Donald Trump played host to what can only be described as a deliberate COVID super-spreader event in Nevada on Sunday. It is journalistically perilous to bandy words like “deliberate” and “super-spreader,” but I watched every galling second of his rally at the Xtreme Manufacturing plant in Henderson, and those words deserve to share the same space as “water” and “wet” in the context of what went down in the desert yesterday.
A thousand of Trump’s most avid devotees came from miles around to stuff themselves into an enclosed indoor space, where they stood packed like cattle in a high-density field, maskless almost to a person, screaming and sweating all over each other in an orgiastic celebration of the death of reason.
I picture a COVID-19 virion, its crowns bristling red, feet up and reclined on its Barcalounger after a hard day at work killing people, looking serenely over that mob of reckless idolators before leaning to a virion friend and saying, “Hold my beer.” We will be hearing about the medical consequences from Sunday evening’s event before the calendar page turns, if the pattern holds, which it has with nearly unfailing consistency since this dismal year began.
Trump’s speech was an abomination of lies, distortions, exhortations and puling complaints. In other words, it was every speech he has given at every rally since he came down the golden escalator five years ago. It was a triumph of the mundane, proof itself of the banality of evil, so boring after endless repetition that none of the networks, not even C-SPAN, bothered to broadcast it. I had to work to find the thing.
As I let the bilge tide of Trump’s gibberish wash over me, however, I found myself encased in a rare moment of clarity. It is difficult to think straight when the president is ruining your country in real time at the top of his voice and right in your face. That, of course, is the entire point of the exercise. “For those who have been beaten down by the Trumpian disaster porn,” writes Tim Miller for The Bulwark, “rallies such as this don’t really make a mark any longer.”
As I watched this latest one, though, Trump seemed to me to be receding down a long hallway. I could hear him fine, but the mind-scrambling impact of his weaponized nonsense faded, and I found myself, for the first time in months, actually listening to what he was saying.
It came to me suddenly in a burst of inner light: Every accusation this man makes, every lie he tells, very nearly every word he speaks, is a public confession of his own corruption and venality. It is far beyond the Karl Rove tactic of using your opponent’s best strength against them. With Trump, it is a bending of the light itself, of reality, a transference of personal responsibility so comprehensive as to be virtually seamless.
“Whether it’s in North Carolina, whether it’s in Michigan, whether it’s in other states where they’re sending out, they’re going to be sending out 80 million ballots,” said Trump yesterday in Nevada. “And it’s Democrats. They’re trying to rig this election, at every single place in the last year, year and a half, go modern day, forget about… Tiny amounts, a congressional race in New York, a small number of votes. If you go to New Jersey, if you go to Virginia, if you go to Pennsylvania, if you go to California, look at some of these races, every one of these races was a fraud, missing ballots. And I don’t mean like 1 percent. I mean like 20 percent, 25 percent, they’re trying to rig the election.”
… says the man who is actively attempting to dismantle the United States Postal Service and the practice of mail-in voting itself, because he believes the only way he can win the election at this point is to steal it. That was a confession.
“Sleepy Joe Biden, who surrendered, you know where he is now, he’s in his damn basement again,” said Trump yesterday. “No, he’s in his basement.”
… says the man who himself surrendered utterly to COVID-19, because doing otherwise required hard work and a dollop of humility, neither of which this president would recognize if they pissed in his face. He surrendered to that COVID-bait crowd before him, to his belligerent base, because they believed him when he called the pandemic a “hoax” all those weeks ago, and now he must maintain that deadly illusion in order to maintain their loyalty. Another confession.
“Biden and his party of liberal hypocrites want to lock law-abiding Americans in their homes, which is what they’re doing,” said Trump. “And they want to keep them out of church.”
… says the most irreligious president in U.S. history, whose use of the military and federal law enforcement against civilians — including snatching protesters off the street and stuffing them into unmarked vans — very nearly toppled the country into a constitutional crisis. Another confession.
“How about your gas prices?” asked Trump. “That’s not too bad, right? You didn’t think you’d ever see those prices, those under-two-dollar prices, did you? Thank you, President Trump, I appreciate it, sir.”
… says the man whose lethal bungling of the pandemic brought about an economic tailspin that will take years to recover from. Want to know why gasoline is so cheap? Because the price of petroleum happily collapsed to literally less than zero after the pandemic locked down travel all around the world. This, I suppose, was his confession to being incomprehensibly oblivious to and uninterested in the ocean of suffering he has unleashed.
It’s all one long stream-of-consciousness confession now. I hope I’m not the only one taking notes.