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Refilling the swamp


Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” by which he meant to purge all the smart, forward-thinking and capable public servants in Washington and replace them with religious fanatics and white nationalist rightwingers who would pledge undying loyalty to him. Well, Trump did a good job “draining the swamp,” and America has paid a devastating price.

So it’s good to see “the swamp” being filled in again by Joe Biden. By that, I mean that if refilling the swamp means bringing expertise, common sense and the rule of law back to government, I’m all for it! I’ll tell you what’s really being drained, now that Trump is a loser: the clerical-fascist cult that has been carrying out a slow-motion coup d’etat for the past 4 years, under the fuehrership of the most divisive, ignorant, crooked and sociopathic president in American history.

Here, for your delectation, is some of the sludge that’s being flushed out along with Trump: Mike Pompeo. Mike Pence. Kayleigh McEnany. Kellyanne Conway. Stephen Miller. Steven Mnuchin. William Barr. Eugene Scalia. Alex Azar. Elaine Chao. Betsy DeVos. Chad Wolf. Kelly Craft. Gina Haspel. Emily Murphy. Rudy Giuliani. Oh, and let’s not forget the evangelical thugs whom Trump carries around with him like suckerfish, like Trump’s “spiritual advisor,” the psychopath who “speaks in tongues,” Paula White, and the reprobate grifter, Franklin Graham. And, of course, the Trump family: those greedy spawn of his, and the conniving, maniacal Melania.

Soon, they’ll be gone, gone, gone, losers driven out in embarrassment and scandal, hopefully never again to hold positions of power. Hopefully, too, they will be the victims of never-ending lawsuits, indictments and public scorn. Do I sound vengeful? Very well, then I am vengeful. A little schadenfreude is not uncalled for.

The Trump years are beginning to seem like a dream, aren’t they? A bad dream. Do you remember what it’s like to be very sick—say, with the flu—you’re debilitated for days on end, on your knees, miserable. And then there’s that first day when you realize you feel normal again. You want to celebrate! Your energy is back. The pain and exhaustion are gone. The feeling that you want to curl up into a little ball and die isn’t there anymore. Instead, health! Well-being! Vitality! Life feels beautiful again, you can breathe, you can run, you can enjoy a good meal with good wine, you can make love again, you’re back! That’s what it feels like now. This is why Biden says “America’s back.”

We’re not the sick man of the world anymore the way we’ve been for the last four years. We’ll rejoin the family of nations, the prodigal son welcomed back to the bosom of humankind. Once again, we can work with friends around the world to combat climate change, participate in the World Health Organization, befriend Muslim nations, restore the rights of legitimate immigrants at our borders, revitalize our European alliances, and in general let the world know that sanity and decency have been restored to American governance.

And what of Trump’s supporters? It’s conventional wisdom to suppose that they’re not going anywhere, that they’re more resentful than ever, that they’re going to constitute a Third Column of revolutionaries and fantasts, kept in a perpetual state of rage by the continued Twitter rantings of their Dear Leader. Well, I have a slightly different perspective. I think it’s just as likely that Trump will fade away. He said, in October before the election, that if he lost, he might have to move to another country. That’s still a possibility; Moscow? It’s also possible that, when the night sweat of Trump fever breaks, millions of his followers might decide that, in retrospect, he really was a horrible and disgusting person. Such things have historic precedent. When Hitler was gone, many Germans denounced him. It’s possible, of course, that they were lying, or fooling themselves, or just trying to avoid condemnation or arrest, but it’s equally plausible that they meant it: After witnessing the destruction Der Fuehrer wrought upon Germany and Europe, they came to their senses. It wouldn’t take the majority of Trumpers changing their minds to fundamentally eliminate trumpism as a factor in American life. As his support begins to erode, it builds on itself. Prodded by a teenaged child, a mom who voted for him comes to understand what a mistake she made. She works on her husband, who eventually and grudgingly comes to the same conclusion. One by one, Trump supporters recover. This may not make them “liberal,” or have sympathy for Democrats. But it will at least wean them from trumpism. Like recovered alcoholics, they can lead productive, peaceful lives without the addiction that previously made them so sick. In this way, Trumpers dwindle over time, like those dead-end Japanese soldiers, still fighting World War Two on Pacific atolls decades after Japan surrendered.

Am I being optimistic that we can isolate Trumpers and contain them? At this point, we can afford to be optimistic. We danced in the streets when we realized Biden had won. We’ll dance in the streets on Inauguration Day, when Joe Biden becomes #46 and Kamala Harris makes us proud as Vice President. There will be troubles aplenty in the future, things we can’t foresee, but meanwhile, we can at least take comfort in the fact that We Did It: The Resistance has triumphed, and Trump and trumpism are headed for the ash heap of History.

  1. Steve,

    I’ve been a long time fan of your wine writing and your political views. Thank you. A few comments apropos of nothing:

    First, I’m so sorry about Gus. Dogs are God’s gift to humans, and every day with a dog is a privilege. In dog years, every one of our days is a week of their life, so we should make every one of their days special.

    Second, please don’t celebrate the end of Trumpism. Like mildew and herpes, they’ll be back. Biden is a temporary respite and likely an unhelpful one unless by some miracle we win in Georgia. Which we won’t because we can’t have nice things. And Democrats are just so good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Trumpism and the denial of democracy is now okay.

    On a more constructive note, did you read Tim Alberta’s piece in Politico on Michigan politics and what Trumpism has done. It’s devastating but has a decent note of hope.

    Lastly, what do you think the California wine industry looks like in ten years? How many fire-marred years can we stand? And what of the shape of the California wine industry? I feel like it’s dividing into two strata the same way that income disparity has. Stupid expensive vanity Napa cabs vs. magnums and boxes of industrial red. Is there a middle ground of uncompromising but not stupidly expensive wine out there? Or is the only way to be uncompromising is to charge a mint or limit distribution to a chosen few like a Saxum?

    Please give Gus a hug for me.


  2. Dear Mike, thanks for your comment. You ask about the California wine industry in 10 years. I have no crystal ball, but what I know is that in Europe, the wine industry has survived for a thousand years, through wars and other catastrophes, so I am not troubled by the future of the California wine industry. We’ll get through this.

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