It’s Time to Give Up the Lie We Keep Telling Ourselves About Donald Trump

It’s Time to Give Up the Lie We Keep Telling Ourselves About Donald Trump

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If you’re an American news consumer, it’s hard to escape feeling like you’ve been suspended in a state of limbo over the course of the past year or so. The election—it’s coming, but it’s not here yet; well, not quite. Much of America isn’t really paying attention right now, avoiding at all costs the feeling of impending doom inherent to the election rematch no one wants—and I don’t blame them. We all know Trump is coming back to dominate our news feeds again, just as we know that he never really went away, he just finally became possible to turn off for a while. I understand the desire to tune it out, for now, for as long as we can, for just a little bit longer.

But the problem is that Donald Trump, presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States, is coming back. Just as he battles as hard as he can on every front possible to evade the justice system (though it’s approaching at a rapid clip), and as the Republican Party’s base remains at his beck and call, he is coming back to terrorize America again, which means the Trump show is coming back on, to every television screen near you, no matter what channel you want to tune in to.

The problem is that Season 2—or whatever season we are in at this point—is going to be much worse in so many key ways compared to the last one. The last one had the element of surprise, which kept things shocking for a while in a way that was honestly a bit distracting and roller coaster-y, like when a detective show gives you the cliffhanger just before it streams right through to the next episode. So we all watched and watched because it was ever-present and just a little bit titillating.

But it’s not just that it’s boring this time—even though it is so boring. It is going to be worse this time in the sense that the stakes are higher, the violence is more flagrant, and the way out is harder and harder to see. Nothing—not all of the plaintive and ongoing pleas from us members of the press to remember how awful Trump is and snap out of it—makes this as clear as the documentary Stormy does.

Ahead of Trump’s first criminal trial, now set for April 15 in Manhattan, Stormy happens to be the perfect memory refresher, and not just about all of the horrific things that have happened to Stormy Daniels since she became national news. Watching this documentary brought me right back into hours and hours spent watching White House press conferences, the whole tone immediately recalling the feeling of the chaotic first years of Trump’s presidency, when “the resistance” was only slightly embarrassing as a concept and there was still real solidarity in opposing the president. Oh my god, right, I thought, watching Michael Avenatti’s rise to fame. We were just desperately looking for someone—literally anyone—to save us. For a while, sure, it felt convincing that a brash lawyer who loved the spotlight as much as Donald Trump does might be that person. Oops, it turns out he was embezzling from literally all of his clients. What a twist!

There is a deeper message in Stormy, though, and one that makes it even more understandable why we’ve all wanted to tune out, while simultaneously underscoring the reason why we have to tune back in. As much as the first two-thirds of the documentary are a romp through the hilarity found in a “Make America Horny Again” tour, the documentary takes a turn after showing a few videos from Jan. 6, 2021. It cuts to the more recent past, to the indictment, to Daniels reading through tweets, something she does a lot during the documentary. These later tweets are … a lot worse than what she reads early on. I don’t know exactly what percentage of that can be attributed to how much worse Twitter, aka X, has gotten after Elon Musk’s takeover (certainly some). But the brazenness of the violence is several degrees higher than it was before.

Part of that increase in the violence—and the ho-hum response we’ve all been giving it—feels like it stems from the fact that their guy isn’t in office anymore; it’s much easier to laugh things off from a position of power. And, on the flip side, there’s so much more reckless desperation from the brink of irrelevance, where Trump’s supporters surely found themselves as their hero was indicted again and again. But Jan. 6 also opened doors that legitimately changed what was thought of as normal speech—we’ve spent years since then watching Republicans downplay and minimize what happened, calling the violence freedom, and its perpetrators “political prisoners.” The message stuck. The thugs think they are righteous. That was always Trump’s goal.

The worse reminder in Stormy is of the misogyny that living through Trump being the main event of all of our lives brings with it. This is a chance to rewatch the infamous Access Hollywood tape for the first time in a while. This is a chance to see what it means to be Stormy Daniels, a woman who seems to own her sexuality—and who also is constantly surrounded by men, most of whom seem to be fucking her or fucking her over. This is a woman who insists that what happened between her and Donald Trump wasn’t rape—and then admits later on that the way she felt when Trump cornered her in her hotel room is the way she felt when she was 9 years old being molested by her neighbor, and oh yeah, that trauma probably does have something to do with how she got into porn, if she thinks about it.

The past eight years of being a woman in this country has been to ride the roller coaster from Access Hollywood to #MeToo through the Kavanaugh hearings and eventually into losing Roe. It’s amazing that in the midst of all that, having a president who calls one of his former sexual partners “horseface” still ranks as something to be mad about. But Donald Trump is coming back—and when he does, he will give us something to be mad about every stupid day. And we won’t be able to turn it off, because once again, he’ll be the star of the show.

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