I thought I hated Nixon. I thought I hated Reagan. I thought I hated Bush and Cheney.
In fact, I had no idea what the word meant. I do now. Living in New York in the 1980s, I got enough news of Donald Trump to realize he was unique in his noxious preposterousness, and I was far from alone in that conclusion. Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter, then editors of the satirical monthly magazine Spy, recognized instantly that this belligerent boor epitomized the very worst of humanity, and humiliating him became their greatest pleasure.
But back in those innocent days, none of us could have imagined that this “short-fingered vulgarian,” as they so perfectly dubbed him, would go from local buffoon to global menace.
In the good old days — that is, before Trump’s infamous escalator ride on June 16, 2015, to announce his presidential bid — those of us for whom politics was sport had the luxury of wallowing for a week or more in the muck of a single callous remark by Ed Meese during the Reagan years, or the premature announcement of an accomplished mission by George W. Bush, or any other of the tens of thousands of offensive, moronic or just plain absurd words and deeds perpetrated on us by those in power.
The preternatural timidity of the Democrats is as responsible for the country’s demise as the rapaciousness of the Republicans.
Thirty years ago, I could compile all eight years of the worst of Reagan and his minions into a slim, 288-page book, “The Clothes Have No Emperor.” To chronicle all of the idiocy, greed and cruelty we’ve been subjected to by Trump and his henchmen, we would need a book the size of the OED.
I used to take perverse pleasure in unearthing the periodic stupefying quotes of our leaders buried at the bottom of the jump pages in newspapers. Now I struggle to keep up with a tsunami of sewage. It is a wearying task, performed to a depressing background chorus constantly running in my brain: “Donald Trump is our president.”
For two years despair could be kept at bay by the possibility that Robert Mueller would save us, that there was an end in sight. Now all we are left with is the hope that the wimpiest political party the country has ever seen can somehow wrest back power.
The preternatural timidity of the Democrats is as responsible for the country’s demise as the rapaciousness of the Republicans. As far apart as they are on the human spectrum, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch “Yertle” McConnell share the repugnant instinct to put party over country. All of the things we always counted on to save us — truth, the law, common decency — have been obliterated.
And now we have to deal with the most ominous development yet: disinformation, in all its insidious forms. Technology has annihilated authenticity. Even if YouTube and all of the social media forums were dedicated to eradicating this scourge, the disease cannot be cured. As H.R. Haldeman of Watergate fame said, back in the day when a single quote could stand the test of time instead of being washed away in hours by something new, “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in.”
People believe what they want to believe. The truth sinks into the quicksand of lies. Yes, right-wing radio and Fox News and the internet set all of this in motion, but no one could have dreamed up a better character than Trump to bring the temple down.
With Democrats refusing to do their constitutional duty, the certainty that this monstrous spectacle will last at least through 2020 — and, unthinkably, maybe through 2024 — puts us at a crossroads. How much more time can we give over to studying this odious excuse for a human?
We’ve already seen everything there is to see. There will never be anything new, only more of the same. (Another wildly credible rape charge? Ho hum. More shady business dealings? Yawn.) No matter how hideous the next thing he does, no matter how furious it makes us, no matter how much more it makes us despise him, there will be nothing surprising about any of it.
It’s time, therefore, to reclaim our lives. We have OD’d on a radioactively toxic drug, and though going cold turkey will likely be impossible, withdrawal is essential.
For me that means no more nanosecond-by-nanosecond monitoring of CNN or MSNBC unless there is actual news. No Brooke Baldwin, no Jake Tapper, no Nicolle Wallace, no Chris Matthews, no Rachel Maddow, no Lawrence O’Donnell. (Well, OK, maybe Lawrence.) Unless and until impeachment starts, there’s nothing happening I need to know about instantly.
I will be informed by Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver and Samantha Bee, and online by Charles Pierce, Wonkette and my favorites on social media. I’ll continue to share the best of what I come across on Facebook and Twitter, because I get pleasure from these confirmations of my sanity. I will still comment on friends’ posts and tweets, because I enjoy the conversation. But neither President Thug nor the Democrats’ craven gutlessness will get my constant attention. There are too many TV shows, too many books, too much music to catch up on. Life is too short to devote so much of it to obsessing about this racist ignoramus.
When we think about him, he wins. When we talk about him, he wins. I’m tired of all his winning. I’m going to do my small part — as small as his wee hands — to keep my addiction to a minimum. And, because as Pete Buttigieg said, “It is the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away,” I will probably relapse within days.
Paul Slansky is the author of “The Clothes Have No Emperor” and several other books.