One of the many depressing things about Trumpism is how little daily life has changed, except in ways that are invisible and menacing.
For the professional class, the food is better than ever. Art, literature, film, and theater are more compelling. Cities are vibrant and safe. There are new medical miracles. And you probably got a tax cut. Global warming hasn’t hit home yet, so eat, drink, and be merry. The policy travesties affect someone else.
For the masses, the daily struggle to get by is as arduous as ever. But between the Trumpian distractions of white hyper-nationalism and the myriad amusements of the popular culture, the real political issues don’t get adequately contested. Americans are cynical about nearly everything, and especially about politics.
Which brings me to the Super Bowl, watched by about 100 million Americans. I can’t prove it, but I’d guess that more Americans have more passionate and better-informed views on the Super Bowl than on, say, the Iowa precinct caucuses.
And football is only one of maybe a thousand distractions of the mass culture that are more interesting and seductive than the messy details of democracy. (I should say that Super Bowl LIV was one terrific game. If only Elizabeth Warren could come from behind like that in the final minutes.)
The Super Bowl commercials also provided a sorry mirror. Obviously, sponsors spend a fortune testing what messages will sell. The folks who make Snickers concluded that plenty of Americans think that everything is going to hell, there’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s have a Snickers.
And the fiends at Google, who know (and sell) everything about us, decided that if they could pull our heartstrings with a sentimental ad featuring an elderly man using Google Assistant to help him reminisce about his deceased wife, we might overlook the fact that this company knows everything about us—and keep telling it even more intimate details. The perfect corporate counterpart of political fascism.
Trump, of course, concluded that there is a sucker born every minute. Trump as a criminal justice reformer!
We may yet have a chance to pull back from political and commercial fascism. It will take one hell of a fourth quarter.