Donald Trump

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023 was a good day for empty words. Millions of Americans tuned in to listen to them and days later we are still talking about them. In a world filled with meaningless nonsense, for at least a couple of hours, many Americans could agree that these words, even if empty, were still meaningful and worth their attention. If only words could change the world.

On the 23rd both the first GOP debate of the 2024 presidential cycle and its counter-programming, Trump’s interview on Tucker Carlson’s Twitter (X) feed, aired to the view of millions of people. The stream of the debate on Rumble (rightwing YouTube) peaked at around 310,000 views. It is estimated that 12.8 million people watched the debate on their TV.

Carlson’s video – simply posted on Twitter (X; which I guess is his new thing?) – sits at 254 million views as of this writing two days later. Lots of Americans may hate politics, but plenty of them had no problem kicking off the 2024 race more than a year before the actual election was going to happen. I’m sure there is a Ben Franklin quote somewhere about “being prepared for the future” and “thinking ahead” somewhere, but it’s still pretty wild that we indulge ourselves in the media-fueled vices of horse race politics for an entire year. People outside the U.S., who make fun of us for so much, must at least acknowledge our dedication to the electioneering.

Maybe this year-long shit-slinging contest we call “the election for the leader of the free world” would be more understandable, at least more bearable, if it were simply better: the “debate” barely contained any debating, instead descending into a screaming match between people who have sold their souls at the altar of power, and the Trump interview was simply one of the most boring Trump viewing experiences I’ve seen in my life. The debate breaking down into meaningless shouts between people who don’t even hear themselves, let alone each other, was pretty expected given the track record of presidential debates in the last few years, but I honestly had much higher hopes for the Trump interview.

It was the first Trump speech I had watched since late 2021; it was the first thing I was going to see on Carlson’s new “platform” (which is, again, just a Twitter (X) profile); and the entire interview was billed as the “counter-programming” of the debate meant to pull people away from watching the candidates argue. Now I’m curious how many people made the switch, listened to Trump ramble about how some showers don’t give out enough water to wash your hair (yeah, it was a weird one), and made the switch back to the debate, where some of the insults were at least creative.

Anyway, here are some highlights from both.

For the debate, I’m only really going to highlight things from the frontrunners. Not because they are frontrunners, but because they were the only people that said anything interesting. I don’t mean any offense to Burgum, Hutchinson, and Scott, they just need to get better material or at least build up their wit a bit. That, or go the DeSantis route and be boring enough to make fun of.


Ron DeSantis was meant to be in the spotlight of the event: he was leading in the polls (behind Trump, of course), he regularly gets national attention in the media, and he is the one candidate constantly in the sights of the frontrunner, which itself is a token of esteem that he’s important enough to be ridiculed (it should be noted: I did not see any words of venom about a single other candidate other than DeSantis from Trump Campaign-affiliated social media throughout the entire debate). The fascist Florida governor, however, squandered his moment in the sun, and, like a fish left on the wooden planks of a dockyard, flopped wildly and in terror every time someone moved too close to him and stared at the camera with no facial emotion except to pry his lips open for a “smile.” I have seen plenty of shots of DeSantis with his awkward smile and examples of his generally off-putting and lifeless mannerisms in press conferences announcing the next destruction of basic human rights.

At the debate, he lived up to the stereotypes perfectly. Anytime he would speak, his body and arms would move with the life of a normal human being, but his face would maintain that stone-like fixture as if slowly preparing itself for the next still frame and inevitable showing of the teeth. His arms would hit the podium, maybe even pointing his finger, to show that he was indeed another angry, passionate American who felt so wrong by the current administration, but in his eyes, you can see it's not there. They say some people have faces made for television and others faces made for radio, but DeSantis has a face made for statues (as I’m sure he’s imagined once or twice), and it seems he may be laying the first stones before even winning the office.

DeSantis did do a couple of, if not groundbreaking, note-worthy things. When discussing abortion, DeSantis, who is “proudly 100 percent pro-life” (something every single other person on that stage said nearly word-for-word), stated that he “believe[s] in a culture of life.” At this, my ears immediately perked up, because it was less than a month ago that buoys were discovered in the Rio Grande, there to deter the infamous “sea people” that brought down the Pharaohs, with saw blades in the middle of them. Saw blades – giant blade saws as if the buoys were heading to a shop class or a slaughterhouse. But the buoys weren’t heading to an industrial warehouse to chop wood or create the food that keeps people alive, they were heading for the river, where they would be bobbing in the water waiting for some poor person trying to flee who knows what in their homeland to come to the land of immigration and snag the person in the saws’ metal teeth – an industrial slaughterhouse for the poor.

