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Trumpers Know Comedy and It’s Making Us Nervous

Postpone Election Day? Hilarious.
July 31, 2020
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Some on the right have accused us Never Trumpers of being a bit too severe with our focus on banal ephemera such as “norms” and “institutions” and “democracy.” (SNOOZE.) They argue that we concern ourselves with matters such as “governance,” rather than keeping our eye on the ball of what best owns the libs. We’ve been called “coronabros” for caring a wee bit too much about mass death and economic decay, rather than throwing caution to the wind and gathering in poorly ventilated auditoriums to breathe all over one another.

And to be fair, our critics do have a point with these charges. While we’ve indulged in a joke from time to time, our oeuvre does tend towards the austere.

When it comes to matters of burlesque and buffoonery we must instead defer to the experts, the Original Kings of Comedy—the Senate GOP Conference and their cheerleaders in the conservative media. Yes these folks truly have a refined ear for a wisecrack, and their comedic acumen is making lefties nervous.

It was these senators who brushed off Never Trump blowhards like the co-founder of the Federalist Society and recognized some good, old-fashioned tomfoolery when President Trump unleashed another hot fire tweet yesterday morning suggesting that the 2020 vote will be “fraudulent” and we should “delay the election.”

“I think it’s a joke,” said Big John Cornyn, somebody who knows his way around a cheeky tweet about a matter of life or death. North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer went further, “I laughed, I thought my gosh this is going to consume a lot of people, except real people. And it was clever.”

Clever? Huh. I have to admit, I’m not seeing it.

The same morning as Trump’s tweet about delaying the election we received news that the economy is in tatters. An ally of the president had succumbed to the coronavirus, another of the over 150,000 Americans dead. A civil rights icon whose life’s work was fighting for voting rights for all Americans was being eulogized. Meanwhile, the leader of the free world was vamping about voter fraud and canceling elections.

Maybe the joke is in there somewhere. Doesn’t land for me. But hey, that’s a tedious Never Trump scold for you.

Maybe if we dissect the tweet we can find the humor. The good news is that the president of the United States pinned this dire warning to the top of his Twitter home page—usually the place for comedy—so it can be found easily.

The most familiar type of humor for me is wordplay. Who doesn’t love a good pun? But not seeing anything here in that department.

The tweet also seems to be absent both a set-up and a punch line.

There’s no physical humor or scatology.

I don’t believe it to be satire.

Deepak Chopra said that a joke is when “the deepest part of your consciousness—your soul—recognizes a paradox and laughs.” The paradox here may be that this callous buffoon is in tweeting nonsense during a time of grave national concern, but that doesn’t seem to be the type of thing that Kevin Cramer would laugh about.

It’s a mystery. Then again, this isn’t the first time such a joke has flown over our heads. The president recently “joked” about how, as the death toll from the coronavirus was skyrocketing, he slowed down the testing regime because all the charts they were showing on his favorite TV shows were making him look bad.

His spokesperson tried to explain that knee-slapper on CNN and, well . . .

Gotta say, still not seeing it.

Which leaves me with the old Rounders maxim: “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”

Maybe it’s ME who is the butt of the joke here.

Maybe the clever part is that the man presiding over compounding crises is such a master troll that he has gotten people who care about our democracy all hot and bothered over something that he’s too hapless to actually act on while giving millions of his supporters the impression that their preferred candidate was illegally robbed of his re-election, weakening their trust in our institutions and using that grievance to keep his grip on their loyalty even in defeat.

Hilarious.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark's writer-at-large and a communications consultant. He previously served as senior advisor to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, communications director for Jeb Bush, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee.