Yet we too are sticking to a script, as celebrants in the impeachment managers’ bid to win the hearts and minds of jurors who have not shown ownership of either. Mr. Trump may have railed against it and had his surrogates fight it, but the trial has given a new spotlight to an attention addict whose rehab was not going well. He is not there, but this is still “The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump,” about Donald J. Trump, featuring applause for Donald J. Trump, and starring Donald J. Trump as Donald J. Trump. His ego and his coffers need you to watch, to tweet, to rage.
So do you not watch, to enlarge the collective spiting of him? Do you give oxygen to an amoral human torch? The Resistance did not create or empower Mr. Trump. But we did make the classic first mistake of concluding that our insights, analysis and morality would convince his supporters that they were tragically wrong. When that failed, we made the classic second mistake of assuming we hadn’t made our first mistake loudly or clearly enough. I’m not ready to believe that we started it, but I, for one, have gotten loud and blasphemous enough to peel the paint off my walls.
Still, we cannot underestimate the power of righteous and organic hatred to overwhelm everything else. It is hard to fathom now, but in the epic sitcom “All in the Family,” one of the best running jokes consisted entirely of Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker getting in the face of Bea Arthur’s Maude Findlay and announcing the identity of the worst president in history. He would elongate it and he would mispronounce it and when he would intone “Fraaaaanklin. Delllllano. Roooooooosevelt!”; she would erupt in paroxysms of liberal rage at his heresy.
These political passion plays were performed some 25 years after Roosevelt died, and were thus a real-time testament to something the half century since has erased: Beloved and revered as he may have been, F.D.R. was also passionately hated and blamed, and his memory alone could start political fistfights into at least the 1970s.
One wonders if the visceral hatred of Mr. Trump will end that soon. Or if it ever will.
Just as I have far more history with Mr. Trump than I would have wished, I also have some standing on the subject of people consuming political Soylent that they clearly don’t like, don’t want to see, and don’t want to eat.
At roughly this time of year in 1998, I was at the Super Bowl on assignment for NBC and also doing a week of celebrity-themed shows for my little niche, boutique, offbeat news hour on MSNBC. We were all set up to interview John Lithgow in front of the refrigerator in the kitchen set of “Third Rock From the Sun” when my producer advised there had been a slight change in plans: I would instead be interviewing Tim Russert via satellite from Washington, because the president might be resigning over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Our audience first doubled, then trebled. The heady, news-packed and unpredictable early days of the show we subtly renamed “White House in Crisis” made for compelling viewing. Then came an enormous cloud of the kind of illogic which may apply to whatever follows Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial.