April 13, 2018

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: Losing perspective — and understanding — in the era of Trump.

We have left the simple and reassuring rhythms of the progress of legislation, of the White House “message of the day,” of the ritualized game of hide and seek between the press and officials elected and appointed, of Republican and Democratic squabbling over the 50-yard lines of majority rule, of debate and discussion in which civility and decorum, manners and deference, are prized above all.

We have left all this and moved instead into a march played at the fastest tempo, in 6/8 time, where a given week brings us the FBI raid of the offices of a presidential lawyer, an impending military strike on Syria (“Get ready Russia!”), the testimony of a Silicon Valley Titan before Congress, the retirement of a Speaker of the House who practically defines not only the establishment of his party but also the supply-side ideology that has dominated its thinking for a generation, hearings for secretary of State, and much else besides. This is a song filled with contradictions, in which porn stars and Playmates haunt the presidency of a man backed by a supermajority of self-identified evangelical Christians; in which a genius innovator and entrepreneur faces his most skeptical questioning from members of the pro-business party; in which a liberal New York crowd erupts in cheers at the mention of Paul Ryan’s retirement, without giving even the slightest thought to the politics that might replace him.

I am not saying that the weirdness, the distortion, began with President Trump. This story opens years earlier, with a financial crisis in which those responsible paid no price, with economic stagnation and the rise in deaths of despair in the American interior, with the decline in race relations during the second half of the Obama presidency, with mass migrations of peoples across borders and progressive governments unable or unwilling to stop them, and with sudden bureaucratic announcements that public school restrooms are to be made gender neutral, that the population covered by DACA is to be expanded beyond what the president said was legal just months before, that teachers and principals cannot enforce discipline in the public schools without coming under suspicion of racism.

These really are Heinlein’s Crazy Years.

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