wiped away via a simple reboot demonstrates a cowardly and lazy reluctance to move forward, to see pre-Trump America as something to ruthlessly evaluate and improve upon, rather than as a shelter to return to.

Keep that in mind when you watch the next 85 million debates. Look out for any slug telling you we can change everything just by un-changing one thing. I want to believe this has all been just a bad dream, but then I’d be participating in the same strain of mass delusion that trapped us inside it.

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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