Hours after President Trump’s remarkable press conference Tuesday afternoon, Jimmy Kimmel took the stage in Los Angeles for the opening monologue of his nightly show.
Kimmel wasn’t in much of a joking mood, however. And, what he said about Trump – and the country – is important. (Shoutout to my former Washington Post colleague Emily Yahr for transcribing it.) Kimmel’s proposal to make Trump a ceremonial king – which comes at the end of the monologue – is slightly less consequential. Or likely.
Below, I’ve excerpted a few of Kimmel’s best lines – and added some thoughts of my own.
* “I want to speak to those of you who voted for Donald Trump. And first of all, I want to say I get it. I actually do. You’re unhappy with the way things were going. You wanted someone to come in and shake things up. You didn’t want business as usual. Nothing ever seems to get done. It’s always the same. These candidates make a lot of promises that go nowhere. It happens over and over again. And you’re sick of it.”
A terrific summation of how Trump won. People felt like things were never going to change. They were in the mood to take a risk. And Trump – from his lack of experience to his willingness to veer way, way, way off the political script – felt like a real risk to people. They took it because they figured “How could Trump possibly do worse than the people we have in there now?”
* “Everyone said he wouldn’t (win). But he did. And it’s exciting because this is your guy. You picked a horse like 35-1 and somehow it paid off.”
The “I told you so” factor among those who voted for Trump is an underrated part of his supporters’ undying loyalty to him. As Kimmel rightly notes, there is no greater feeling of self-satisfaction than siding with a guy – or a team or a horse – who everyone told you couldn’t win but wound up doing just that. It’s the basis of every underdog story ever. No one said we could do it! But we did! We proved everyone wrong! That is a very powerful feeling – especially when you feel as though you’ve been told for decades to sit down and shut up by “elites” who insist they are smarter than you and know better than you.
* “He calls the Prime Minister of Australia and hangs up on him. He won’t shake Angela Merkel’s hand. He doesn’t know Frederick Douglass isn’t alive. He claims he can’t release his tax returns because they’re under audit, then says he’s not going to release them at all.”
This begins an extended riff by Kimmel on all the lines Trump has crossed in just his first 208 days in the White House. It’s remarkable to consider the totality of transgressions of political norms that Trump has committed in such a short period of time. While he was quite clearly elected to break some of these norms, Trump seems committed to doing the exact opposite of what past presidents have done at every single turn. Literally.
* “He screws up royally every day. Sometimes two or three times a day. We can’t keep up with it. Things come out of nowhere. Every day there’s something nuts. But you’ve been trying to ignore it because you don’t want to admit to these smug, annoying liberals that they were right. That’s the last thing you want to do.”
A real insight here by Kimmel. So much of Trump’s support is not for Trump per se but for what Trump represents. To lots and lots of people who back Trump, it’s because he is the person liberals hate, the person the media bashes, the person who is the antidote to political correctness run rampant. Ask these people whether they support Trump’s personal conduct or tendency to pop off, and lots and lots of them will tell you they don’t. (Two thirds of 2016 voters said Trump didn’t have the right temperament to be president, according to exit polls. One in five of those people voted for him anyway!)
Voting for Trump was, for many people, a rejection of coastal elites, political correctness and the status quo. That’s why it’s so difficult to walk away from Trump. Because, even if they disagree with how he has acted in office, they still believe in everything he symbolizes for them.
* “It’s time, for especially you who voted for him, to tell him to go. Please. Think about it. He doesn’t even want to be president. He’s miserable. But he won’t resign because his ego is too big. He can’t do it.”
I’ve always been VERY skeptical of the idea that a) Trump didn’t really want to win or b) he will resign. Trump’s entire life has been built on seeking the spotlight, on being the center of attention. Being president is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Trump. He is not going to walk away from it. (One other place where I disagree with Kimmel; I don’t think Trump is miserable. I think he loves these feuds and battles.)
Kimmel is right that the only way Trump goes is if his base turns on him in any meaningful way. That hasn’t happened yet. And, because of the factors Kimmel identifies above – betting on a longshot, what Trump means to people – I am very skeptical it will ever happen, no matter what Trump says or does going forward.