Oprah gave a really nice speech…America, what are you doing? No, NO STOP IT!

#OPRAH2020!!!

Oprah gave a really good speech at the Golden Globes and, with that, is now the Democratic frontrunner for the presidency in 2020. I know, we’re still years off from the election and she hasn’t even announced her candidacy. Yet, somehow, this hasn’t stopped people from saying that she should run.

And with that, the head of the Executive Office is nothing more than the most popular person at the time. Qualification has nothing to do with it anymore.

About 2,300 years ago, Socrates Plato pointed out that a democracy is probably the worst form of government you can have.* The reasons were many, including that when everyone has an equal voice, no one has a voice (in a 51-49 vote, almost half the people don’t get what they want, which causes polarization), that people tend to elect fools, and so on. Early on in democracies people will choose qualified leaders who seek out the common good and seek to protect both the majority and minority. But, as time goes on, people tend to vote for whoever pleases them the most, the most entertaining, the craftiest, until one day we’re electing outright fools who aren’t qualified for the job. Then, when people get tired of the fools, they happily put a strongman into power to set the government right again and they willingly turn toward a dictatorship. Ironically, a mere 300 years after writing this the Romans went and did exactly what Plato said would happen.

In fact, every democracy since Plato has pretty much gone, “lol, ok” to his assessment and then subsequently proven his analysis true. Here we have the United States, a democratic republic that has lasted for 231 years (remember, the Constitution founded the democratic republic and that was in 1787). Seems impressive until you realize that the Roman Republic – a type of democracy – lasted 424 years. Likewise, just like the Roman Republic, our nation ran into tons of problems early on, but keeps running into problems (fun fact: the Founding Fathers actually disagreed with the Greek ideal of democracy and instead adopted the Roman ideal of having a patrician class ruling the government; so they didn’t want “freedom and justice” for all, but rather only wanted it for a landed gentry class). Many of the problems we’re facing today do echo the problems of the institution within the Roman Republic, but at an earlier stage. And while neither is analogous to each other and there are more differences than similarities, the similarities tend to prove the rule put forth by Plato; all democracies turn to shit (possibly an exact quote).

And so here we are, facing down the barrel of a loaded gun in 2020 where we’ll have Trump vs Oprah. Sweet Jesus help us now. And I don’t hate Oprah, she seems nice enough, but for the love of God what are her qualifications? At least be a governor first. Get some experience! The mere fact that so many Democrats are willing to devalue the executive office to amateurism simply to defeat Trump shows that we’re well beyond the point of, “voting for whoever promises us the most.”

How would an Oprah presidency even work? How much money could we set aside for the “You Get A Car” program? Would we start having to reach under our seats to find surprises or our tax returns? Who knows, maybe she’d pull that shit with congress. I can imagine Paul Ryan wanting to destroy our social services, only to flip and vote for universal healthcare after he reaches under his seat and sees he has a free membership to the club, provided by Oprah. Maybe she wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Ultimately, this is one billionaire vs another billionaire. Nothing would scream “out of touch” for the Democrats more than running their own billionaire. Look, giant robotic heroes fighting ugly inter dimensional monsters works for Pacific Rim (not so much Pacific Rim 2), but it doesn’t work for our elections. We need to run someone who is qualified, who’s good for the job, who’s charismatic, has experience, and that person is…oh, right, Democrats have done fuckol to cultivate talent. So…shit.

 


*Fun little side note: Plato thought that Kallipolis was the best form of government, a government ruled by reluctant philosopher kings. Men who would rather contemplate philosophy rather than rule, but who are forced into a position of ruling. While that sounds silly to us, think of all the modern films where when the hero is chosen to take charge and become the leader, he’s very reluctant to do so. While we think Plato’s idea might be silly, it plays on something within us where we want reluctant leaders, something that’s impossible to have within a democracy.

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What to do when your president thinks it’s 1492 and he’s King Ferdinand II and it’s time to finish the reconquista

Donald Trump did something on Twitter that was pretty disturbing. And that’s saying something, because almost everyday he’s doing something disturbing, but this really went for it. He decided to retweet three videos from the ethno-nationalist far-right group Britain First showing Muslims in a bad light. By “bad light” I mean it implied that all Muslims were blood-thirsty maniacs out to kill every infidel and everyone out there who isn’t them.

It’s one thing to retweet it, but the White House doubled-down and then went all in as the day wore on. The eternally frustrated – going by the eternal look on her face – Sarah “I Don’t Heart This” Huckabee Sanders said that even if the videos aren’t real it doesn’t matter, because the threat is real. No, seriously, I’m not shitting you. She basically said, “Yeah, even if there’s no evidence to support the threat is real, the threat is still real.” It’s President Baudrillard with Press Secretary Kafka up in here. BUT IT DIDN’T STOP THERE!

