The Reality of the Reality Show

All warfare is based on deception. Sun Tzu

I’m concerned we’re deceiving ourselves.

A few years ago, an orange huckster descended a golden staircase. Many of us laughed at the spectacle. At the fact that he paid people to stand and cheer for him. At the measly crowd.

He knew what he was doing.

I remember sitting in my car at my son’s preschool pickup, relishing the ridiculousness of Trump’s candidacy over the phone with a friend.

“There’s no way he wins the nomination,” we assured one another. “But if he does, that will be great for Hillary!”

Why did we think that?

Because we believed that when faced with a potential president Trump, people would get out and vote because they would recognize the threat he posed.

We adopted a “wait and see” approach. Wait and see if Trump wins the nomination. Wait and see how and when Republicans would neuter him. Wait and see…

It’s a “wait and see” approach that has brought us to this moment of crisis, by pressing pause on the reality of the situation – convincing us that inaction is sufficient action because we’re giving people a chance to be reasonable.

But it is reasonable to be concerned.

I’d argue that – after all we have learned in these Trumpian years – it is the only appropriate response.

On Saturday night in Youngstown Ohio, Trump held a revival for JD Vance, the Appalachia-born now Silicon-Valley con artist.

Like Trump, Vance has succeeded in life by figuring out what sells. And then selling it.

Unfortunately there are always people willing to buy what these charlatans sell.

A lot of ink has already been spilled about the event, what with a crowd of people clad in red, glassy-eyed and swaying lightly as if in a trance, giving Trump a one-fingered-Nazi-lite salute.

In the background, the event piped in music. Not just any mood music, mind you. It was the Q Anthem (or something so similar to it that it was intended to be mistaken for it). That’s literal music to their ears.

For a few days now, Trump has been directly playing upon Q adherent’s fervent hope that “The Storm” is coming. Q believers are convinced that Trump is moving behind the scenes to thwart a worldwide consortium of pedophiles and cannibals (Democrats). His triumphant and violent return to power, coupled with public trials and executions, is referred to as “The Storm.”

So his use of “their” music is not coincidental, and it is certainly noteworthy.

It cannot be taken lightly.

Neither can what he said during that segment of his speech, which hasn’t gotten nearly so much attention as has the imagery and the spectacle. Here’s what Trump said:

It is hard working patriots like you who built this country, and it is hardworking patriots like you who are going to save our country. We will stand up to the radical left lunatics and RINOs, and we will fight for America like no one has ever fought before.

There is no mountain we cannot climb, there is no summit we cannot reach, there is no challenge we cannot meet, there is no victory we cannot have. We will not bend, we will not break, we will not yield, we will never give in, we will never give up, we will never ever ever ever back down. As long as we are confident and united, the tyrants we are fighting do not stand even a small chance of victory. Because we are Americans, and Americans kneel to God and to God alone. (The crowd erupts.)

My fellow citizens this incredible journey we are on together has only just begun. And it is time to start talking about greatness for our country again. We are one movement, one people, one family, one glorious American nation.

So with the help of everyone here today and citizens all across our land, we will make American powerful again.

We will make America wealthy again.

We will make America strong again.

We will make America proud again.

We will make America safe again.

And we will make America great again!

There’s a lot to unpack there, in his words.

The religious imagery, the “othering,” even the simplicity of the language that was used. (That passage has a Flesh-Kincaid grade level score of 7 – it’s copy a typical 12-year-old could easily understand. A typical Obama speech, on the other hand, is high school or college level text.)

He knows that this group is engaged in what Caroline Orr Bueno, Ph.D refers to as “participatory disinformation,” and he’s feeding that dragon. He is assisting their deception of themselves, reinforcing their delusion, and praising them for being the only “true” patriots under God. He’s giving them the unassailable rationale: you are doing God’s work, saving the country from demons and child molesters. What more noble cause is there?

But confronted with the jaw-dropping images from this event, and the clear language, and the tell-tale music… even with all of this I’ve seen very well-respected and thoughtful folks urge caution.

Not caution that we not recognize the obvious threat and act immediately.

But caution that we not overreact.

This pacification is dangerous.

