In some ways, the past two or three years have been a blur. Fear and loathing of Donald Trump have stunted the ability of those of us on the center-left to understand the nature of that same fear and loathing and ultimately our ability to know our own minds. The name, the voice, and the electronic image of the Orange One produce such a visceral reaction that we are no longer the cool, analytical, rational beings we were just a short time ago.
That is no small loss. Morphing into a version of your sworn enemy is a defeat much more profound than a loss on Election Day. So before my party takes back the House of Representatives, I’ve resolved to take back my brain. It is time to begin the arduous 12-step program of sorting out my own emotions, and step one is asking myself how I would feel if Trump were a reckless fearmongering liberal.
Lying about the attendance on Inauguration Day is a lot easier to take when accompanied by increased automobile fuel efficiency standards. Boneheaded forays into NFL player sideline issues are a lot less infuriating when married to 85 percent federal funding for new high-speed rail. Utilizing cretin fixer lawyers to pay hush money to a coterie of concubines and porn stars appears quite forgivable when coupled with billions of dollars in new carbon tax credits to homeowners and businesses. In fact, we used to have someone a little like that. We called him Bill Clinton.
Sounds like a bunch of no-brainers so far, doesn’t it? Okay, let’s make it a little more challenging. Referring to various African-Americans as low-IQ or dogs can conceivably be overlooked when compared to a national initiative to fully integrate and retrain urban police forces. Hooking up your son-in-law for a $500 million loan from two large banks he’s doing official business with seems less than purely parasitic when considered alongside a new federal policy of subsidizing interest-free student loans. Barring legitimate journalists from the White House press briefing room comes across as no worse than questionable judgment when taken in the same breath as being firmly pro-choice.
Had enough? Think you can peer inside your own compromised soul and live to tell about it? Okay, now you’re playing with the big boys. Conspiring with a Russian despot can be taken in stride with two or even three progressive nominations to the Supreme Court. Or can it? Inciting violence against the free press upon which our very democracy depends gets a pass in exchange for a trillion-dollar infrastructure program. Or does it? Verbal bating of the Western alliance that has for 70 years prevented a third world war is overshadowed by legislating comprehensive, humane immigration reform. Or is it?
We’d like to answer these harshest of hypothetical questions with a series of firm negatives, but in our hearts we know better. In our imperfect lives we all make deals with circumstance, just as our commander-in-chief makes his with the devil. We’re reminded of an old joke we might have heard in college. An economist asks a young woman—or young man—if she or he would have sex for a million dollars. The answer is immediate—Yes! The economist then asks if they would have sex for a dollar. The answer is just as quick—No, what do you think I am? “We’ve already determined that,” the economist replies. “Now we’re just trying to determine the equilibrium price.”