There’s a reason that sight is at the top of our hierarchy of senses. We typically feel that if we can see something, we have enough information to make a judgment about the person or thing we’re observing.
Think about it: When choosing a restaurant to go to, do you choose the one that’s bright and clean looking from the outside, or the one that’s dim and dirty before you even walk in?
Our eyes are even more important when it comes to politics. Elected officials feed us a diet of smooth talk and manicured images — or “theater,” as they put it — because that’s what they think we want.
However, when you realize this theater is for the benefit of “swampy” ex-politicos who go on to work in lobbying firms and the media, you start to realize there isn’t much difference between them and a sleazeball like Donald Trump.
At the very least, Trump would give us better theater.
That’s an optics problem for career politicians, which is why they intensely scrutinized Trump during his term in office. Ironically, Democrats’ hellbent efforts to boot him from office did more to expose how our politics operate than anything else.
Now, with his successor being the embodiment of stale political attitudes, they hope people will treat the revelations witnessed under Trump as aberrations. The question is, are people going to be honest about what they saw and carry those lessons with them?
Let’s not pretend Trump was a victim in all this either. He’s a crude character. The man said on hidden tape that he would “grab women by the pussy” and openly referred to some of the poorer nations of the world as “shithole countries.”
Just last year, he poo-pooed the coronavirus pandemic for too long and couldn’t live up to his tough guy image when the country burned from riots. All those instances cost him his popularity, and his chance at re-election.
But Trump never needed the presidency. He established his legacy, as either a billionaire womanizer or reality TV star (depending on how old you are), before he descended down that golden escalator. That allowed him the freedom to fire off absurd promises like being the one who could “drain the swamp.”
As expected, Trump’s deliberate actions never furthered that goal. He actually left office enabling the swamp to permeate. Yet, just by being his trollish self, he goaded his antagonists into creating a controversy that enlightened people about the seediness in our institutions.
Take the Russia collusion story. The special counsel run by Robert Mueller found that Trump was way too cavalier with how he interacted with foreign leaders and outright deceitful about how much contact he had with them.
However, it also showed that some of the FBI investigators were openly biased against the president. In 2019, an Inspector General’s report revealed a level of unethical behavior with how the FBI went about obtaining surveillance warrants from FISA courts as well. Tellingly, the FBI edited out key details so they could secure wiretaps on Trump’s campaign manager Carter Page, a private citizen.
Institutions should serve us, not work against or spy on us under unverified suspicions.
Or what about the kids in cages episode? Freshman congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told us how the border detention facilities were akin to concentration camps and even took a sobbing photoshoot outside the fenced-off area. Upon further review, we learned Obama created the facilities. He even oversaw the most deportations as president — something people didn’t notice until Trump’s campaign made immigration a central issue.
Or how about the quid pro quo debacle that came from Trump’s impeachment trial? The controversy, which started days after the Mueller Report hearings concluded, came from a whistleblower about Trump withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for them to investigate Hunter Biden’s ties to a Ukrainian gas company.
The media downplayed the last part of the story, until the younger Biden’s laptop was uncovered at a Delaware repair shop and showed him corresponding with Ukrainian officials and arranging meetings with “the big guy,” his father. Quid pro Joe, anyone?
That all looks swampy. The further our country moves away from Trump, the more people will absorb how the theater around Washington “scandals” is just a distraction. They want to keep us ignorant, so the powers-that-be can go about their self-serving agendas.
There’s a greater awareness in the post-Trump world though. His outlandishness helped people visualize the hypocrisy in a way no president had. Now, some are acting on this newfound understanding and it’s affecting Biden just three months into his term.
One example is in February, when Biden ordered an airstrike in Syria. The strike was said to be retaliatory against Iranian forces in the area. That’s all well and good, but in our digital age, there’s a receipt for everything.
In 2017, then-Senator Kamala Harris feigned horror when Trump ordered airstrikes in Syria. Following the February airstrike, “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar held a mirror up to the Biden administration’s hypocrisy by criticizing them.
As the Biden administration is learning, when you make your 180’s so blatant, you become a meme. That’s when you know people are keeping a closer eye on you.
Another example is the #MeToo Movement, originally springing forth in response to Trump’s nomination. After former Biden aide Tara Reade alleged sexual assault allegations against her former boss in the 90’s, it launched a maelstrom over how it should be handled.
Staunch Democrat allies on the New York Times opinion pages ranged from wanting to follow through on the movement’s central claim to “believe all women,” while others suddenly asked for more nuance in how these allegations were treated.
Meanwhile, the public saw the same people who wanted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to forfeit his nomination (and reputation) — such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, movement cheerleader Alyssa Milano and even Biden himself — grasping for reasons to explain why Biden’s situation was different (spoiler: it’s because it backfired).
In more recent times, Biden has struggled to “follow the science” when it comes to handling the pandemic. While the line was used as a tactical contrast to Trump’s own dismissiveness of the virus, it only took a few weeks for that campaign slogan to backfire as Biden’s plan for reopening schools became rife with controversy.
If we had a fair media, Biden would be held accountable for his screw-ups. Just look at how every journalist was quick to diagnose Trump’s health “issues,” yet are hush-hush about Biden’s obvious mental decline.
However, that’s baked into the cake, and you know it. You’re reading this article right now because you don’t trust the mainstream media to discuss these issues truthfully.
Instead, we must rely on what we see from Biden to make judgments about him. Those things that can’t be hidden. Things like biting his wife’s hand during a speech or calling voters “fat” when they confront him, or saying Black people aren’t Black if they don’t vote for him.
That’s why his handlers go through great lengths to avoid putting him in front of God and country. Public appearances have Biden reading almost exclusively from prepared remarks before scurrying away right after.
Granted, he did defeat Trump in the general election due to his own silence and a silent majority. However, Biden also inherited the world’s brightest spotlight in return, and it was only made brighter because of the act he was following and the promises he made to reverse it all.
Our eyes tell us that, so far, Biden may be one of the least impressive executives in our lifetime. If you accept that, then you also accept that he’s not the one making every decision. Look who welcomed the Japanese Prime Minister the other day. Or who disciplined an unruly communications aide without consulting the president.
The “swamp” may be just another Trumpian marketing technique, but it’s clear this is a presidency by committee.
Now comes the honesty part: is that what you voted for in November? Did your ballot read “Donald J. Trump” and “Joseph R. Biden Jr….et al?” Yet, that’s what we’re being led to believe is normal. A man who has no agency of himself is the leader of your country.
If you’re willing to acknowledge that, then you should welcome the fact that people you don’t know and who don’t answer to you are influencing your life. Call them the ‘swamp,’ or don’t. Just remember the reason you know they exist is because of a petty, egotistical, and at times, immoral guy like Donald Trump.