That’s how Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi described the pitch that Donald Trump made to voters during the 2016 campaign when we spoke earlier this year. Roughly half the country, he reasoned, voted for political dynamite, someone who would upend Washington.
Taibbi spent all of 2016 covering the Trump campaign for Rolling Stone, eventually writing a book about that experience. He was convinced, at least early in the campaign, that Trump would flame out. But Taibbi quickly realized that something was afoot. Voters saw in Trump a total rejection of everything they despised about liberal elite culture.
We’re now six months into the Trump presidency. And though he has certainly exploded the Washington consensus, are his voters getting what they wanted?
I reached out to Taibbi on Monday, the day new White House communications director Anthony (“the Mooch”) Scaramucci was unceremoniously fired. Taibbi predicted last Friday that Scaramucci wouldn’t last long, in part because no one lasts long in this White House and also because, well, the Mooch is unhinged — even by Trumpian standards.
I asked Taibbi what he makes of the first six months of the Trump administration, and if it’s as gloriously bad as he anticipated. “We basically have a highly functioning society that is going through a lot of embarrassment,” he told me. “Trump understood that politics has been reduced to a TV show, and so he made it a kick-ass show that gets awesome ratings.”
Some of those Trump voters might be turned off by what they’re seeing, Taibbi says, but due to a fragmented media landscape, they’re just as likely to believe that “there's a coastal liberal media conspiracy out to get the president.” In the end, we’re left with a “pitched cultural battle” in which people have chosen sides and reality, however ugly, rarely intervenes.