Donald Trump: Cultural Black Hole

I have a confession: I’ve become obsessed with Twitter. It has become my definitive “go-to” for boredom browsing. Scroll, refresh, scroll, refresh, scroll, scroll, scroll… refresh.

I’ve become obsessed with Twitter because of Donald Trump, and I don’t even follow him. My recent renaissance began in the aftermath of his election by following accounts like Seth Abramson, Chris Hayes, Maggie Haberman, and all the other accounts you undoubtedly also follow if our echo chambers form a Venn diagram.

It’s been thrilling – my parents were pre-teens when Watergate happened – and although I consider George W. Bush to be a war criminal, this is the first petty-crime-president of my lifetime. Every Mueller indictment energizes, every expose on Manafort or “The Mooch” is an evisceration; Stormy Daniels, oh my.

During the Obama presidency, there were headlines – the bailouts, Osama and Seal Team 6, Obamacare, that tan suit – but I never felt that American politics eclipsed American culture. That is now the case on a daily basis.

My hypothesis? Most presidents become cultural figures through the gauntlet of the campaign process and the election. Before his election, Trump was already a ubiquitous, recurring character in American culture. Rather than entering into culture as most presidents do when they swear on the good book of their choice, he has merely expanded to fill it.

According to a Google search, a black hole is “a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter can escape.”

Considering that I know Donald Trump’s television-watching habits and daily menu preferences, I would say this term applies. We all know what I mean when I use the phrase, “executive time” and while Eagles fans will keep shouting “Fuck Tom Brady” because they don’t understand winning, the actual most important NFL storyline this season was players protesting something other than concussions. Let’s hope Roger Goodell sent an edible arrangement to the White House.

Every late night talk show begins with an obligatory recap of Trump’s day. Art is “art in the age of Trump.” Films are commentaries on autocracy, albums are either protest albums or… what else?

A common complaint in the Age of Trump is that he is debasing American culture. While it may be true that he is our sleaziest, slimiest, most embarrassing president so far, our culture was never exactly a paragon of moral rectitude. Fox News has been kicking it old school since ‘93. I used to watch My Super Sweet Sixteen after middle school. We had Honey Boo Boo in 2008. We basically live in a Duck Dynasty.

Our culture is not being debased so much as it is being occupied.

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