It is true that perhaps only a hundred people on the floor of the Youngstown arena raised their hands in that Nazi-lite salute.

Note that Trump did not stop them.

Their fellow rally-goers did not discourage them.

Not a single Republican official that I am aware of, let alone the Party, has condemned them.

JD Vance still rushed to Trump’s side, Ohio statewide officials still tweeted their praise of Trump, and everyone simply carried on as usual… as if that behavior was typical, normal, acceptable. They certainly did not distance themselves from it.

It is reasonable to be alarmed.

Only one party remains committed to democracy. The other has proven willing to burn the system down to secure power and to cultivate the worst instincts in people to keep it.

Saying that, and acting on that, is not being alarmist. It’s being honest, and responsible.

Their candidates are running on their willingness to overturn an election if it is not favorable to them.

And they’re already breaking the law and causing state-level constitutional crises for the sake of power. State legislators in Ohio have violated the state constitution seven times to secure maps the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional gerrymanders. Seven times! They have flatly ignored deadlines set by their state supreme court to draw new maps. The maps being used this November are unconstitutional.

But that lawlessness is not even a blip on the radar. It’s likely you’ve not heard about it.

Why? Because Republicans violating the law to secure their own power is no longer newsworthy. It’s baked into who they are, now.

Meh. Old news. Settle down. It will all work out in the end...

Friend, if I could go back in time, I’d tell my 2016 self to take Trump seriously. I’d do everything in my power to raise the alarm.

The reality of our current situation now is as clear as Trump’s danger should have been in 2016.

Don’t be pacified into inaction.

It is 49 days until the election.

Let’s get to work.

Two great events today, One Tomorrow, and one star-studded event Friday (scroll down!).

24 Hours of Action – It’s Already Started!

Last night at 7:30 pm eastern, a number of postcarding groups and organizations started a 24 hour marathon called Postcard Around the Clock. They’ve rounded up a group of amazing presenters for short talks that will keep the event moving along.

There are MANY speakers that you’ll want to tune in for. But please try to join today from 12:30pm-3pm EST to hear from David Pepper (Laboratories of Autocracy, Blue Ohio) and Jessica Craven (Chop Wood Carry Water). You won’t want to miss either of them. And like I said, the lineup is just fabulous. You need to TUNE IN!

Link to register:

Two Minute Action: Voter Registration – Check Yours!

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and a great way to celebrate is to head over to and check your voter registration. While you’re there, you’ll see tons of great resources they provide that you can share with your network.

There are state deadlines, dates and rules for each state, you can search by address to find your polling place, you can get election reminders, and you can even send a Pledge to Register form to people who are under 18 (but over 13). will send them a message on their 18th birthday, and provide resources to help them register to vote.

It’s just a great bunch of resources, so go check it out!

Join Red Wine & Blue Tonight for Econ 101: How to Talk Economy With Voters

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 7:30 PM –  8:30 PM ET

The economy is always in the news and is a top issue going into the election. What to do you need to know about the state of our economy, how is it impacting families, and what do you need to know to talk about it with friends and family when it comes to voting? Join Red Win & Blue to hear from Amanda Weinstein, economist and co-host of the Suburban Woman Problem podcast.

Sign up here:

Join Vote.Org and Athletes Unlimited for Power in My Voice and Athletes Unlimited are cohosting Power in My Voice, focused on inspiring voter participation in the upcoming midterm election. The panel will feature award winning actress Alyssa Milano, CEO Andrea Hailey, retired NFL Pro Bowler, author, and humanitarian Michael Bennett, and others. They’ll be talking about how to motivate and turn out voters for the midterms – a critical topic! Register here.

Join actor Ed O’Neill, David Pepper, and Blue Ohio (and me!) on Friday

Each month, our Blue Ohio community gets together (virtually) with a special guest. This month we’re thrilled to have Ed O’Neill (of Married With Children and Modern Family fame). He’s joining us on Friday at noon eastern to talk Ohio, politics, TFG, JD Vance, you name it! And, of course, to answer your questions.

He is hilarious, opinionated, and a must-watch. When was the last time you joined a zoom meeting where you could ask Al Bundy what he thinks of the current state of democracy?

That’s what I thought! I hope I’ll see you there. Sign up here:


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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