Surviving the 2024 Election

Photograph Source: Adam Jones – CC BY 2.0

“When Trump was elected, I decided I’d only wear black ties. It was a personal and private act of mourning. I didn’t say anything about it. And almost no one noticed over these past four years.”
– David Corn

I too am in desperate need of an empty gesture. David Corn could don his black tie and flit across cable news screens peddling his book-like object about how Putin hacked the ‘16 election by forcing Hillary to select Tim Kaine. As for me, Biden and Trump have a better chance of remaining cogent through the 2024 election than I do. So far the only bipartisan issues which genuinely excite me are hypertension and dementia… and subpoenas.

If only there were a Federalist No. 86 in which any of the Publius boys, Jemmy or Alex or JJ, explained what to do when no action has consequences and words have no meaning and no one is held to account and idiocy is rampant and everyone is on a team and our national insecurity has devolved to madness and the political parties are about to spend an entire year de-emphasizing the potential end of terrestrial life rather than inconvenience their donor bases.

Actually, forget it. If Hamilton knew where this was heading he would’ve handed Burr both pistols. So I guess I’ll find my fascination and outrage where I can. Though I do need the empty gesture. And like Otter in Animal House, futile and stupid is fine.

What has always fascinated me about Donald Trump’s supporters are the excuses they must make to the remnants of their soul to justify believing in him. Yet if Trump had never won the presidency, if he was living in Vladivostok and bathing in urine, Republicans would still be campaigning to shred the social compact while Democrats contented themselves with sifting through the shards to piece together a portion of an issue.

Republicans take pride in their bullshit. Democrats sprinkle their every utterance with apologies and qualifiers and too-smart-by-half proposals and then lash out when the average person can’t figure out their message.

The Republican Party has gone from Nixon to Reagan to the Bushes to Trump. What do you suppose comes next in that progression? Pericles? Sheriff Andy Taylor? Burgermeister Meisterburger?

In his most recent Hill Op-ed, noted maniac John Bolton opined that the problematic aspect of a Trump return to the presidency is that he would be too self-centered to be reliably evil. No other Republican candidate will suffer that disadvantage. They will keep regular office hours and pay attention and think things through and be Michael Corleone-esque in their ability to separate business from personal.

Which is why I must confess that I’ve always felt a little sorry for Donald Trump, and why I see him as less a threat to American Democracy than I do its logical culmination.

For me, Trump is the inevitable result of every pompous National Anthem introduction and blood-lusting America-honoring flyover and context free campaign lectern boast since Michael Deaver obsessed over the pixel brightness of billowing flags while Ronald Reagan pretended to find evil in gubmint and fairness in lower taxes.

Trump has succeeded because he is a comedian. If comedy stems from a feeling of alienation Donald Trump has always been a first rate insult comic playing to a nation of the perennially insulted. Granted, Trump’s current campaign style is weirdly reminiscent of the last year of Lenny Bruce’s life, which was spent reading the transcripts of his obscenity trials to ever more listless audiences. Yet at his core Trump is a small and terrified man who will say whatever words he needs to say to get himself to the meatloaf.

And speaking of the saying of words, there will come a moment in this recurrently most important election of our lifetimes which I know I will not survive without an empty gesture. It will not be when Biden goes into his strutting tough guy act to chasten the economically struggling for their lack of appreciation at his accomplishments. It will be when Barack Obama bestirs himself to emerge from one of his mansions to blame the electorate for their lack of responsibility.

For progress to happen our society must break its addiction to words as an indicator of actions. Should that day come, Obama will be seen for what he was: a sayer of things. A misfocused and ineffectual President who spent his finite moments in the arena of public good acting as if each round were over.

But hey! I think I’ve found my empty gesture! A spit-take! Whenever anyone wants to talk politics and they say anything point-missing I will appear exaggeratedly startled and spew liquid in their direction. I’ll just need to have water, or preferably cognac, in my mouth at all times. This seems doable! Let the campaign commence!

I feel wetter already.

Jerry Long is a writer, actor, podcaster and political satirist who, with his brother Joe, has worked with Adam McKay on numerous projects. He can also be reached at