How did the United States end up with President Donald J. Trump?
Insane Clown Posse, Matt Taibbi’s brilliant new book, details the insanity.
If you are new to Taibbi’s writing, brace yourself. The long-time Rolling Stone journalist writes in the tradition of Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo journalism.” Reading his new book is like encountering one horrific train wreck after another. Just when you feel you’ve seen enough, and might actually be able look away, you come around the next bend. As I read this book, I laughed. I cried. I laughed some more. Then I cried again.
Taibbi is at his best in describing Mr. Trump’s tragicomic rise to the highest office in the land. “It’s an Alice in Wonderland story, in which a billionaire hedonist jumps down the rabbit hole of American politics and discovers a surreal world where each successive barrier to power collapses before him like magic,” Taibbi writes. “From a literary standpoint it makes perfect sense that Trump would be the grotesque and charmless protagonist that he is. His bellicose pussy-grabbing vulgarity and defiant lack of of self-awareness make him, unfortunately, the perfect foil for reflecting the rot and neglect of the corrupted political system he conquers. A system unable to stop this,” Taibbi concludes, “must be very sick indeed.” It is tempting to quote Taibbi’s hilariously savagely incandescent prose at length, here but to do so would steal his thunder. Suffice to say, once I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down.
As a journalist who traveled around the country with the Trumpian caravan, too, Taibbi reveals his own insights (and missteps) in covering Trumpism, as well as explaining how the U.S. press became pawns in Mr. Trump’s unfolding dramatic narrative, foils for working class rage, resentment at bi-coastal elites, and the latent xenophobia, sexism, and racism that propped up DT’s “Make America Great Again” #MAGA mantra. He also eddies out to consider the many failures of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as well as Bernie Sanders’ appeal to young US voters, and how the Establishment refused to cover Sanders’ campaign in any significant way, even as the Clintonista-controlled DNC threw the #FeelTheBern campaign under the bus every chance they got.
Taibbi is most prescient, perhaps, in his diagnosis of a United States political culture on life support. “Politics used to be a simple, predictable con. Every four years, the money men in D.C. teamed up with party hacks to throw their weight behind whatever half-bright fraud of a candidate proved most adept at snowing the population into buying a warmed-over version of the same crappy policies they have always bought,” he explains. With Trump, “America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show.”
Takeaways? As we enter 2017, here’s the hard news. Citizens of conscience must understand that the problem we face is BIGness. Empire. Size does Matter. This is not a Left versus Right thing. This is not a Dem versus Rep thing. This is not a Blue state versus Red state thing. This is the Empire versus the Commons. Under a Trump presidency, the US is now (nakedly) an Empire, and two powerful elite factions are now competing for control – the neolib globalist Deep State Democrats and the delusion’bound fascist Trump’ian kleptocrats. Both spell disaster for the American experiment and the Planet.
There is a third way forward, beyond Trumpism and Clintonism. It goes by many names. Decentralism. Human Scale. Home Rule. “Local Control.” Sovereignty. Independence. The Commons. And yes, the S word. It won’t be easy. It won’t be convenient. It won’t be won on social media. It won’t be won marching en masse in the streets (as good as marching feels – and it is important to march). Here in the once and future Republic of Vermont, we’re gonna have to show up – with our time, our energy, our wealth, and our communitarian creativity. We’re gonna have to build a better mouse trap – local, communitarian, life-giving, affirming, inclusive. We’re gonna have to go home by home, business by business, town by town, watershed by watershed. Together. We can begin to absent ourselves from the clown-car insanity of Empire, and build ourselves an inhabitable Vermont commons for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.
Vermont has done this before. Are we ready to do it again?