MEMBERS ONLY: The Suffocation of America Has To Stop

by Bob Cesca

When I was in fourth grade, circa 1980, I illustrated my first political cartoon. Growing up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, it was difficult to avoid politics. Whenever we visited the city, and even today, there’s a seductive and palpable electricity in the air. Somehow, some way, I wanted in on it. I wanted to wrap myself in that energy, and by the time I reached an age when I could begin to craft my own destiny, I jumped into politics with an exuberance that still possesses me today. 

By 11th grade, I was writing op/eds and drawing editorial cartoons for my high school newspaper. Confession: growing up in a Catholic household but having acquired a taste for the devil’s music (1980s metal) I thought it’d mitigate the shock of my long hair and black concert t-shirts by identifying as a conservative. Don’t laugh. I was a kid. Sure, I listened to Iron Maiden and Motley Crue, but I figured that if I accepted the politics of characters like George H.W. Bush and Morton Downey Jr, maybe my parents would be less freaked out by my outer rebellion. Who knows the precise psychology of it all. Needless to say, in 12th grade, I was not only the president of my high school chapter of the Young Republicans, but I was also the founder. Yes, I founded a Republican club that, upon last check, still exists at my old high school.

Here’s me, delivering a Ronald Reagan speech, circa 1982. Note the controversial “tan suit.”

Once I began college, though, my artificial and naive conservatism rapidly dissipated as I began to, you know, learn things — things about how the world really worked. Consequently, by my second semester at Kutztown University I was writing very liberal op/eds for the campus newspaper after being elected to the post of “opinions editor.” I later became the editor-in-chief of the paper, while simultaneously hosting a daily morning show on the campus radio station, WRKU, and just in time for the 1991-92 election cycle and the ascendancy of Bill Clinton. Before I graduated, I landed an internship with the Don & Mike Show at WJFK-FM in Washington in 1993 and ended up interacting with Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy who also hosted a show for WJFK. Incidentally, I co-hosted a radio show at George Mason University with Liddy’s assistant producer, Cameron Gray. A year later, I graduated with a political science degree in 1994.

I think you get the idea. Suffice to say, I’ve been talking and writing about politics for 30 years, give or take, though it might not always seem like it — we all have our off days. Nevertheless, it’s what I love to do. It’s the thing I do best and, now that I’m 46-years-old, I can say with reasonable confidence that it’s the only career I’ll ever have.

This week, however, I’ve reached a saturation point with Trump news. Don’t get me wrong: I have no intention of avoiding Trump news. It’s my job to power through crap like this. But he’s not making it easy. 

I can’t even imagine the Trump fatigue being experienced by civilians — those of you who don’t cover politics for a living. In bad relationships, when one of the participants is overbearing or too heavy handed, we tend to experience emotional suffocation. Maybe you’ve had a boyfriend or girlfriend who you felt was strangling you. Maybe you didn’t feel as strongly about your partner as they felt about you. Maybe they refused to give you enough personal space or, in the cases of really awful and abusive relationships, enough personal liberty. 

That’s what Donald Trump is doing to America. He’s suffocating us. 

We’re only 202 days into this crisis and yet it feels like it’s been 202 years. Trump’s style is to make it so that everyone’s attention is perpetually focused on him and him alone. Whether his attention-seeking maneuvers make him look good or stupid or unintentionally hilarious, it just doesn’t matter, as long as we’re talking about Trump. The entire news cycle is orbiting around Trump’s pumpkin-head and it’s nearly impossible to break away from its gravitational field. He’s using the so-called “bully good pulpit” and turned it into a PR machine for the Trump brand. He’s inescapable.

Here’s the conundrum: We have to talk about him and he knows it. We have no choice. He’s the closest we’ve come to a despot and an authoritarian in the modern era, and therefore it’s crucial that we remain laser focused on everything he does. At the very least, we have to keep tabs on him regularly because who knows when he’ll randomly, while pooping one morning, tweet that he’s rescinding our health insurance subsidies or that he’s launching a preemptive attack on [fill in the blank]? He knows that by manufacturing chaos, he’s keeping our eyes on his face at all times. Again, while a lot of what he does involves live-tweeting the Steve Doocy show on Fox News, we have to pay attention because, next time, he might be serious. 

It’s a psychological trap and we’re all ensnared in the iron jaws of Trumpism.

Projecting forward, it’s difficult to see this suffocation enduring in perpetuity. The upside to all of this is that the American people have short attention spans. It’ll be made worse by Trump’s constant presence everywhere. (Including my dreams. I’ve had at least one Trump dream that I remember and I wish he’d get the fuck out of my subconscious, thank you.) If Trump is suffocating us now, what will it be like another 200 days from now? What’ll it be like by the 2018 midterms? I have a hunch, informed by 30 years doing what I’m doing, that what’ll ultimately end the Trump era will be his strangulation of America. We simply won’t be able to deal with Trump in our living rooms any more and it’ll be time for him to go. Our mental health will require it. Sure, there will need to be a legal pretext, most likely the Russia story. And as Trump’s legal jeopardy thickens, his level of support from Trump-fatigued citizens will decline. 

Now, with the prospects of a nuclear showdown, the air in the room is almost gone.  

At some point, hopefully soon, Americans will stand up to this maniac — this attention whore — and we’ll scream in unison, Republicans and Democrats like, “Enough!” The president isn’t supposed to hoard this much attention and we the people have to power to make it stop. What I’m getting at here is that we simply won’t have any choice. Exhaustion with Trump will transcend politics. Not for everyone, but for enough of us, including members of Congress, to get him the hell off our televisions and computer screens by any legal means possible. Not even the most charming and telegenic president could sustain this level of visibility, and Trump simply doesn’t have the face or the personality to hold our attention through all of the horseshit he’s farting into the universe. 

This madness — this suffocation is going to end. And I refuse to allow this rat bastard to push me away from the career I’ve always wanted and for which I’ve sacrificed so much of my life. Let’s continue to stay strong and to watch each other’s backs. This will hopefully be over sooner than we think. And then we can breathe.