They did it. They actually did it. I knew if I waited long enough, the most perfect and miraculous moment of my life would arrive: the Democratic Party leadership would finally surpass my expectations of imbecility. All the anguish of seeing Trump in power would be worth it. There would be a single, ridiculous moment of beautiful catharsis. Are you ready for it? I need you to be ready for it. Ready? Okay. Here it is.
The Washington Post wrote a story about the HBO television comedy Veep. The story was titled “What happens to political satire when the real world goes mad? ‘Veep’ is about to find out.” The feature was by Ben Terris, and it contained this sentence:
Louis-Dreyfus said she has been approached by top Democrats and asked to run for office. (Not in a million years, she said she told them.)
Oh my God, it only gets better the more I think about it. I’m laughing and laughing as I type this sentence. I want to set every bookstore on fire now, because nothing will ever be better to read. I could lift for a thousand years and my body would never be ready for this.
When our editor Shane Ryan linked me to this story, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I understand this phrase is used a lot, “I couldn’t believe it.” I have used it. But I honestly gawped in pure, horror-movie perplexity. It was as if Grimace had finally come out as a serial murderer.
Top Democrats asked Julia Louis-Dreyfus to run for office.
My sides are forever crippled by this amazing news. It was worth having the carbon output of the Clinton jet hasten the end of the Earth, just to lead to this climax. This is the pot at the end of the rainbow, where performative progressivism leads. Right here.
For years consumer liberalism has been peddling two different stories under the rubric of politics:
1) Meritocracy means experts. Expert performance is our salvation. Experts are better than us.
2) Politics is basically performance. When you post online, on your Facebook feed, that is the same thing as politics. Seeing the new Ghostbusters movie is the equivalent of fighting for equal pay. Watching Duck Dynasty is the same as understanding the concerns of rural Americans.
This is the end state of a world that gave its narrative agency over to reality TV. Of course they went to the fake Veep for office. The person on television is an expert—they’re on TV, after all—and they’re performing. It makes perfect sense. This is the way the Democratic Party leadership thinks. Like, actual adults who repeal welfare and drop bombs on people and were in charge of the election did this. This is legitimately how this works for them. My God. Imagine John Podesta kicking back in his yacht with a tumbler of whiskey, thinking: what we really need at this moment of dropping bombs on Syrians is a little of that Ferris Bueller fixing that Principal Assad, and you’ve got it.
The Post piece is aiming for a certain kind of mood with the Veep feature: Wow, reality is outpacing our edgiest satire! President Trump? Haha, the gods must be crazy! This is the correct angle to take. The gods are crazy. I agree.
But if we hand off the Trump Election off to Providence, we ignore the fact that there are actors involved in the huge collision of electoral politics to reality. Trump being President is not the weather. It didn’t just happen. It was made to happen.
More specifically, it happened because the things that would have stopped it—a rational, sane society with fair economics, social justice, and distributed power—don’t exist. They don’t exist because influence is concentrated into small, self-pleased circles of wealth and power. Half of that circle is called the Democratic Party leadership, and they have no understanding of the world or themselves. That is why this happened. Demagogues do not happen in responsive political orders. The important takeaway of the Post story is not that the world is mad (although it is). It is that the Democratic Party leadership are doomed, and must be purged.
What makes the story picture-perfect, what crystallizes this unspeakable horror burst of infotainment, is that Veep is a deliberately subtle, intelligent satire about the haplessness and venality of politics as a practice, a profession, and a lifestyle. The cynicism of Veep is black and utter. This message is an unchanging seam of coal coursing through the infantile squabbles of its cast of characters.
Veep is much darker than It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. For while Sunny is about the complete Calvinist depravity of its cast—they are shut off from the healing light of God—Sunny is very clear about how marginal its monstrous “protagonists” are. The gang fails every time they try one of their schemes. This is proof, in some abstract way, that there is a benevolent, rational order to the moral universe of Sunny. The arc of justice is baffling, but it is not entirely stupid. There are non-horrible, moral adults in the world. Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Dee and Frank do not run the country. The King of the Rats is not King of the World. The Lawyer and the Waitress exist in a society where there are rules of a kind.
But Veep is not so … Sunny. In Veep, the horrors oversee the asylum. Selina Meyer is a genuinely terrible human being and was the most powerful person in the world. The Democratic Party courting the woman who stars in Veep to run for office is a plotline so unspeakable, featuring thinking so shallow, so surreal, that not even Veep would dare it. Taken separately, it is terrible to stand for nothing, to not understand your job, to be bad at your craft, to abandon the needy, to empower the dangerous, and to be deluded about what politics is and how it works. The Democratic leadership have pulled off all six at the same time.
It is perfect, too, that the Democratic party asked a wealthy, attractive person who was already famous to run for office, since that is the base of their ideology. Woke success plus performance plus upper-middle-class television equals victory. Watch out, Indiana! This is the year the state turns blue!
Good on Louis-Dreyfus for rejecting the sinking barge of the Democratic leadership. You understand why they asked her, right? She is wealthy (that is the patron base of the Democratic donor class) she is an actor at the top of her profession, a meritocrat (that is the base of their supporter class). She hits twenty-five of their twenty-five preference boxes. If she was somehow also an app and a Silicon Valley disruptor and J.D. Vance and an Ivy League diploma and Jennifer Lawrence and a Kennedy son and a Beyoncé song made flesh, that would have been the full monty. That would have absolutely nailed it.
No wonder Neil Gorsuch was sworn in today as the 113th Supreme Court Justice. No wonder the Democrats are going to lose the midterms. No wonder they lost to a television personality who probably has literacy problems.
I could tell you that this is the final move of a party with no economic message, nothing except cultural positioning and backpatting. I could tell you that a party without unions has created a world where capital is the only acceptable protagonist in the story of us. I could tell you the Democratic Party has shrunken down to a crawlspace with a neon sign saying “NPR” at one end and “Smart Water” at the other. All of this would be true in a concrete way, and nothing would communicate the existential dizziness of asking Louis-Dreyfus to be the new hope of the Donkey’s party. Under the current leadership, the Democrats are asking to be crushed. By 2015, they had lost 910 elections.
This is their idea of reform. They will keep losing, and losing, and losing some more. Every single leading member of the Democratic Party could drop twenty teeth in the middle of a gala and make a “She Persisted” meme out of it. I swear to God they could. Nothing is beyond them now.
The Democrats aren’t a political party. They’re a talk-show brand that occasionally runs and loses elections. This is their idea of a political move. This.
Television’s a strange monster. MASH didn’t end the Vietnam War. Roots couldn’t bring about equality under its own power. Sesame Street failed to summon a world of Muppet-human unity. Despite Small Wonder and Bewitched, robots and witches are still hunted on our streets. None of us have really kept up with the Kardashians. Law and Order failed to deliver either, although it filmed literally every human being in New York City. The Simpsons exhausted its ideas fifteen years ago. Seinfeld is the most financially remunerative show of all time: it has made $3.1 billion dollars since entering syndication. But throughout the world, Nazis still peddle soup, just as if Larry David had never lived.
Today, all of these shows are proven garbage. I submit that Veep is the most successful television show in history: it proved its basic premise true.