The Smell From Here

Well, he tried.

A friend of ours erupted in a fusillade of angry, frightened tweets Tuesday night. While everyone else we follow was tweeting the usual — sports and politics — our friend was writing things like this:

“I’m so fucked up about all these brothers getting murdered right now, I don’t even know what to do with myself.”


“Seriously, at what point can I reasonably say the police are constant threat to my life? If not now, when? How many more men have to die?”


“What the fuck am I supposed to tell my son?”

Our friend lives in DC, works as a government contractor. Most days he’s griping about the bosses, or public transit, or school lunches, like any other middle-class American. But unlike most middle-class Americans, our friend is Black.

And he’s living in terror. Because he’s just one traffic stop away from being the next hashtag.

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Here’s to failure!

Over the past long, long year, we’ve seen various forms of a recurring thought: Donald Trump can’t be serious.

He’s doing it for the publicity. He’s a devious Hillary trickster. He wants to launch a new cable channel. He never planned to win, and then he won, and now he’s trying as hard as he can to lose, because no serious candidate could possibly be this awful.

It’s The Candidate meets The Producers.

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Nice Kitty would like a bath, wouldn’t Nice Kitty?

We were actually hoping for a Bernie-Trump debate. First, it would have been fun: A Geezerpalooza for the ages. Second, it would have settled months-long chatter: Could Bernie actually stand up to The Other Great Orange Satan like we all think he could?

Serious People thought the very idea was a sham, of course. What would Trump have to lose debating the Democrat Loser? And what would Bernie have to gain, except for more opprobrium from the Demrat Establishment for disrupting Hillary’s coronation?

Actually, Trump would have had a lot to lose: Humiliation, the worst thing that could happen to a bully. A Bernie “debate win” would have shown that not only was it possible, but how to do it. Hillary could take notes from the audience.

Conversely, a Bernie Loss would have settled the otherwise unanswerable question whether the polls reflected his strength when actually tossed into the campaign fire. We’d all like to think that, but Shit Happens in the moment. Y’all will recall the Big Freakout when Obama slept through his first debate with Romney.

But it appears not to be, unless Trump delegate (and actual billionaire) Peter Thiel would care to divert $10 million from his Righteous Gawker Crusade to meet his candidate’s demands for funding the event.

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No Fleetwood Mac for you!

Well, that didn’t take long.

A couple of weeks ago, champagne corks were popping as we were duly instructed to celebrate shamelessly over Trump’s effective nomination. Republicans in disarray! Congressional rats deserting the ship! Better confirm that moderate Justice now, cuz Hillary’s gonna appoint Raul Castro soon as she gets back from the Inaugural!

And then the post-nomination national polls started coming out. Whoops!

We still consider national polls next to worthless, but they do have a value in getting folks to shut the fuck up.

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Trump voters await their harvest.

And here we are.

We weren’t supposed to be here — we were punditsplained for months how this was not merely unlikely, but totally impossible — but anybody paying attention could see it happening, almost from the start.

Really: Calling John McCain a loser because he was a POW? And getting away with it? Put away your statistical analysis, nerds. We’re in uncharted territory here.

And yet, since Donald Trump won Indiana Tuesday night, we’ve been treated to a barrage of new assurances that It Can’t Happen Here. And you’ll forgive us if we’re in no hurry to pop the champagne.

We’re in no hurry anyway because we’re facing a classic Least Worst choice this November, but hey, that’s The American System.

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Ummm… Vanilla…

Now that America is stuck with him — if America is lucky, only until November — everybody is rushing to explain How He Got Here. There’s King of the Teabaggers, or (our call) Reagan II, or George Wallace 1968, or…

But let’s cut to the chase: Donald Trump has always been with us. If Trump didn’t exist, America would have to invent him. And America tried, most recently with Sarah Palin, but that turned out to be a bad speed-dating session, so America booted up Tinder and kept madly swiping left until the right demagogue caught its fancy.

The position was always waiting to be filled. Trump figured out how to fill it.

And the position, to pick a moment, opened in 1948.

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Now you see him, now you don’t. Ever again.

One day in high school, we had a guest speaker for our Social Studies class. His name was Dean Kennedy, and he was there to tell us about the Mulatto Conspiracy.

And that was his first problem: Nobody in the room knew what a “mulatto” was.

But Dean Kennedy helpfully explained that, and much else, with crude printed charts, and citations from his extensive library of rare books, many of which, he told us, were the only copy that existed.

The presentation finished, and class over, Dean Kennedy left. And then we all spent the rest of the week laughing our asses off.

This was in 1975.

We’ve had many occasions to reflect upon Dean Kennedy and his unique brand of crackpot racism over the years. And every time, it starts with this fundamental point: If Dean Kennedy hadn’t visited, and the class politely listened — and then politely challenged each of his points — we never would have learned about what Dean Kennedy represents, and the kind of person who represents it. Hearing him out inoculated us against the very thing he promoted. It was flat-out absurd, especially to a 15-year-old.

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