DeSantis may not have been the one who put them up (that was Abbot, the governor of Texas, who I am kinda surprised isn’t in the running this time), but, as far as I can tell, he has not said a single thing about the truly inhumane practice, despite immigration being one on of the cornerstones of his campaign. Not quite a culture of life it seems. This was really the only note-worthy thing he said, and everything else of value was really what he didn’t do.

To DeSantis’, I don’t know, credit, multiple of the other candidates engaged in stupid shouting matches with one another: interrupting each other at every moment they saw a chance and, on more than one occasion, literally yelling at the other person in the microphone while they were speaking. There are whole sections of that debate I would have to listen to again and on .5-speed just to try to understand what they were yelling at each other. It got that bad. DeSantis didn’t take part in any of that, though, and that is to his credit.

Something he did not do that is absolutely not to his credit, however, is show that he has a spine, instead meekly waiting for the lead of others and showing his body is held up by jelly. In an already well-publicized scene, when the candidates were asked if they would support Trump as the nominee even if he was in jail, DeSantis can be seen pausing, looking to his left and right at the other candidates and, after seeing others raise their hands (all pretty meekly, except for Ramaswamy), DeSantis finally raised his hand to join in the pack. Even when given the golden opportunity to, again, show some life and passion for the cause Republican voters care about, DeSantis squandered the opportunity. What a leader.

I think we can all agree Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, but it didn’t have to be that guaranteed. DeSantis is a capable governor (as “capable” as right-wing assholes can be) and has some sense of real experience. Florida is a complicated state, after all. He also has national name recognition, which is a pretty big thing for an electorate that mostly doesn’t pay attention to politics till a month before they have to vote every four years. Too bad he has the charisma of a dying fish. DeSantis’ career probably isn’t dead after this election, but his 2024 hopes sure are dead after this debate. I’m very much not looking forward to staring at that face again in ‘28.


Nikki Haley is probably the most “qualified” (as people commonly use the term) candidate on the stage who hasn’t already been in the White House. She has executive experience at the state level, she’s worked in the United Nations, and, while I obviously don’t agree with the overwhelming majority of things she’s ever done or the positions she takes (her relentless need to throw trans people under the bus at the debate was downright disgusting), she hasn’t done too many things I’ve seen to push the Overton Window as far right as possible. That’s saying something for a Republican in 2023. However, that is exactly why she’s going to lose.

Haley’s 2024 strategy seems to be playing the role of the enlightened moderate, pushing through the radical, angry rhetoric (again, except when it comes to trans people) to enact tangible, achievable change for people in this country. It’s bullshit, of course – no person should take politicians at face value – but that seems to be the comms strategy. There are times in American history when that might have worked. 2024 is not going to be one of those times.

Not only is she trying to win a primary in the middle of an era with massive radicalization in both parties, she is pulling this moderate trip while running against a party incumbent who is both popular and very much not a moderate. Further, this moderate image is badly damaged by her apparently relentless need to argue with Ramaswamy. Haley was far from the only one to fall into this trap, and pretty much everyone else to be covered here played the same game, but it is particularly damaging for Haley because it is completely contrary to the image she herself is promoting. She even tried to offer an abortion proposal that was at least humane, which is a nice thing to hear when other Republicans in her home state are calling for the death penalty for those who have abortions, but proposals that are reasonable are not going to win you any love in the modern Republican Party. A nice experiment in “moderate for the times” politics, but it isn’t going to work. Oh well, see you in ‘28, Nikki.


Like watching reruns of a bad TV show, sitting through Christie’s second season is disappointing and gratuitous. This is especially true since Christie’s politics don’t seem to have developed at all in the eight long years since he tried for real the first time. Despite the shaky world ripping apart around us, I guess Chris Christie is just standing there like a stable rock, unmoving, unchanging, and relentless. This may actually be a possible platform for a candidate, but, if this is Christie’s goal, he’s very, very bad at communicating it. Instead, he has taken the lazy and not-at-all-exciting position of being the anti-Trump guy. I’m sure that will get him very fair.

