In which I am fucking amazing and predicted this outcome months ago so I am entitled to say #IToldYouSo and why I am smarter and so clever at this predicting thing. Also I had a weird dream about Trump and having a sexual relationship with him and I’d rather have that kind of relationship with a #Winner. It’s also one of those relationships where you only have sex because you hate each other to death and your partner is sort of a swamp creature who you really would rather not touch but somehow you end up in bed all the time.
KQED brought in a couple experts to explain what happened last night; a quantitative demographic analysis followed. This is the sort of brilliant insight currently polluting the airways, and this is what passes for explanation in the data obsessed United States – just as daily public opinion polls passed for election coverage. Worse still are the explanations of bloggers who proudly display their ignorance on flashing neon signs: “It was those uneducated bigots!” Even the extra professional statisticians are incapable of understanding the Trump phenomenon, Nate Silver closing off 538’s live election coverage with some numbers and the baffled proclamation that the result is “the most shocking political development of [his] lifetime.” To the contrary, I precognitioned this shit long ago, back when Trump had informally clinched the Republican nomination (against Clinton). I second guessed myself a few times, most recently when the (true) allegations of sexual assault and rape came out; however, my intuition is just incredible.
Self-congratulation aside, Trump, as phenomenon, was the inevitable product of our society; that Trump as a person existed, primed and ready to fill the role, saved us the work of conjuring him up. Over the past few decades we have seen truth grow increasingly relative, even sever itself from reality completely – whether propaganda, ideology, internet subculture, or reality television, the principle is the same. Considering the situation, I want to focus on that last one: reality TV.
We all know that reality TV is not actually real – if it were it would have a different name; however, reality TV makes no effort to appear authentic (there is an episode of Fear Factor in which all the contestants are models!). It is some sort of weird mix – an actual viewer can get on the show, a show deals with day to day situations (interviews, sales pitches, etc), a show fabricates an absurd situation – ie Naked and Afraid – and lets it play out ‘naturally,’ and there are real life stakes (prizes, apprenticeships, etc); however, at the same time, contestants must audition, Shark Tank is a shameless caricature, drama is scripted, and, of course, footage is carefully edited and soundtracked. Reality TV is its own thing, and, as its success and proliferation demonstrates, it has remarkable appeal – it is fake, real, and, like major sports events (politics), is designed and consumed as pure entertainment. This is the stage on which politics takes place.
A presidential election is an inflated Superbowl in which everyone is a spectator and everything – the very future of civilization – is on the line. This should not be surprising (but it is): the cultural rituals with the most significance, the most participation, will not be radical deviations from the culture itself. So debates are won on body language and slogans, not substance; candidates are brands, not people (how else did both successfully represent the opposite of who they are?); Clinton and Trump supporters exist in literally different realities; invented scandals are turned into their own truths, ETC. This entire election has been one enormous reality show – empty of substance, empty of truth, empty of authenticity. The end product of a society built around consumption for the sake of consumption (to sustain production for the sake of production). The commodification of all aspects of life had to result in the commodification of reality itself. Don’t take my word for it: just look at how this election played out.
I think the difference in scandals of this cycle tells the tale. Clinton was steadily followed by a few – e-mails, Benghazi, corruption (Clinton Foundation); each would be cycled out only to have its flames fanned again, generating fresh outrage on both sides. Trump was the scandal. Trump represented the entirety of America – citizens from all walks of life, independent of their political beliefs, embraced the spectacular nature of the phenomenon in giving it their full attention. Clinton only ever had a chance in statistical models, and a sociology of statistics is, as the past year has demonstrated (and every economic crisis ever), pretty useless. At the end of the day, a reality TV star walked onto the set of a reality TV show. Easiest prediction of my life.
Also, note that none of this made any reference to individual beliefs – bigotry or what have you. Why? Because that’s not what happened here. Disagree with me? Well I oversimplified and look who the next president is, bitch.