Republicans' hedonic treadmill problem

Trump has massively accelerated the excitement treadmill in U.S. politics. There are still plenty of thoughtful, serious people on the American right. Some of them may even be interested in holding public office. But that’s not what the Trumpist GOP wants anymore. They’ve spent five years sprinting at an ever-faster pace. The treadmill is absolutely racing now. Thoughtful is boring. Serious is a yawn. You need some thrill — some insults — some accusations. It’s not enough anymore to oppose the other team because they have bad ideas. They have to be seen as evil now, straight up Satanist, cannibalistic pedophiles. Competing against “Democrats” just doesn’t do it for ya once you’ve realized they may be dubbed “Demon-rats.”

Faster, faster, faster. Screw your sensible conservative apples; gimme that Flamin’ Hot Nacho Cheese Dorito politics. Gimme that “grab ’em by the pussy.” Gimme that “shithole countries.” Gimme that president who retweets plans to jail the governor and secretary of state of Georgia (members of his own party!) because they won’t falsify election results on his behalf.

The treadmill has sped up for a subset of Trump’s critics, too, those for whom being “the resistance” has become a significant part of their identities, something ever on the mind. A recent review of the new PlayStation for the gaming site Kotaku jarringly concluded with a meditation on the privilege of being able “to simply tune out the world as it burns around you” with so many Trump-lit flames. The degree of attention to Trump that produces such an end to a console review is an acceleration of the treadmill, too. It’s like becoming accustomed to eating everything with hot sauce: It’s painful, sure, but better hurt than bored.