Christie, like DeSantis, really only said one thing of note during the whole debate. While giving an answer to a question on crime, because Republicans are, of course, still trying to convince themselves that crime is up, Christie said that there is “plenty of room in federal prisons” for more criminals to fit into. In our time of historic incarceration levels, national politicians with an audience larger than any of us can even dream of are promoting even greater incarceration. The continuing growth of the police force did not face any opposition in the debate, and, according to Christie, it is a sin for jails to sit empty. It’s truly devastating that jails in America, and the disgusting politicians that support them, operate under a “supply creates its own demand” mentality. There’s nothing else I want to say about Christie. It’s despicable. Here’s to hoping he finally understands that his political career is dead.


Mike Pence, the ex-vice president doing what so many ex-VPs have done by taking his shot at the big chair. While this part of Pence’s presidential run is not unusual, I’m not well-versed enough in American history to say if it has ever happened before, but it certainly has not occurred in recent history. This fact, more than anything else, hangs over Pence’s head like a falling ceiling filled with boulders – something he constantly has to address not only to the other candidates but the millions of Americans who liked him until he turned his back on his old partner at the “critical moment.” And the worst part of this trap is that Pence laid it himself. Just another not-quite-poetic example of the cost of pursuing power.

Pence’s performance at the debate was second-rate in its entirety. Much like the others, he let the up-start Ramaswamy lead him into boring and meaningless shouting matches, making the few times he might have been able to speak and truly hold his own as an experienced politician childlike and ridiculous. The few words of impact he did say were nothing new: he said police funding should be done at “unprecedented levels” which, while unsurprising from a dyed-in-the-wool police state tyrant like Pence, is a truly horrifying thing to hear.

Pence was one of the only candidates to speak of abortion in specific terms, calling for a national ban at 15 weeks (which Scott followed and agreed with; the only two to be specific). Pence did deliver the only line that I actually laughed at without sarcasm in the whole ordeal: while Ramaswamy railed against his opponents for coming up to the stage just to say their “rehearsed lines,” Pence snapped back asking, “Was that one of yours?” (This was about 20 minutes in if you can find a place to rewatch the event). Pretty clever, but it’s quite a shame this cleverness doesn’t show itself at all in his policy-making.

I think it’s safe to say that we are witnessing an end to Pence’s, I don’t know, “distinguished” political career (being vice president has to mean something, right?). He absolutely isn’t going to beat Trump in the primaries – he may not even beat the other candidates – and I would be surprised if he is still a contender by the time Super Tuesday is blaring on our TVs. This is quite a downfall for the governor who became VP – hold the executive office playing second fiddle to an absolute disaster of historical proportions, and then, when that disaster finally begins to fall, become hated by your own party for doing something as simple and silly as following the law. Then, to try to make up for your embarrassing four years standing behind the #1 guy, finally go for the Oval Office in earnest just to watch it all fall apart more than a year before the finishing line and at the very first debate.

Pence’s story really should be a very loud and frightening wake-up call to the old-school Republicans. The younger generation of Republicans (and even a good portion of the established middle-aged ones that lived through the Obama years) are not satisfied with half-measures and have radicalized well past the conservatism of their fathers. Simplistic, small-town values of carefree living and low taxes are dead. If they want to stop the Republican Party from becoming the banner carriers of ultra-nationalist reactionary ideology they must either break up the two-party stranglehold over American politics to give the electorate more options, or they need to launch an intense campaign of deradicalization on their side to get away from the increasing strength of fascism. There really are no other options.

The Republican Party is not going to just suddenly turn away from the path they have started down; change isn’t going to just come by trying to bring some sense to a debate stage. It’s going to take a lot of work. As they used to say, “God helps those who help themselves.” I bet Pence has probably even said that himself.


With a lot of regret and dread, we must now turn to the person who, predictably, became the star of the show: Vivek Ramaswamy. An incredibly rich “investor” (whatever the hell kind of job that is) living in Columbus, Ohio of all places, Ramaswamy is your stereotypical up-start Republican underdog: he’s young (38), incredibly rich (worth nearly a billion dollars), and has a head full of new(ish) radical ideas that promise to right all wrongs and cure all ills. I say newish because his ideas are not that new at all – they are the same right-wing nationalist BS more focused on complaining about social issues conjured up by the John Birch Society than on anything actually affecting the average American that we have all had to deal with since the ‘70s. But these ideas are relatively new to American high politics thanks to the Trump presidency, which, not quite coincidentally, seems to be the inspiration for Ramaswamy’s run. He seems to think that if he goes on TV and yells the most right-wing authoritarian things he can think of, the xenophobic and short-sighted American electorate may just award him with the presidency.

