It took me two full days before glimpsing into Farhad Manjoo's latest column in the New York Times.
Manjoo was pondering America's last two Republican presidents - George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, noting that many folks thought they would never see another president as out-and-out bad as W. Only they thought wrong.
It was at this point that Manjoo asked himself what if this continued to Trump's successor, another Republican only even worse?
Then he drew a genuinely nightmarish scenario: Bush to Trump, Trump to President Tucker Carlson. I warned you not to read this on a full stomach.
Come, take a stroll with me through my recurrent nightmare: It’s the sweltering summer of 2029, and the man in charge is Tucker Carlson — that is, President Tucker Carlson, the one-time Fox News talker turned righteous, white nationalist economic populist, now in his triumphant second term, after having defeated the incumbent Joseph “Recession Joe” Biden back in 2024.
Like Trump, President Carlson spends his first term refashioning America along racial lines. But unlike Trump, whose one term is now regarded by much of the right as a best-forgotten political disaster, Carlson advances an ethnonationalist populism that succeeds in a wild, frightening fashion. His secret: competence, a commitment to true political realignment, and a brutal online political machine that represents the full flowering of the tactics and ideology first displayed during 2014’s Gamergate movement.
Where Trump was a chaotic, undisciplined narcissist, the Carlson who wins in 2024 is a canny political strategist who makes good on Trump’s forgotten promise to embrace anti-corporate economic policies. On paper, parts of Carlson’s agenda seem ripped from the former liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren (now in exile in Toronto): His chief enemies are Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, the megacorporations owned and staffed by wealthy liberals.
It’s a winning electoral formula: A large minority of Americans are willing to forgive Carlson’s authoritarian, nativist impulses if they see it as part of a war against the out-of-touch, culture-destroying corporations that are automating our jobs; killing every other industry; and exercising complete control over what we watch, read, listen to, buy and believe. And in America, thanks to the Electoral College, winning over a large minority is good enough to regularly win the presidency.
There are two things that terrify and fascinate me about Carlson. First, unlike most Republicanlawmakers today, Carlson is sketching an economic vision of a post-Trump America that departs in key ways from Trumpism, especially in its muscular anti-corporate, populist zeal.
...The second thing that scares me about Carlson is his racism, which is both more extreme and more cannily packaged for a digital audience than is Trump’s.
While Trump is a creature of cable television, Carlson’s segments look like extended YouTube clips, and they’re designed to play to an audience that is extremely online. His critics and white supremacists themselves point out that, more than anyone else on television, Carlson functions as a kind of laundromat for white identity movements.
...I’d known all this before I started watching, but actually watching blew my mind: Carlson’s propaganda was so constant, and the sleight of hand with which he inserted barely sanitized racist theories into his broadcast so swift, that I began to see the outlines of my nightmare — that Trump was only a prelude, and that even if he loses next year, someone far more sophisticated than our current president could come along to push digitally mediated politics in an even darker direction.Makes you wonder how president Carlson would get along with prime minister Kenney, eh?