“Does President Trump think Muslims are a threat to the U.S.?” a reporter asked, in light of the president’s early-morning retweets.

Shah said, “The president has addressed these issues with the travel order that he issued earlier this year, and the companion proclamation. There are plenty of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens can come to the U.S. without travel restrictions. But those that pose public safety or terrorism threats, for our worldwide security review that was overseen by the Department if Homeland Security, is why there were certain travel restrictions put in place,” Shah responded.

So…yeah…

The response is basically, “You’ve seen the travel ban, right?” Under any other administration the answer would have been, “No, Muslims are not a threat” and then N U A N C E would have been thrown in. But under this administration, oh hell no.

And the thing is, the videos aren’t even true. They’ve already been debunked. And retweeting Jayda Fransen would be akin to retweeting David Duke or Richard Spencer. It’s like Trump retweeting a far right leader in the US. It’s incredibly disturbing, upsetting, and sickening.

But what prompted this? Was there a terrorist attack? Did the president eat at a halal cart and get bad diarrhea the next day (and if he did, he better not blame the dude just south of his tower on 55th; he has the best halal in all of New York and I will die on that hill). Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the Grand Jury holding off on Flynn since Mike Flynn is likely working on a plea deal with the special prosecutor.

Trump is shite at business, but he’s a master at branding, and his brand is being attacked and he can’t stop it. So what does he do? He goes back to the basics, and the basics here is some good ole’ fashion bigotry and xenophobia. Trump’s sudden attack on Muslims, I believe, stems from the fact that he realizes everything is starting to crumble around him.

Unfortunately, a lot of Americans out there are buying into it. This will build his political capital and make Reek the Republicans even more fearful to go against their master Ramsay Bolton president Donald Trump, meaning that if he finally decides to interfere with any investigations or prosecutions, Republicans will simply be too fearful to go against him. They’ll fear Trump’s influence over voters more than they respect the rule of law. If Trump decides to enact bans, who will stop him?

So for all that stuff we’ve said about how we would have marched in the 60s during the Civil Rights movement, or about how we would have stood against Hitler, or how we would have defended the Native Americans, or about how virtuous and right we would have been in the past…well, how about now? What if Trump gets bans passed? What if Trump is able to get laws passed against Muslims? What if the US begins to become less and less tolerant toward Muslims and all immigrants? Will you hide them? Will you protest? Will you stand up?

The only sure solution to any of this is to elect a party that isn’t beholden to the president come 2018. Look, I know that the Democrats aren’t the best, in fact, they suck. As far as efficiency goes, I’d trust organizing an event to an Italian bureaucrat before trusting it to an American Democrat. But they’d uphold the rule of law over Trump because they have a political interest in doing so. The DNC desperately needs to be reformed. They need better candidates, a better economic approach, a better everything. But they’re also the only ones who can stop our government from spiraling out of control come 2018. I’ve never endorsed one party over another (in general; obviously not on here, this thing is brand new) because I really, really, really can’t stand the Democrats at a national level. But I’ll be voting Democrat and you should too, for the simple reason that it could stop our nation from sliding into further madness (well, Trump madness; it’ll just be a different, but more manageable madness with less existential angst under the Democrats).

So we’re openly supporting brutal dictatorships with a hint of glee. Okay.

Look, we all know that the title “Leader of the Free World” that we use for President is hyperbolic (I sure hope we know that) and not really true. It’s still symbolically important however, so it’s probably important that if you hold this title that you not go and support a brutal dictatorship that is imprisoning and killing rival members. You know, like Saudi Arabia.

I get it, the US has a long history of choosing to be on the wrong side of history, especially in our alliance with Saudi Arabia. So any elected official – for better or for worse – has to be careful with what they say about such a brutal regime. But Trump is just diving in headfirst (like Pete Rose) into some Saudi lovin’. It’s one thing to give a vague response to what’s going on, it’s entirely another to refer to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with the same affection and admiration that a nun would show to the Rosary, or that a New Englander would show to a Dunkin Donuts owned by Bill Belichick and managed by Tom Brady (right now, people in New England are Googling hard to see if this actually exists).

See, and this is where it gets really complicated, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) may actually help his country with what he did. Many of the people arrested actually were corrupt and actually are a hinderance on modernizing Saudi Arabia. MBS wants to bring his country, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the 21st century (or as 21st century as a radical Wahhabist nation can be). So his actions may not be all bad, but they could be and could be very destabilizing, signaling to hardliners that MBS might try to modernize too much, which could lead to some nasty revolts. It’s honestly a major gamble; on one hand, this could pacify Saudi Arabia within the next 10 years, which would cease the exporting of terrorist ideology. On the other hand, this could exacerbate the situation and destabilize the region even further. Hooray modern foreign affairs!