And that is exactly what he did: he yelled and yelled, and yelled. He interrupted everyone else as often as he could, he spoke over anyone if they dared to resist his seizure of their speaking time, and he pointed his finger, literally, at every person who drew his anger. He came to that stage to make a scene and steal the spotlight, and the other candidates let him do it. More than the other candidates, the so-called moderators basically laid out the red carpet for him. It’s hard to tell if they were in on the scheme or simply inept, but, frankly, the difference does not matter. Ramaswamy stole the show, and, unlike some others, he did not waste the opportunity.

Almost every time Ramaswamy spoke – or at least the times you could hear him through the screaming – he proposed the most radical and out-there proposal on the table. On abortion, he was uncompromising: a national and complete abortion ban was the only solution. On the border: a warzone; Ramaswamy said the entirety of the military resources being sent to Ukraine should instead be sent to the southern border to be used to stop immigration. On supporting Trump even after arrest: unequivocally; it is those prosecuting him who are the real criminals. Ramaswamy did a damn good job portraying himself as the most bold and radical candidate on the stage.

In a lot of ways, it did not matter what positions the other candidates took on the issues: all they did was provide Ramaswamy the first step on the ladder to madness for him to one-up them as he inevitably interrupted and seized the floor from them. For everyone but Ramaswamy, the debate should go down as an embarrassment. If Ramaswamy had any conscience of his own, his ideas would be an embarrassment to him, too, no matter how well he stole the debate from the other candidates. Unfortunately for all of us, it doesn’t seem like sanity is going to return to the Republican debate stage anytime soon.

Luckily, I guess, just a little bit, Ramaswamy is not going to win the primary, but we will be dealing with him in national politics at least for the foreseeable future. He is the only person who certainly will survive the 2024 cycle, regardless of the outcome. We may get a break from the yelling until 2028; that is, as long as Trump doesn’t appoint Ramaswamy as his running mate, which is probably exactly what the up-start is aiming for …

All-in-all, the debate was pretty awful and boring. Watching it on Rumble, I was subjected to the same three advertisers with a total of five unique ads between them, which says quite a bit about the party of unrestrained capitalism. On the TV, my partner was watching a documentary about the controversies and fall of the British Windsor dynasty, and I could not help but feel a connection between the two programs playing in my living room. The Republican Party, much like the one-respected British monarchy, is falling apart right before our eyes. Although these developments are better for the humanity of the future, it really does get old living through major historical moments.

The debate did offer one moment of hilarious joy, though. Joy in so far as the cynics find joy in the sad irony of ridiculous situations. One of the questions asked by the Fox News lackeys was about “the elephant not in the room”: Donald Trump. You could tell, immediately, that the candidates were annoyed by the question, and some complained that they weren’t focused on “real issues” (although I would consider a presidential candidate living in the shadow of another person to be quite a real issue).

Forced to discuss their frontrunner who snubbed them, the candidates gave short and bitter answers, forcing the so-called moderators to quickly move on from the topic as the candidates grew more resentful. And it is now to Trump we turn, who, instead of joining his other presidential hopefuls in Wisconsin, visited Tucker Carlson for a Twitter (X) video to give one of the most inconsequential interviews of his life.


In hindsight, I regret writing about the debate first and leaving the Trump section for the end. It worked very well for the narrative, but now, after writing about the barely interesting debate, I am forced to conjure words about the even less interesting Trump interview. I’ve listened to Trump a lot – hearing, I believe, every speech made during the 2020 cycle – and the man sitting in Carlson’s “studio” was far from the man I’d heard dozens of times railing against the injustices he saw in the world and promoting himself as the solution to the county’s problems.

Trump isn’t the most engaging speaker in the world, but he usually, at least, covers a lot of topics and gives some solution or proposal that would seek to alleviate the issues. In Carlson’s interview, however, sat a defeated and energy-drained man. It makes sense, as the interview was filmed probably days before Trump had to surrender himself – yet again – for arrest after being indicted. But if this is the man who is hoping to make Biden look foolish on the campaign trail and embarrass him in debates as he has done so many times before, we have a very boring election cycle ahead of us.

