This past weekend, Saturday Night Live ran a parody advertisement called “CNZen.” The idea was that it was parodying a meditation app, only for liberals anxious about Donald Trump.
“As someone whose entire personality is hating Donald Trump, you need more. You need to feel calm and reassured,” the fake commercial says. Therefore, it offers the voices of different CNN anchors, “which soothes even the most militant liberals, with sensuous details from Trump’s arrest.” The meditator hears CNN personalities like Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, and Maggie Haberman describing the circumstances of the case against the ex-president. There’s also “audio erotica of District Attorney Alvin Bragg reading all 34 felony counts.”
No, SNL isn’t going anti-left; the same episode featured Donald Trump impersonator James Austin Johnson comparing himself to Jesus at the Last Supper. But it did show a dynamic that’s undoubtedly true: Opposition to Trump is a powerful force, and Trump continues to occupy a bigger place in the imagination of his political opponents than ex-presidents – or even competitive candidates – typically do.
Sure, like with most things Donald Trump, he’s a break from the norm, especially by continuing to hold the spotlight after his election defeat, by pretending he didn’t really lose, and by jumping into the race early to run for president again.
The Wall Street Journal noticed this too, with an op-ed by William McGurn arguing that “Donald Trump’s Enemies Need Him.”
McGurn compared the current situation with Trump to the position of liberals following the resignation of Richard Nixon, by pointing to a vintage cartoon in the Village Voice in which a bored liberal declared “I Need Nixon.” (How many people have gone from reading the Village Voice in the 1970s to writing for the Wall Street Journal five decades later? Probably quite a few.)
“Donald Trump is the new Nixon,” McGurn writes. “Yes, his significant early lead in GOP 2024 primary polls reflects a large constituency that wouldn’t abandon him, as he once put it, if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone. Still, Republicans have other candidates they could nominate and it wouldn’t lead them to a crisis of the soul.”
McGurn then turned his fire not so much at liberals, but rather never-Trump conservative types who have created a new political identity in the Trump era.
“Some of them—the Lincoln Project comes to mind—have made a small fortune off Mr. Trump. At least two online journals, the Dispatch and the Bulwark, got started as expressions of conservative opposition to Mr. Trump. And would former Rep. Adam Kinzinger ever be in the news if Mr. Trump weren’t there to attack him?”
He also noted that media companies have found themselves missing out on the revenue and eyeballs that Trump brought with him during his political rise and later presidency, although an upcoming Trump trial would likely bring some of those eyeballs back.
The Democrats are mentioned low down in the story.
“Then there are the Democrats, who have been running against Mr. Trump for so long it’s not clear they would know what to do against another Republican candidate except shout ‘Jan. 6’ in response to any statement about taxes or spending or the Biden administration’s incoherent foreign policy.”
This implies that “January 6” is not a worthy thing to “shout,” nor a fair thing to tie to political opponents who have lied about that day or directly participated in it.
“But no one’s been less willing to turn the page than Mr. Biden,” he wrote. “In addition to blaming Mr. Trump for his own fiascoes—first it was inflation, last week it was the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan—he routinely demonizes Mr. Trump’s supporters. Mr. Biden depends on Mr. Trump for his own sense of moral heroism, so much so that if the GOP nominated someone else, Mr. Biden would campaign against Mr. Trump anyway.”
Even more than two years after his defeat, Donald Trump looms large over everyone in politics. But many would say that the failure of Republicans to let go of him is more of a source of shame than anti-Trump folks with a similar attachment.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.