Don't Underestimate Voter Exhaustion
Following the surprise success of his 1996 cult comedy classic, Swingers, then little-known writer and director Jon Favreau reunited with co-star Vince Vaughn for a film called "Made." Made is a wildly entertaining (and vastly underrated) buddy comedy that borrows a number of elements from Swingers, but takes the friendship of its two main characters (portrayed by Favreau and Vaughn) to a much higher level of audacity.
Favreau plays a hard-working, sympathetic guy named Bobby. Bobby has ties to a local mafia boss, but has instead chosen an honest job in construction. He also has a childhood friend named Ricky (Vaughn) who he’s unquestionably loyal too. But as the audience quickly learns, that loyalty really only flows in one direction. Ricky’s a narcissistic know-it-all who's always looking out for himself, and never hesitates to take advantage of Bobby’s good will and good nature (like when Bobby got him a job at the same construction company). Worse, Ricky is perfectly willing to throw Bobby under the bus when it suits his purposes.
For example, there’s a particularly funny scene where Ricky gets into a verbal spat with a realtor at one of the construction sites. When the realtor asks for Ricky’s name (to report him to his boss), Ricky instead gives him Bobby’s name (knowing he'll be the one to suffer the consequences).
This is an ongoing theme throughout the film. When Bobby’s financial struggles become serious, he reluctantly takes on a job with the mafia boss, serving as “muscle” for some illegal out-of-town dealings with some potentially rough customers. And against his better judgement (due to his inherent sense of loyalty), Bobby vouches for Ricky, and convinces the apprehensive boss to let his friend work the job with him.
Of course, Ricky makes Bobby pay for his kindness. He and his constantly moving mouth complicate every situation (including some very sensitive ones) the two run into. Ricky’s ego and cockiness, elevated by his newfound stature as a “connected guy,” leads him to second-guess everyone in the chain of command, reveal information he was specifically told not to speak of, say the most offensive things at the worst possible times, and repeatedly put the two in needless danger.
All of this, again, is at the expense of Bobby who vouched for and supported him.
The image from the movie poster at the top of this column illustrates the two’s dynamic quite well. From the back of a limousine, the overly-confident Ricky doesn’t know when to stop talking, while Bobby is left beaten, despondent, and completely exhausted from the relationship.
From a film perspective, it's comedic gold. But in real life, if you're part of the story, it isn't so funny.
I think of that poster sometimes… in the realm of today’s politics, especially on weeks like the one we’re having right now.
This week, when President Trump wasn’t engaged in a mindless Twitter war with Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, carrying on about “The Squad,” blaming the Federal Reserve for recession concerns, and looking up at the sky and referring to himself as “The Chosen One,” he was thinking about the island of Greenland… but not so much in the way a “stable genius” would.
The president took an online joke about the United States buying Greenland, and turned it into an international incident with the prime minister of Denmark, because she referred to the notion as “absurd.” That was enough for Trump to call her “nasty” (a harsher term that he’s ever used for Kim Jong Un and Vladmir Putin), and cancel a scheduled meeting with her.
But that was just the icing. What took the cake this week was his rhetoric on Israel and Jews.
The president not only quoted an individual who likened him to the “King of Israel” and the “second coming of God,” but also claimed that American Jews who vote for Democrats are either ignorant of history or “disloyal” to Israel. This was either advocacy for dual-loyalty (an idea that Ilhan Omar had previously gotten in hot water over) for Jews, or evidence that the president astonishingly doesn’t understand the difference between American Jews and Israelis. Either way, the remarks were idiotic and offensive (including to people who would otherwise have his back).
I’ll go back to the term “exhausting,” because while none of these incidents, on their own, will be a deciding factor in the 2020 election, their accumulation since Trump took office could very well be.
Right now, much of America feels like Jon Favreau’s “Bobby” — making money and riding in the back of a limo of a good economy, while completely exhausted and worn down by the guy in the Oval Office who won’t stop saying stupid, divisive, and demoralizing things on their behalf.
This even has to be exhausting for a lot of Trump supporters. I’m not talking about his dedicated disciples who hear him described as the “second coming of God,” and think, “that sounds about right.” I’m talking about those who generally agree with him on policy, and have no love for his Democratic opponents and media critics, but wish every day (even as they're compelled by a sense of loyalty to defend him) that he’d start acting like an adult, and stop embarrassing them and the country with his over-the-top reality-show drama.
At some point (especially if the economy loses momentum), even those concerned about the far-left tilt of the Democratic party and its eventual nominee may well decide that enough is finally enough, and kick the obnoxious loudmouth out of the limo.
And if those who want Trump to win re-election next year aren’t concerned by this, they probably should be.