Trump spent the majority of the time with Carlson complaining. Now, complaining is what makes Trump who he is, but these complaints were not the passion-filled, energetic declaration of problems that stormed the country in the past two presidential elections; they were bitter, defeated complaints of a man well past his prime. His complaints were not the springboard to his bold solutions, his antics were not pointed attacks on his opponents, and his commentary on the state of the nation was not forward-looking. It was pathetic, and for a man who has a very difficult campaign ahead of him, it was a glimpse of what we will probably see on November 6th, 2024: a man who spent too much energy on a losing idea finally understanding that it is all over.

There were a couple of interesting things Trump said during the interview and, surprisingly, not all of them were bad. To start off with the bad – and it happened right at the beginning of the interview, too – Trump made a joke at the expense of disabled people, joking that he often refers to the Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson not as Asa but as “Ada” (you can watch the interview here if you are so inclined. This “joke” happens at 3:08). Tucker asked him why, and Trump said, “You know, I could tell you, but I don’t want to get myself in a little trouble. But he’s weak and pathetic.” And yeah, he should get in trouble for that one. Trump’s energy may be gone, but the pit in his chest where his heart should be is still there, don’t you worry.

Later in the interview, Trump declared that all mail-in ballots were cheating, suggesting that’s the only reason mail voting happens: to cheat (26-minute mark). This wouldn’t be note-worthy – we heard this constantly from April to November 2020 – if the Republican Party wasn’t launching a new initiative called “Bank Your Vote” where they are promoting early voting, mail-in voting, and ballot harvesting! I don’t know if Trump has said anything about this new initiative (it’s getting harder to keep up with people who lose relevancy a bit more every day), but it is a far cry from the 2020 Republican line about the only votes mattering being the ones made on election day. I guess at least someone has learned from the mistakes of the past two years.

Towards the end, Carlson asked Trump, “Do you think we are moving towards a civil war?” Trump, ultimately, did not answer this question directly and avoided it, but he did offer some of the most philosophical and introspective rhetoric that I have ever heard come out of his mouth, ever. After a short pause and a deep breath, he answered with a wild spin that the January 6th, 2021 crowd was the most loving crowd he had ever seen in his life. He acknowledged that they were filled with hatred, too, but said that those filled with “such hatred” were the same people he said were simultaneously filled with love. The duality of man is being realized.

But it was when Carlson asked if “it’s possible that there’s open conflict?” Trump said, “There’s a level of passion that I’ve never seen; there’s a level of hatred that I’ve never seen, and that’s probably a bad combination.” For a man who seems to have so much fly over his head or willfully ignores all information that does not suit his purposes, this is downright insightful. I’m not nearly convinced that this apparently new insight of his has anything to do with his toned-down rhetoric in this interview, but it is a very surprising thing to hear. We will see if it has any real effects on the ‘24 election campaigning (which I guess it’s time for me to start watching rallies again).

More than anyone else, I think Trump’s time at the forefront of American politics is coming to an end. He will not go down peacefully – 2024 is bound to be a very heated, bitter, and violent year for everyone – but, unless the cracks at the seams of the U.S. widen to a breaking point, this will be the final year of Trump’s real relevancy. It’s very hard to beat an incumbent president under almost any circumstances: Trump had a lot working against him in 2020, and unless the nation faces difficulties of equal proportions I don’t think it’s really going to be a contest. This interview will probably serve as the crest of a downward tailspin for the most controversial and disruptive president of the 21st century (so far) if not modern American history generally. What a life it has been, and I’m sure the death will be just as spectacular. But I do feel confident in saying that it will be a death. August 23rd was the beginning of the end for a lot of people, and for the political renegade who took power mostly to improve his business profits, that end is coming fast. It will be how his followers act at the end that truly determines what sort of fun this nation is in for.

Enjoy the brief pause in the action everyone: 2024 is shaping up to be an embarrassment of historic proportions, and we all get front-row seats. A lot of political lynchpins of modern America are about to exit the stage. Not to applause – most likely to a lot of apathy. If we are lucky, it will just be apathy and nothing more drastic.