Post-election notes from Florida, November 2022

Donald Trump is a coward’s idea of a tough guy. A macho man hero for all the wilted simpering chumps that America produces in bulk. Costco commandos. Soft-in-the-middle militia men, struggling to secure their Amazon.com flak vests over bulging bellies. I can’t shake the feeling that if Hunter S. Thompson were still with us his withering psychedelic wit would have fatally punctured the gas-bag-in-chief, and his followers, who have all the substance of a wet beer fart from the drunk at the end of the bar.

I’ve been moving through Trump country, but it is very much a territory of the mind more than the land. The political geography of America these days isn’t physical, north / south, urban / rural, coastal elites / heartland populists, they name historical contours, mark the erosions of political history. But today the political divides that matter are in the mind, on imagined territory—Trump county is a state of mind. And to start mixing metaphors, it’s centre is the plug-hole of American culture, where cast-offs, scraps, waste, detritus, and all manner of inedible, indigestible bits collect. 

This is the secret of his appeal, in a country that makes a national pastime of shitting on each other, nearly everyone knows what it feels like to be the loser, to be the one catching, shovelling, drowning in shit. And for uncountable numbers that feeling, so at odds with the promise of opportunity that morphed into the imperative of success, being a loser becomes a kind of existential failure. Any notion of a common culture or civic identity has been ground into dust, leaving a country of isolated people, told to be rugged individualists and relentless innovators. Trump is a successful loser; that’s his baseline appeal.

His fans, and that’s what they are—so lost in the unending fevered nightmare of America that reality is just another genre of content, they’re casting votes on America’s Next Top Reactionary, “constituency” is a meaningless idea.

They love him because he’s an avatar for their resentment, he makes their smallness, their lack of substance, their pathetic character a brand, he’s their mascot, binding them into a malformed political body that lacks beauty, truth, or goodness, but is filled with burning purpose. 

Trumpism is the political manifestation of the desire to shit on a world that shit on you, to consume and excrete for no greater end than to shout: “I exist. However much you hate me, however much I hate myself, I’m here. And you will feel my presence, even if only the ruin I bring to the world.”

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