When Donald Trump was elected, the Doomsday Clock ticked up to 2.5 minutes to midnight. — signaling apocalypse. Since then, it has advanced to 100 seconds before midnight. The world is nuts. This is the preamble to the 2020 Doomsday Clock announcement:
Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.
Add to that instability, the madness of the right-wing disinformation machine, which put Trump in office in the first place, and which is now doing gyrations to keep him there, and you will realize just how tenuous our survival is. And that’s the problem: YOU will realize, because you are here reading about it. The 42% of the electorate that still support Donald Trump don’t know about any of it. They live in a hermetically sealed bubble where facts do not permeate — and they’ll swallow anything that Fox News puts on the air. Max Boot, Washington Post:
A Pew Research Center survey makes clear the extent of the problem. Among those who get their election news primarily from Fox “News,” 86 percent say Trump is delivering the “completely right” or “mostly right” message about the pandemic, 78 percent that “the U.S. has controlled the outbreak as much as it could have” and 61 percent that Trump and his administration get the facts right about the coronavirus “almost all” or “most of the time.” Perhaps the most disturbing finding of all: 39 percent of Fox News viewers say that QAnon — an insane conspiracy theory that posits that Trump’s opponents are satanic child-molesters — is “somewhat good” or “very good” for the country.
I’m sorry, these are not issues on which rational people can legitimately disagree. Trump’s covid-19 message — that, as he said Saturday, “it is disappearing” — is objectively false. In the past week, daily confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have increased by 13.3 percent and hospitalizations by 9.8 percent. Trump’s claims to the contrary, we have done far worse during the pandemic than most wealthy countries. If we had the same death rate as Canada, 132,000 victims of covid-19 would still be alive. And it should go without saying that QAnon, whose adherents have been linked to numerous acts of violence, is a bane, not a boon.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) used to say: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” That’s no longer true.
The central problem these people have is that they are incapable of critical thought. They don’t know the difference between a fact and an opinion. They think everything that happens is subject to interpretation and has “two sides.” These are the people who supported Trump in 2016 and will vote for him again. But beyond the fact that they’re living in a dream world of their own creation is something even more startling: they have a death wish. They want doomsday to come. They want Donald Trump to burn it all down. They think that’s a good thing. The headline to this piece came from a commenter in Los Angeles Times columnist Virginia Heffernan’s Facebook page. She asked Trump supporters in 2016 why they voted for Trump, who seemed so dangerous. One responded, “Better nuclear winter than more letters in LGBTQ.” Los Angeles Times:
Aha. An exaggeration, no doubt — but to me the poster nailed the dominant theme of the campaign. It was something of a suicide mission. The cultural bees in the Trumpites’ bonnet, including LGBTQ rights, had driven them to distraction. They were willing to risk everything to get the buzz out of their heads.
In 1912, Sabina Spielrein, a Russian-born psychoanalyst, proposed that while humans are driven by a will to survive, they are also driven by the reverse: a death wish. It surfaces in various ways: self-harm, thrill-seeking, a preoccupation with violence and irrational personal compulsions.
Sigmund Freud popularized Spielrein’s idea, which still holds sway in psychoanalytic circles and beyond. In the premiere of “Mad Men,” a psychoanalyst explained to the Madison Avenue types why people like to smoke.
“What Freud called ‘the death wish’ is as powerful a drive as those for sexual reproduction and physical sustenance,” she said.
An ad man scoffs. “That’s ridiculous.”
Maybe so. But “death wish” goes a long way toward explaining President Trump’s persistent support. After all, the assumption that Trumpites support Trump for life-loving reasons — a desire for peace, prosperity or well-being — is wearing thin.
Trump has markedly decreased economic stability. Unemployment jumped from 4.7% in 2016 to nearly 7.9% as of this month. The federal deficit is up from $587 billion in 2016 to $3.1 trillion. And with the pandemic exacting a mounting toll, Trump is still agitating to skip masks and destroy Obamacare.
Yet, he still has the support of around 40% of Americans.
This is who we are in 2020. Half of the nation is so far out of touch that it has driven aggression inward and is making decisions at the ballot box not only against their own best interest, but against their very survival — and ours, unfortunately. They show up at rallies without masks. They are courting death over choosing life.
And the madness keeps escalating and I expect it to crescendo between now and November 3. Donald Trump Jr. was on television this morning predicting that his father’s “next move” would be “to break up the highest levels of the FBI.” Terrific! Let’s reelect a president who intends to dismantle federal law enforcement. Great idea!
And his nominee for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, is onboard this bus as well. Here’s Charlie Pierce’s take on the memorable exchange between Barrett and Senator Feinstein earlier this week:
FEINSTEIN: On July 30, 2020, President Trump made claims of voter fraud and suggested he wanted to delay the upcoming election. Does the Constitution give the President of the United States the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances?
BARRETT: Senator, if that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigant and read briefs and consult with my law clerks and talk to my colleagues and go through the opinion writing process. If I give off-the-cuff answers, I would be a legal pundit and I do not think we want judges to be legal pundit. We want judges to approach with an open mind.
The president does not have the power to delay a presidential election. Period. Full stop. If Barrett has a law clerk who thinks the president has that power, she should fire the clerk immediately. If she has colleagues who believe this is debatable, she should recommend they get off the pipe for a while. There is a definitive off-the-cuff answer for this question. It’s the same off-the-cuff answer that would be definitive if she were to be asked if the president has the power to name himself Emperor of All the Octopi. That answer is no.
This is how far down we have fallen. The bedrock of our government, which is the constitution, is being ignored by a nominee for the highest court in the land, while she gives a banal answer, which is palatable to the right wing. This is a feature and not a bug, because when Trump loses, he wants this supreme court to do a Gore/Bush number and declare him the winner anyway. That’s the scam. And he’s got 42% of the country all primed to go along with it.
Trump makes no effort to hide his affection for stoking fear and apocalyptic thinking. We have to stop assuming that Trump’s supporters are anything except on the bus with him. We have to stop thinking that they are acting out of a desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Trump has to go down in flames at the ballot box, or America goes down in flames and the Doomsday Clock goes to midnight. This is midnight in America, make no mistake. We either get this election right, or we never wake up. It’s that brutally simple.