OP-ED: President Trump’s doomsday shutdown
Not long after the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2017, I ran into a discussion of the Doomsday Clock on Facebook.
That year, the clock, that midcentury modernist data-viz illustrating the imminence of global catastrophe, showed 11:57:30 p.m. Two and a half minutes to midnight, two and a half minutes to doom.
This was the closest the world had been to ending, in the opinion of the atomic scientists who keep the clock, since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union first tested hydrogen bombs. (In 2018, the Doomsday Clock ticked ahead to 11:58. The 2019 Doomsday Clock will be unveiled on Jan. 24.)
Most people discussing the clock on Facebook were, to say the least, concerned. The topic wasn’t politics but fear; doom isn’t partisan. But one commenter who repped MAGA consoled himself with his own calculus. “Better nuclear winter than more letters in LGBTQ,” he wrote.
Suddenly, the whole internet seemed to hold its breath. “I hope it’s all you dreamed,” I typed in a fury.
I signed off Facebook then, and, soon after, I signed off it for good.
Since that exchange, I’ve made mental reference many times to the terrifying aphorism of that Facebooker. It was, looking back, scarier than the Doomsday Clock ticking away.
His words laid bare the Death Logic that suffuses the philosophy of Trump and his supporters. The idea is that even the annihilation of humankind is worth it if it owns the libs.
This thinking is now regularly satirized in memes that illustrate how Republicans are cutting off their noses to spite … everything. Throw the nation into massive debt to own the libs. Align with fascism to own the libs. Crash the government to own the libs.
With the Trump-owned government shutdown now the longest in U.S. history, exposing Americans to diverse and serious dangers related to everything from national park sanitation to airport security to food safety, Trump announced Friday he would not “right now” fulfill his cartoonish Boss Hogg threat to declare a national state of emergency, but the government is still closed and he’s still waiting for Congress to give him billions for his harebrained steel-slat wall.
No king’s dominion for Trump yet, then. Government shutdowns used to be one of the things called a “nuclear option”; a state-of-emergency declaration over a political appropriation disagreement would have to be something beyond nuclear.
But, as the shutdown wears on, political nukes are evidently not enough for Trump. He’s mad as heck that the Democratic leadership unmanned him in front of sages like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. So he’s still snorting around looking for something to destroy. California? Better nuclear winter than a minute’s success for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And so later on Friday Trump threatened to loot disaster-relief funds, earmarked for Puerto Rico and Texas, to get his slats. Better to pound hurricane-pounded Americans harder than let Sen. Chuck Schumer do his job.
More Death Logic. We might have predicted that Trump and his Republican henchmen would end up sounding suicidal back in September 2016, when an essay called “The Flight 93 Election” was published. The author was Michael Anton, a men’s fashion writer turned far-right gadfly, who until April served as a deputy national security advisor to Trump.
Anton’s hair-on-fire essay argued that Republicans needed to give their lives to defeat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because she, like the terrorists who commandeered United Flight 93 on 9/11, was bent somehow on killing them.
How, when, why? You couldn’t tell from Anton’s ramblings, but he clearly thought the Clinton reign of terror was related to “censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers.” I guess this means sinister stuff done online by people who attend the World Economic Forum. Better to kamikaze this plane than endure any infringement on Michael Anton’s Snapchat freedoms!
This is the logic of suicide (or a school shooter or mass murderer), willing to kill and be killed over something so petty that pettiness is almost the whole point.
And it’s a pretty good explanation for why a record-breaking government shutdown has put 380,000 government employees on furlough and made 420,000 work without pay. Trump’s shutdown disabling the whole country, sea to shining sea, to save the president’s vanity, right? Stealing from the afflicted in Puerto Rico or from flood control efforts in Houston would be worth it too.
In this line of reasoning, as I learned on Facebook two years ago, nuclear annihilation can be just another form of trolling. For the lulz — or however many lulz a human body can muster as it’s turned into nuclear soot.
The first time I said it, I was just snapping at a Trumpite troll. But this time I mean it sincerely: About the way you have devastated this country, I hope it’s everything you dreamed, Mr. President.