Not the final season, of course. We may yet be barely halfway through, but this was the epic cliffhanger. The violent turn in the road that points in the direction of an ending.
No president before has ever held a rally in the White House. The debate over whether what happened on Thursday night on the South Lawn was even legal is ongoing, but Trump knows such debates don’t do him any harm at all.
Until now, presidents have tended to try to confer greatness upon their country, the world, and yes, perhaps themselves through the real and awesome power of opportunity that flows through that grand old building.
No president before has ever been struck by the kind of infinite shallowness and stupefying ignorance that is required to see it as no more than a convenient backdrop for an epic photograph.
This was the hardest Trump has ever fought to reduce America to his level.
But Trump has only ever sought to govern through the power of lies, to create a phoney world that people can be compelled to believe in through no more than the terrifying might of their TV and their smartphone.
And this, insofar as he is capable of such a thing, was his masterpiece. At least that’s what he hoped. He is a changed man from even four years ago. The watching world has got so used to the freeform rambling, the noise devoid of all meaning, that it has almost forgotten that 2016 Trump was nothing like this. He was sharper, wittier even, incinerating all before him in a fashion few, if anyone, expected.
Now he just glides like a bear on ice skates across a frozen lake of his own lies. There is no truth any more. It’s all just a Land of Trump Believe.
“I have done more for African-Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln.”
That one’s been heard so many times before that trifling incidents like Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act have almost ceased to matter.
Here he was, telling America, not for the first time that only he can make it “safe again” and “strong again”. It is highly unclear, at this point, whether it will even come to matter that at least 180,000 Americans have died appalling deaths at the terrible hands of the world’s worst coronavirus pandemic, ripping through its richest nation. That is a straightforward abomination.
On Monday, when the Republican National Convention began, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the married couple who waved their guns at protesters as they passed their home in St Louis, were invited by their president to address their country.
Two days later, two men were shot dead on the streets and a 17-year-old boy waving an assault rifle has been charged with first degree homicide.
This, Trump says, is a vision of “Biden’s America”. That it has all happened in Trump’s America doesn’t seem to matter.
Joe Biden wants to “defund the police” (no he doesn’t), “tear down the border wall” (he’s said the opposite).
Fear is what politicians tend to sell when they have nothing else left. With Trump, there was nothing there to begin with.
“This is election will decide whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny,” he said, almost cuddling his lectern as he did so. These are the places you end up when you have already wrenched the dial far beyond 11. This is the view from the window of a rocket that long since slipped the surly bonds of anything like reality.
And this is how it will be for the months to come. Trump is America. Biden is anarchy. A red hot political cold war with an arms race that will lead to depths of ugliness never even remotely seen before. We will never have seen anything like it before, and may never do again.
The early signs are that it is not going to work, but the early signs have rarely been less convincing. It is anything but clear whether America will have the capacity to recover from what is about to be unleashed upon it.
Donald Trump makes no secret of the fact that he sees the job of president as being both the star and the executive producer of his own reality TV show.
What happens to American lives is of secondary importance to what those lives see on the rolling news channels.
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