The night of the midterms, when it became clear that the Democratic Party would wrench back control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, I joked that a post-election Donald Trump would be like a prototypical video game boss who’d lost half of their health. The gamers among you know what I’m talking about: hit your average boss enough times and the fight suddenly becomes much more difficult. And make no mistake: the administration can spin the results of the night however they want, but losing the House and giving the Democrats a toehold to launch investigations was a solid punch to the kidneys. Tongue firmly in cheek and with all the expertise of someone who spent far too many Saturday nights alone in his basement, I listed some of the ways a video game boss would respond to significant damage and how Trump would emulate them. It’s barely been a week since the elections, but he’s been tearing through the list like a mild criticism through his own translucent skin.
Bosses turning red? Here’s an apoplectically flushed Trump berating CNN’s Jim Acosta during a press conference, all before relying on a doctored video and a newfound respect for women’s bodily autonomy to justify banning Acosta from White House grounds.
Causing damage to the environment? Here’s Trump grousing about a judge blocking the Keystone XL pipeline over environmental concerns and threatening to cut federal funding to California as they suffer from the worst wildfires suffered in state history.
Moving more erratically or breaking the rules of engagement as they’ve been commonly understood? Here’s Trump firing his most effective cabinet member for the high crime of being insufficiently obstructionist in the Russia investigation and — possibly illegally — installing a naked partisan who has gone on the record as opposing it.
Again: it’s only been a week. Between my writing this piece and your reading it, the list has assuredly grown. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that, his not-at-all Freudian grandstanding about the size of his “nuclear button” notwithstanding, fire has not yet started raining from the sky.
For people whose political leanings lie left of the proverbial center, there’s an easy and even comforting narrative that naturally comes out of the midterm elections: the pendulum is swinging back. The House is blue again, and the freshman class of Congress is refreshingly diverse — on both sides of the aisle. After a brutal Senate map, which saw the Democrats defending 26 seats to the Republicans’ nine, the tables can turn in 2020. With Trump’s disapproval numbers as high as they are, his eventual opponent has a solid chance to unseat him. And while it’s easy to forget after James Comey’s disastrously unnecessary October surprise in 2016, special counsel Mueller quieted his investigation into the president’s activities to avoid unduly influencing the elections, per traditional protocol. Now that they’ve concluded, expect the indictments to start flying again — especially if it’s true that Mueller’s finally beginning to move into his endgame and draft a final report. If there was ever a time to exhale for those who’ve been holding their breath since Jan. 20 of last year, this would be it, right?
Not so fast.
Trump’s flurry of activity since the midterms may come across as the actions of the proverbial wounded animal, but it’d be unwise to discount how calculated he is. Launching preemptive attacks on the incoming House Democratic majority will help discredit any investigations they launch as purely politically motivated — let’s not forget Benghazi. If his new attorney general stays in place, it could very well mean the end of Robert Mueller’s investigation. And lashing out at everyone from migrants to the press to the former First Lady may seem like the pinnacle of petulant pique, but if it generates enough fear and loathing in his base, the wave in 2020 could very well come back the other direction, turning two more years into six.
So my advice to my fellow #resistance fighters is simple: stop. Breathe. Wipe the sweat off of your hands. Use the bathroom, get some food. Acknowledge the importance of what’s happened, but much more importantly, appreciate the difficulty yet to come. If you have to stop playing for a while, that’s fine. But when you come back, make sure you hit it, and hit it hard. Start looking into the major races in 2020 and brainstorming ways you can tip the scales. Make sure you’re prepped to vote now and try to get as many people to do the same.
Because as gamers know, there’s no feeling worse than getting halfway through with the final boss, only to be completely overwhelmed when they step up their game and you lose. Not only will you have to start the fight from scratch with all your previous progress having been for naught, you’ll have to watch the same interminably long scene where the boss gets up on a stage and monologues about their new power all over again.
I don’t know about you, but once was enough.
(P)optics is an irreverent take on the political and pop culture news of the day from a nerdy, left-of-center, black-ish perspective. A play on words, the title hinges on the word “optics” to communicate insight on both pop culture and politics.
Mickey Desruisseaux is a 1L at the School of Law. A Political Science major and Creative Writing minor, most of his work in and out of school has been at the crossroads of the two disciplines. Email Mickey at [email protected]
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