Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, (@DeanObeidallah) a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
“Saturday Night Live” was back Saturday for the first time since Donald Trump left office and Joe Biden was sworn in as our 46th president. Many expected the show to feature Alec Baldwin as Trump saying goodbye or to depict Biden’s first week in office. But that didn’t happen, much in the same way many of us who opposed Trump thought once he left office we would be filled with a sense of euphoria. And “SNL“‘s opening sketch may have laid out the reason why Trump’s exit hasn’t been a cure-all panacea – namely, because America is currently a dumpster fire.
“SNL” cleverly addressed the “hot mess” that is America today in the form of a talk show titled “What still works?” Kate McKinnon – uncharacteristically playing herself for the show – opened the sketch as the host explaining, “We look at every part of American society and wonder: What still works?”
From there, “SNL” made the case comically that many of our institutions are failing us. She began with “government,” welcoming freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (played by Cecily Strong) whose vile bigotry and conspiratorial views have recently been making headlines. “SNL“‘s version of Greene defiantly declared, “OK, first off, I believe the Parkland shooting was a hoax. The teachers were actors and the children were dolls.” She added, “I believe 9/11 was a hoax. Did anyone actually see it happen?” (Yes, the real Greene has suggested 9/11 was a hoax and the Parkland school shooting that saw 17 people killed was staged.) This exchange led McKinnon to conclude government is not working.
“SNL” then tackled the recent controversy surrounding people organizing on the social media platform Reddit to drive up the price of stocks such as GameStop – which has been cheered by some but has freaked out others. Pete Davidson took the seat next to McKinnon as “the new majority shareholder of GameStop,” where he admitted that the stock price has skyrocketed from $17 a share to over $400 a share despite the business actually not meriting anything close to that. Upon reflection, Davidson shared a sentiment I’m sure many others feel, “The entire system is a joke.” Consequently, McKinnon concluded the stock market “no longer works.”
The sketch continued with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey – played by “SNL” cast members – joining as guests. “SNL“‘s “Zuckerberg” bragged, nervously, “Fundamentally, Facebook still works. Not only does it help form communities online, it has helped people meet and connect in real life,” adding obliviously, “For example, at the Capitol.” McKinnon quickly dismissed these “guests.”
McKinnon’s next guest addressed the vaccine rollout as “not working” with O.J. Simpson – given that he received his shot this week. While in reality Simpson at 73 is eligible for the vaccine, the bigger point was something just feels wrong – as with so much in our nation today – that he should receive his vaccine before the immunocompromised, and others.
The economy is sputtering at best with nearly 850,000 Americans filing for unemployed for the first time last week. For perspective, in the months leading up the pandemic, 200,000 Americans on average filed weekly for such claims.
The Covid-19 death toll is averaging a gruesome 3,200 a day, and the vaccine rollout is slower than many hoped. Add to that the deadly attack on our Capitol on January 6 by Trump supporters seeking to prevent the congressional certification of Biden’s victory and the shocking refusal of GOP members in Congress to hold Trump accountable – only 10 out of 211 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump. Since then, nearly all 10 Republicans who stood up for America over Trump are now suffering a backlash from the GOP base. All of this shakes confidence for many in our nation.
The words of then President Jimmy Carter in July 1979 in his famous “malaise” speech feel fitting today as well. At that time, the economy was struggling with both high unemployment and inflation known as “stagflation.” The OPEC oil embargo had caused skyrocketing gas prices that led to violence when protests by trucker drivers and their allies in Pennsylvania over gas rationing turned into riots.
In response, Carter told the nation, “The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.” He then added a line that truly resonates in today’s America, “The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”
Get our free weekly newsletter
That was the essence of this “SNL” sketch as well. America feels like it’s not working. But the hopeful news is that from those dark days in 1979, America endured and flourished in the decades to come.
I believe that will be our future as well – but it won’t be easy. As McKinnon aptly stated at the close of the “SNL” sketch, “I’ve been…slowly losing my mind along with all of you,” adding, “Stay strong. Or weak…Weak is a great option, too.” Bottom line is don’t give up on America. It has worked before and if we stay engaged, it will work again – hopefully this time for more Americans than ever before.