Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.

Image: Bernard Spragg. NZ

“Why are loud-mouth jerks like Donald Trump and ‘The Mooch’ successful, while more thoughtful people with actual souls have to struggle?” — Bewildered Bob

We’ve spent the past six months to a year in a spiral of think pieces. And the truth is there is no one answer why we currently have to see and think about Donald Trump on an almost daily basis. It has simplistically been summed up by explaining something about Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If only Hillary Clinton had campaigned there more. If only Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic nominee. If only 77,000 combined people in those states had just decided to vote another way. Maybe if dumb people had forgotten to vote. We’d already have 2 or 3 impeachment trials going on against President Hillary Clinton if she had won. Maybe we’re better off for not having to live through those?

But this discounts Donald Trump’s appeal. His blustery self-confidence blew him into the White House, despite almost everything else we know about him. On the outside of the future Trump Memorial they should carve into the marble “Fake It Til You Make It.” Whether he will ever truly “make it” or not is up in the air. He does not seem interested in the job of the American Presidency or its duties. Anyone who runs for our nation’s highest office is bargaining like Faust. Get it and you’ll spend your days “in power” coming to understand how limited that power can be. Don’t get it and you’ll spend your days eating Twinkies on the couch.

Trump apparently was unaware that you can’t do much in the U.S. Senate without 60 votes. This goes along with some of the other fun quirks of the USA like losing the popular vote but winning the Presidency and allowing Rhode Island to have as many Senators as California. This could not have been predicted by the founders, but it has not been remedied by anyone, either. We’ve come to accept these rather fatal flaws in the American system because, hey, we usually only have to seriously worry about the American government during election years. Now, instead, it’s like a daily slog through constitutional crises. Maybe pass a law now that says no one can be POTUS who couldn’t themselves pass the U.S. Citizenship Test.

Cut Texas and California into smaller states. There are 264,000 people living in Jersey City, NJ and 281,000 living in Newark. That’s slightly less than the population of Wyoming. Should we have two Senators working on just our problems? Looking out for us? Maybe every Wyoming-sized chunk of population in the US should have two Senators and a member of the House?

In America, it is great to be a rich, white dude. You don’t have to be nice. Or smart. Or good. You will be judged by how sure of yourself you are. Not what you actually accomplish. Kevin Williamson’s piece in the National Review compares Trump and the Mooch to characters in a Mamet play. This suggests blustery self-confidence as a symptom and not as the end result of a life lived vapidly. Coach Bill Parcells, winner of two Super Bowls, once famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” A decade or so later it was Jets’ Coach Rex Ryan’s bluster that ruled the day, not his, or the Jets’, record. It kept him employed, and soon to be on TV. It does not matter what your record is. It matters what you say your record is.

Style now beats substance. And men who pretend to know everything are usually given the benefit of the doubt. We want to be seduced into believing that someone who promises us the world will in fact deliver the world. I don’t think this will necessarily usher in a new Golden Age of Assholes. Politicians have been full of shit for as long as government itself. It used to be slightly harder to figure out how the sausage got made. But everyone still ate it. A few more months of Trumpy business-as-usual and I do think we’ll be entering a new Golden Age of Veganism.

George Will wrote that Trump is the President the United States didn’t know it needed. His argument is that Trump is a cautionary tale regarding Americans’ singular fascination with the Presidency. Possibly Trump is the cure for this. In the future someone will ask you “Who is the President of the United States?” And you will say “Um…I think it’s a Ginger for some reason? I want to say Chucky Something? All I see is red hair.” Maybe we shouldn’t get so involved in the minute-to-minute humiliation of everything we hold dear. Possibly we’re overreacting to the slow, hideous disintegration of all that we once believed about our nation and its people. It is possible that winning the news cycle and hitting back on Twitter are more important in the long run than liberty and the rule of law.

But why do these bastards get to win, you may be asking yourself. Why do good things happen to bad people? Because the Earth is permanently fucked in favor of the rich. So much so that it’s shocking when everything doesn’t just fall into their fucking laps. The Fall of the House of Trump will not be a cautionary tale for another generation. No one will ever want to talk about it once they’re all in jail or Russia or whatever happens next. If you ask me, the universe does not bend toward justice. It is forever falling for everyone’s bullshit, and we’ve only not blown up everyone and everything on this planet by pure luck alone. There is no good and bad, there are just things that happen to humans while we’re alive. And when we die, we’re dead for a long time.

So let the loudest crow and stammer. Let them talk like gangsters. Everything that rises must converge. And by converge I mean lose everything, stop moving around and eventually vanish completely. Which is maybe a good thing.

Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works in a bookstore.