Newsletter 372

Published January 11, 2021
Supervillain aims to destroy Capitol Hill

Promises made, promises kept. In his inauguration speech in 2017 Donald Trump spoke about “American carnage” – and in the final fortnight of his presidency, he delivered. What a way to start the year!

Thinking to wean myself from the morbid addiction to American politics that has proven more infectious than the coronovirus in 2020, I thought the Georgia run-offs might be one of the last things I was driven to follow for hours on CNN. The next morning, however, found me once more glued to the set. Who could forgo the spectacle of thousands of deranged Trump supporters storming the Capitol?

In our media-saturated culture whenever anyone wants to describe a terrifying experience they say it was “surreal”, meaning that it seemed more like a dream than reality; or “it was just like a movie”, confirming that amazing things only happen on the big screen, not in everyday life. Both these expressions have had a work-out over the past four years, but this week they were wheeled out as regularly as KFC ads during the cricket. The Trump administration has demonstrated that most of the cherished conventions of American politics could be trampled by a rogue President whose one-and-only priority was himself. Trump found he could bend virtually the entire Republican Party to his will, exposing them as an appalling group of hypocrites and opportunists.

Last week the tower of lies and skullduggery came crashing down in the most spectacular fashion. Trump’s utter lack of restraint, which finally resulted in something resembling a coup attempt, may yet see him facing prosecution. All this hardly needs reiterating. What’s most interesting about the Trump era is that it seems to have fired up America’s appetite for politics again by showing the fragility of democracy, and the massive popular support base for a would-be dictator. Georgia has begun to mobilise the black vote at last, and has rapidly changed from red to blue. Will Texas and North Carolina follow?

Ultimately Trump cost the Republicans both the Presidency and the Georgia senate seats by being incapable of showing a little sympathy and leadership in regard to the pandemic, while spending so much time attacking his own party and the election process. It was an incredibly clumsy, moronic performance, but still most of the Republicans can’t bring themselves to admit they backed a dud.

Back in Australia, the first art column of the year comes to you from Maitland, where Andrew Sullivan has a dinosaur exhibition – or at least a painting exhibition about dinosaurs. Survey into the Cretaceous is an elaborate fantasy show that may appeal to children more than adults, but it’s obviously been a labour of love for the artist. Besides, who hasn’t got a soft spot for dinosaurs?

The film column looks at Wonder Woman 1984, which is just as dopey as expected, although not without interest. The curious part of the movie is that the villain, Max Lord, is a Donald Trump doppelganger. What the filmmakers couldn’t have predicted was that the real Trump would be calling down doom and destruction on Capitol Hill the same week the movie was released. It’s the ultimate reality TV show. But who’s going to wear the Wonder Woman gear? Nancy Pelosi?