At the same time…

Trump is also just being honest. In the past a president might have commented on how MBS is going about this all wrong, but wouldn’t have done anything about it (and may not have even commented on it). Trump’s tweet is at least brutal honesty, that we don’t care how much the Sauds run their nation with an iron fist, as long as they give us that black gold we’ll be good.

And yet…

As president of the United States and already threatening Jeff Sessions’ job as Attorney General unless he goes after Hillary Clinton, supporting a similar move overseas really, really, really looks bad here. He’s already talked about how he wants to go after his political rivals here, so supporting another world leader doing is…concerning. And that’s just me making an attempt at a polite British understatement; it’s actually disturbing. It’s very disturbing. He’s made comments about going after political opponents, about wanting to go after the Democrats, about going after Clinton, and going after whomever based on the idea of “draining the swamp.” And here he is supporting that exact action overseas, possibly wondering, “Now why can’t I do that?” (The Constitution, but that means exactly what to him?).

So this is the world we live in. As cliche as it is, multiple philosophers (and yes, Plato) have pointed out that Republics, especially large ones, tend toward dictatorships because eventually the system gets clogged up and the people want a demagogue. Trump certainly isn’t the end of our Republic (it’s been dying for a while), but he’s certainly a necessary step along the way.

The Trump Presidency Did Not Take Place

The late French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote three short essays during the Gulf War titled The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. They were brilliant in that he argued the Gulf War couldn’t properly be called a war, but instead was an atrocity and a mass murder caused by American airpower. He really pointed out how the media twisted the war to make it look like a war, but with the low loss of life and complete silence on the Iraqi deaths, it wasn’t properly a war. Such an essay ruined his career and reputation, until the Wachowski brothers created a simulacrum of Baudrillard’s teachings vis-a-vis The Matrix, which was about simulacra. This did not revive his career.

Since I want to ruin my reputation before I even have one, let me state right now that the Trump presidency has not taken place. As much as I want to just leave this rambling right there, let me add some nuance.

The Trump presidency hasn’t occurred because it can’t properly be called a presidency. The role of a president is to represent the executive power of the people of the United States, even those that did not vote for him. Though it’s difficult to imagine any president achieving a perfect balance within this role – you can’t please all the people all the time – most presidents will feign interest in trying try. At the very least, they give the image of trying to represent everyone. Trump hasn’t even made an attempt to look like he’s representing all Americans; he hasn’t even made an attempt to look like he’s representing those who voted for him. It’s very clear that the only person he represents is himself. Whether it’s calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man,” attacking the #FAKENEWS™, or going after the NFL, this has been a spectacle, not a presidency.

Yet, people still buy into the myth of Trump, or the simulacrum of the Trump presidency. With eyes wide they explain how this billionaire knows exactly what the average, hardworking American is going through. They argue that he’ll end immigration, cut taxes, save the economy, and Make America Great Again. Which, of course, the idea of a “Great America” at some point in history is another simulation, another falsehood we tell ourselves, but I’ll leave that be. The point is, people are buying wholesale into the myth that Trump actually cares about them. Which makes sense, because the previous myth about Trump is that he was a good businessman, which isn’t true. Fantastic brander, but horrible at actually running a business.

We wonder why he’ll do or say something, but then the next minute he’s denying he did or said something. All reports about him are labeled #FAKENEWS™ whether they are true or fake. The one thing that can be said about Trump is that with him there is nothing real, nor is there anything fake; instead, before us lays the perfect form of the spectacle. There is no Donald Trump, merely the character of Donald Trump that has been molded and created over decades, and that character has become president and is running the presidency not as a president, but as the character of Donald Trump.

The problem with such a simulacrum, as was the problem with the Gulf War being called a war, is it shapes our understanding of the thing it’s supposed to represent. The Gulf War shaped our understanding of a war, so should there come a war where tens of thousands die, we won’t know how to handle it. It’s difficult to be patriotic over a police action or a massacre; it’s much easier to be patriotic over a war. Thus, every bombing runs the risk of being a war. Likewise, with the Trump presidency, it’s shaping our understanding of what it means to be president. We’re buying into the spectacle, into the simulation of the executive office. It’s opening us up to where any celebrity will do, regardless of experience. Already there are Democrats unironically floating the idea of running Oprah, or the somewhat sensible pick of Al Franken (at least he has some government experience?). Regardless, people are already shaping their understanding of “president” to include a spectacle, something a president ought not be…especially when we have nukes.

The spectacle in the White House is redefining our understanding of how the presidency should function. We call it the Trump Presidency, but there has been no presidency, merely an elevated reality TV show in which we’re all the participants and the viewers. We are all witness to the spectacle.