The election is over, and although it seems like it has lasted for years and years, because it has, last night brought everything to a relatively quick conclusion. Just think: American Idol takes 24 hours to reveal votes, while 50 states counted 116 million votes in less than a day, give or take for early voting and absentee ballots.
In Mitt Romney’s strong concession speech, he said, “we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.” At the end of President Obama’s victory speech, he said, “I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe.”
If only that was our biggest problem. Instead, I think we’re facing a crisis illustrated by The Celebrity Apprentice star Donald Trump, who had a meltdown on Twitter last night and pretty much represents everything that’s wrong with parts of this country right now.
That is not, of course, because Trump supports Mitt Romney, or is conservative, or a Republican, or whatever. It’s actually kind of great and American to have someone of Trump’s stature expressing disagreement and making arguments to challenge the president’s policies or viewers’ perspectives.
The problem is that Trump is a delusional assclown who isn’t content with simply disagreeing. Instead, he has to completely deny reality, and construct his own bizarre bubble in which he hears his own voice and nothing else.
That insulated world is one in which he makes moronic offers and refuses to accept evidence because–well, I’m not sure. Because he doesn’t want to be wrong? Because he is so blinded by hatred or some other emotional response?
That was clear last night, when NBC’s Brian Williams summed it up well: “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”
Williams then cited one of Trump’s tweets: “More votes equals a loss…revolution!” Trump also wrote, “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!” and wrote, “The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!” (He meant “won,” I assume.)
This is all so crazy. First, as we know, the popular vote ended up significantly in Obama’s favor. As returns came in, there were sometimes more votes for Romney, but that was early, before the facts were all available.
And let’s say the popular vote did go to Romney while the electoral college went to Obama (which, again, did not happen and never seemed like it would happen). It’s not like that is unprecedented; it happened 12 years ago, though in Trump’s favor, when George W. Bush won the election but lost the popular vote. It happens. While railing against the electoral college is certainly a valid argument, his argument had no basis in reality.
Yet Trump drew conclusions–and started demanding revolution!–with no evidence to back it up. So what did Trump do? Delete his tweets.
Trump’s problem is his denial of reality. This comes to no surprise of any viewer of The Apprentice: even the most banal of decisions on the show can come with no connection to what we’ve seen on the episode. That’s what makes the show entertaining: He’s unpredictable. Once he has his mind made up, he won’t change for anything, and the people around Trump–now, his kids–just affirm whatever he does instead of challenging him, meaning he has an extremely myopic viewpoint.
The sad part is that Donald Trump is not alone. This country is increasingly home to people who, for some reason, can’t just disagree, but have to make shit up to support their arguments. Whether it’s writing and/or forwarding crazy e.mail messages or making declarations about something you know nothing about, that can be dangerous.
And it’s not just mouthbreathers or blowhard reality stars who do this. Columbia Journalism Review has a fascinating story about TV weather forecasters and how many don’t believe in climate change. Charles Homans writes that “most weathercasters are not really scientists” yet act as if they are climatologists, which is someone who’s been trained and educated in a field completely different than meteorology. Homans writes later, “Most scientists are loath to speak to subjects outside of their own field, and with good reason–you wouldn’t expect a dentist to know much about, say, the geological strata of the Grand Canyon.”
Except that’s what we are, a nation full of dentists who think we’re Grand Canyon experts, a nation full of Donald Trumps. On a daily basis, people do the equivalent of denying gravity exists, then watching as someone tries to prove them wrong by rolling an egg off the counter. When it smashes into the ground, the gravity-denier accuses the egg-roller of bias. That’s just ridiculous.
Media, particularly partisan media, fuels this warped perspective by offering warped information. In Slate today, Allison Benedikt writes,
“Fox News feeds its viewers a line of bull about the way the world is. Viewers buy this line of bull. Misinformed viewers become misinformed voters. And then misinformed voters are shocked when Obama wins. Hey, I thought everyone hated this guy? (The preceding is a very good reason why liberals should limit their MSNBC viewing, by the way.)”
This is the real crisis our country faces: the denial of reality. We’ve become this even though if you take actual facts and make them not facts, you end up looking dumber than you would if you just confessed that you didn’t know something, or that you just didn’t like it. Whatever happened to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s comment that, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” (Phrased in a sexist way, but true.)
We could blame reality TV for this, since reality TV is a good scapegoat for everything. And the genre has eroded our sense of what is real and what is fake to the point that some people dismiss all reality television as fake without question, just based on their own gut instinct because who needs information when you have your feelings?
However, we are also a nation of people who can actually disagree and continue to function. We can debate the best strategy to use on Survivor or who we think should win; we can get mad when the person we voted 312 times for on American Idol loses but don’t have to invent some crazy conspiracy theory about how it was fixed to make us feel better about being on the losing side of a debate.