Nuclear Winter? Many Trump Fans Are Loving It
BARRENSBURG, OH — May 21, 2017
The world recoiled in horror when President Trump launched a nuclear strike on Namibia eight days ago, reportedly provoked when he misheard President Hage Geinbob’s remark “we look forward to working with you” as “you lost the popular vote by three million people” during a 47-second phone call. North Korea took advantage of the ensuing chaos to launch its own surprise hydrogen-bomb attacks on Las Vegas and Cincinnati, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions wounded. The United States has sustained trillions of dollars in damage to its infrastructure, including the power grid and food supply. The globe is reeling from its worst crisis since World War II, and the fabric of society appears to be unspooling rapidly.
But to Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters, that’s precisely the point.
“Honestly, this is exactly what I expected from him,” said Steve Meissner, a 67-year-old former machinist who perched on a pile of smoldering rubble that once served as the back booth of Joey’s Classic Diner. Meissner has been a regular here for 32 years, stopping by every Friday afternoon for Joey’s signature steak and eggs (temporarily replaced by “Joey’s signature gruel,” the owner explained quietly, until cows and chickens can be deemed non-radioactive by the USDA, which hasn’t been heard from since the attacks).
Barrensburg is Trump country. Donald Trump carried this quintessentially American town, just down the highway from the epicenter of the Cincinnati explosion, by 87 points last November; Trump-Pence signs still dot the dangerously radioactive landscape. Voters here stuck by the president through his chaotically implemented travel ban, his Russian collusion scandal, and his bizarre public feud with the estate of Jackie Robinson. Judging by the mood of the crowd at Joey’s, they don’t seem in any rush to abandon their man anytime soon.
“The guy said he was gonna shake things up,” said social studies teacher Kathy Phillips, as her husband, Bob, nodded in agreement, upsetting some thermonuclear ash that had lodged in his hair onto the cracked Formica table in front of him. “Now he’s doing that, and the left is all upset. To me, it’s crying over spilled milk.”
“The liberals are still upset about losing the election,” chimed in Andrew Dunn, an administrative assistant whose badly mutilated nose oozed with tiny droplets of blood and pus as he spoke. “They just won’t quit complaining.”
5/13, as people have taken to calling last week’s tragic events, has posed perhaps the greatest test yet to American resolve. But far from bringing the country together, the nuclear strikes only magnified the deep partisanship that has infiltrated every aspect of civic life.
Trump’s first communication after the attack, a tweet reading “South Korea will pay!!!” — misidentifying the country responsible — was his most popular ever. His defiance rallied the GOP base: a Gallup poll conducted by horseback last week showed 62% of Republicans now favor sending ground troops to South Korea, with only 7% of Democrats on board. Perhaps more surprisingly, after Trump suggested that being attacked by nuclear weapons might actually help America “toughen up,” a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken via carrier pigeon showed 93% of Republicans agreeing that exposure to a colossal mushroom-cloud explosion would “move the country forward.”
Many here agree with the sentiment. “This whole nuclear winter thing has been great for America,” said Bill McClarey, a cook at Joey’s. “It feels like we all finally have a common enemy in South Korea.”
Congressional reaction, like public opinion, has been split along predictably partisan lines. Democratic lawmakers almost uniformly condemned Trump’s actions as needlessly destructive. (West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, an exception, said he was “still looking into it.”) But Republicans, wary of drawing primary challenges, opted to stick with their embattled leader even as fire rained down on millions of constituents. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “Namibia’s president should be clearer in his diction next time around.” And, in an interview broadcast from an undisclosed location, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan maintained that Trump’s initial response could have been handled “more carefully,” but that he “agreed with the general idea.” He added that he expects Congress to tackle tax reform in the coming weeks.
In these impassioned times, political arguments extend beyond ideology to the very concept of reality. A growing chorus on the fringe right wing insists that the attacks didn’t take place at all — an idea lent credence by the president himself, who tweeted on Tuesday, “FAILING CNN reporting nuclear attack!! Never happened! Crisis Actors?? Bad!!!”
Some at Joey’s have taken such seemingly outlandish theories to heart. They eschew gas masks, drink straight from contaminated taps, and dismiss talk of hazardous side effects as mere government overreach.
“You think I’m gonna trust a bunch of experts to tell me if we got hit with a bomb?” said one legless man who did not want to be identified. “These are the same people who got the election wrong. For all I know, it was just a really bright sunrise.”
“Trump’s a businessman,” he added.
“We all know George Soros paid a lot of these so-called ‘victims,’ said McClarey. “Hell,” he continued as his expression grew pensive, “I’m beginning to wonder if he paid me. Am I a crisis actor? I’m not so sure anymore. I’m not so sure of anything.”
Everyone at Joey’s agreed that whatever the fallout from Trump’s actions — nuclear or otherwise — they don’t regret their vote seven months ago.
“Are you kidding me?” Meissner said with a hoarse chuckle, when asked if he regretted not pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton. Attempting to speak again, he began coughing and retching uncontrollably for about three minutes as neon green phlegm flowed from his mouth, eyes, nose, and ears.
“First of all,” he continued after composing himself, “Benghazi.” “Second of all, we still don’t know what’s in her emails.”
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