The Assholery Is the Point

In his brilliant 2018 essay about the dark heart of Trumpism, "The Cruelty Is the Point," Adam Serwer asserted that "This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only the [former] president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it." The book version expands the idea of that cruelty into policy, the legal system, and more, very clearly laying out the savage vision of America's slide into authoritarianism. It's all chilling and frighteningly prescient-feeling. 

There is another layer to this, though, one that is less invested in any principles or coherent ideology or, indeed, reality itself. In the post-Trump (for now) era, Republicans feel liberated to just be total assholes, reason be damned. The only guiding idea, if there is one, is doing shit that pisses off their imagined enemies. Yes, you can say it's an assertion for power for power's sake, but much of it is ludicrous, so insultingly dumb, that it really appears to be mostly being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole.

Take, for instance, House Republicans changing the rules so that smoking is now allowed on the House side of the Capitol. Members could smoke in their offices, but that wasn't assholish enough, so now fuckpigs like Tom Cole of Oklahoma can cocksuck on a stogie in the House Rules Committee room, with the stench permeating large areas of the House of Representatives. The rule first changed to ban smoking in all but personal offices in 2007, when Democrats took the House, but even squishy toy Paul Ryan and human chimney John Boehner didn't change it again. The Senate doesn't allow smoking at all. Republicans are literally endangering people around them with secondhand smoke (honestly, I don't give a fuck if it murders the GOP smokers) for something that gets Tucker Carlson all hard and throbbing since he really sets the GOP agenda these days.

And let's see how quickly they end up putting back the metal detectors, which the GOP also had removed from the House. 

Everywhere you look, you see Republicans just doing asshole things. Some of them are incoherently dumb, as if they read a post on Truth Toilet or Twitter and decided the way to get the likes and thumbs up and hearts is to do it. In Arkansas, new governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (forgot that happened, didn't you?) has issued an executive order banning the use of "Latinx" from official communications and documents. And it's not enough that they are doing the asshole move. They have to go all Joe McCarthy on everything. Part of the executive order is this: "All state offices, departments, and agencies shall submit a written report to the Governor detailing the findings of their review regarding the current use of the terms 'Latinx,' 'latinx,' 'Latinxs,' or 'latinxs.'" Why? Why the hell would that matter? The change in language (or, you know, "censorship") will happen regardless of how it was used in the past. It's pure intimidation; it's putting any state employees on notice. It's assholishness, through and through. 

By the way, Arkansas was last led by another Republican, Asa Hutchinson, for 8 years. That means that "Latinx" was being used under a conservative. Of course, Hutchinson was the wrong kind of conservative because sanity bubbled up in him every now and then. He was an asshole, sure, but he wasn't doing things just to be an asshole. Sanders, though, has the Fox "news" cred to think of. Sanders just dissolved the Covid working groups in her state, declaring that there will be no vaccine or mask mandates and that Arkansas has "prioritized COVID-19 disproportionally." Again, everything she's saying is bad is what a fellow Republican did. And if it means killing the people of her state, nothing will halt her asshole march.

These asshole actions often have consequences on real lives. Take, for instance, the uber-asshole of the moment, Florida Governor and future loser of 2024 presidential race Ron DeSantis, who always looks like he's angry that anyone would accuse him of farting even though he totally was the one who dealt it. While it's an asshole move for any governor to order the transport of asylum-seeking migrants from border areas to places like outside Vice President Harris's residence, DeSantis went the extra asshole mile by flying migrants in Texas to Martha's Vineyard, wasting government resources to show he's the biggest anus around. 

DeSantis is working on levels of assholery that are almost metaphysically assholish. There's his battle with anything he sees as "woke," which I guess means "shit that makes straight white guys feel like they don't have all the power." In addition to the "Don't Say 'Gay'" bill, which bans any discussion of gender identity or sexuality in most school settings, and the "Stop WOKE Act," which prevents teaching anything that makes anyone sad about history, DeSantis and the nutzoid Republican legislature are now demanding that all Florida colleges and universities that receive any state funds to "report costs associated with campus diversity, equity and inclusion programs," meaning any "staff, programs, and campus activities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and critical race theory." The memo requiring this was sent out on December 28. Everything was due this past Friday. They gave institutions of higher education two weeks to sort all this out, with the possibility of losing state funding if they didn't comply. On top of that fuckery, DeSantis is appointing completely unqualified right-wing and Christian extremists to the Board of Trustees of New College, a small liberal arts school. And let's not get into DeSantis's just fucking weird attack on Disney for daring to oppose the rampant homophobia of his administration. Who's fucking doing the canceling now, shitmonger? 

It's all assholery. On and on and on it goes. In Congress, the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government that the Republican-led House of Representatives just passed? Assholery. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which bravely says you can't kill babies and which passed the House before a sure doom in the Senate? Assholery.

Clearly, this is all just attention whoredom of the lowest order. Anything to get that sweet Tucker invite. Anything to make the other assholes tell you how awesome you are. But there is a real danger here, and it's different than the danger of the acts of wanton cruelty. Right now, all of these policies are based on completely invented issues. No one is murdering babies born after failed abortions. No one is trying to make your kids gay or transgender. No one is harmed by the use of "Latinx" and smoking is still fucking dangerous. And, yeah, people should feel fucking sad about our fucked up American history. That's what makes you change shit. That fantasy, though, drives people to behave in ways that prop up the fantasy. The death threats against teachers and hospital workers and anyone who doesn't join in the fantasy aren't going to stay just threats for long.

But the assholes don't care that it's all a fantasy. In fact, that's part of what makes it so much fucking fun. That shit drives us crazy. Yes, some people just want to watch the world burn, but some get off on making you watch it burn with them, whether you want to watch or not. And if you don't notice the fire, they'll fan the flames until the smoke suffocates you.