Sometimes, you just don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Our Buffoon-in-Chief recently ventured out of his MAGA rally cocoon to participate in a Pennsylvania town hall. His performance was more bizarre than usual–and that, as all sentient Americans know, is really saying something. The linked article from Talking Points Memo characterized the event as a “fire hose of lying,” but I actually disagree–lying requires intent, and I think Trump is no longer able to distinguish between what is real and what he wants to believe at any particular moment. He has always been loosely tethered to reality, and I think that under the pressure of the campaign–not to mention the various ongoing criminal investigations– the tether is slipping. Badly.
Besides somehow blaming his Democratic rival Joe Biden for not enacting a national mask mandate, Trump spent the town hall claiming that a “herd mentality” would stop COVID-19 (he was presumably referring to the herd immunity method, which health experts have largely rejected as a solution to the pandemic), falsely denying that he wasn’t trying to kill preexisting conditions protections in the Affordable Care Act, and bragging about endorsements from the police when asked about systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Several observers noted that the first debate is fast approaching and the president pretty clearly isn’t ready for that debate. Chris Hayes of MSNBC tweeted something along the lines of “And this is the guy who wants the campaign to focus on mental fitness?!” Someone else tweeted a concise and accurate summary of the performance:
Trump thought he could BS his way through this town hall because he overestimates his intelligence, underestimates Americans and has relied on soft ball media coverage, wealth and privilege to protect him from all his failures all his life. He’s crumbling. Didn’t take much.
Trump presumably agreed to the Town Hall format for the same reason he agreed to 18 conversations with Bob Woodward–he has a wildly exaggerated belief in his ability to “snow” people (okay–bullshit his way through situations), and an obvious inability to recognize his own deficits–to know what he doesn’t know. He is a walking, talking example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
He also lacks an adult vocabulary. Hence “herd mentality” for “herd immunity.”
Perhaps the best reaction to this train wreck, however, came from satirist Andy Borowitz. Borowitz has been on a roll the past four years. (Say what you will about this nightmare Presidency, it has been great for comedy and satire…) The Borowitz Report’s headline read “Scientists Believe Congressional Republicans Have Developed Herd Mentality,” and the lede expanded on the theme.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota believe that Republican members of Congress have obtained “extremely high” levels of herd mentality, a new study shows.
According to the study, the researchers found that, in obtaining herd mentality, the G.O.P. lawmakers have developed “near-total immunity” to damning books, news reports, and audio tapes.
Herd mentality is, as Borowitz wrote, the dominant characteristic of all congressional Republicans, irrespective of the state they represent, “with the exception of one senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, who was deemed an outlier and therefore statistically insignificant.”
Davis Logsdon, the scientist who supervised the study, said that Republicans were exhibiting herd mentality to a degree never before observed in humans.
“Herd mentality at these levels historically has appeared only in other mammal species, like lemmings,” the researcher said.
Borowitz’ “take” on the Town Hall reminds us that the problem really isn’t that we have a corrupt, embarrassing, mentally-ill President. The problem is his GOP enablers–the lemmings who are blindly pandering to the racist cult that is Trump’s base.