Under the Trump administration, time is…different. The slow arc towards justice has bent, and splintered, hurling us back into the subterfuge-laden days of the Nixon administration, the smoggy 1800’s mire of unregulated industrialization, the saccharine, Mike Pence-nocturnal emission 1950’s, and 1933 Reichstag fire Germany, all at once.
Human rights violations flash by, are overturned by the courts, then bubble back up again; words are invented, evolve, and take on post-modern meaninglessness at nine times their usual turnover rate, stories erupt over the course of a night on Twitter, and sour by morning; Frederick Douglass is just getting noticed, frogs are turned gay by the water and are also Nazi symbols, Nazi is a slur except when Nazi’s say it; and a healthcare law that Republicans have been chomping at the bit to make for over seven years somehow isn’t made, yet, but also it is made, you just can’t see it, and now you can see it, but you only have a day to read it, and actually no, wait, we’ll talk about it after July 4th, because it’s not done, yet, again.
Time under Trump makes even less fucking sense than Trump does. It has been 162 days since he took office. In that time our toenails have grown into the floorboards and our skin has sloughed off in huge strips; our hair is falling out, we’ve got forty midlife crisis tattoos, and we’ve all become well versed in theories of anarchocommunism. In 162 days!
Wanna hear even more of a time-mind-fuck? A year ago, today, Kellyanne Conway started working for Trump. Aren’t you 50 years older than you were when that shit happened? Haven’t you died a thousand neoliberal, 538.com-checking, Katy Perry singing at a Hillary Clinton rally deaths? But it’s true, Trump’s steadfast Gogo Yubari-style bodyguard has only been around since July 1st, 2016.
In many ways, Kellyanne Conway perfectly represents Trump’s…troubled…relationship with time. Trump would prefer that women never be or become old, but if they insist on aging, then they should all age like Conway. A former winner of the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant, Kellyanne has maintained for 50 years the trim figure and cornsilk hair that Trump requires to see a woman as human. Her physical presence says “vodka-swilling aunt who will describe everything she dislikes about her gay nieces as ‘interesting’”; her political track-record screams “I will throw as many rape victims’ corpses in front of a train as it takes for a powerful man to pretend to respect me in public”.
And of course, it’s the political impact of Conway that truly matters. In 1995, she created WomanTrend, a company which worked with Republican candidates to capture the votes of formerly-Democratic, white female voters. If you know a white lady “soccer mom” who has slowly shifted from a kind-of apathetic moderate into a MAGA-hat wearing, fanny-packed racist who has never shot a gun but has an NRA bumper sticker on her car, you probably have Kellyanne to thank.
Billing herself as a canny strategist who understood the psychology of middle-class women, Conway delivered political wins to Mike Pence (who calls his wife “Mother”), Michelle Bachman (who popularized the term “death panels”), and Todd Aiken (who claimed that in cases of “legitimate rape”, the uterus starts slamming control alt delete).
Her most recent client before Trump, of course, was Ted Cruz. But Conway was all too happy to jump off the Zodiac Killer’s bus and work for the man she called “extreme” and “not a conservative” three months prior. It’s fitting that one of Trump’s most loyal, trusted aides is a turncoat who lets the past dissolve on her tongue, quick as a Listerine breath strip.
Over the years, Conway has racked up over a thousand TV appearances, developing an infamous ability to stare dead-eyed into a camera while reciting turgid nonsense. No one can rival her capacity to mouth-flap like a Muppet while blinking away all attempts at fact-checks. Once she gets started she’s like a Disneyworld animatronic whose script was never edited.
In the past 162 days, Conway has given us “alternative facts” and the Bowling Green Massacre; she hocked Ivanka’s Dillards-looking-ass bracelets during a CNN interview, got banned from MSNBC, and claimed Michael Flynn had Trump’s “full confidence” hours before Flynn resigned. Through it all, she has maintained the steely, vacant resolve of a runway model getting red paint poured on her fur.
Like most powerful Republican women, her life is defined by paradox. She’s the first woman to successfully manage a winning Presidential campaign, but she did so on behalf of one of the largest threats to women alive. She’s one of Trump’s most closely-trusted advisors, yet staffers report it’s “unclear” what she does day-to-day. Her media presence is massive, yet she’s rarely on message, or remotely clued in. She shapes our political dialogue, but she does so via outright lies and gaffes. She grabbed onto power by stripping other women of abortion rights, access to basic medical care, and safety from domestic violence. She’s a CEO and Oxford-educated lawyer, who describes her career trajectory by saying, quote, “my broad mind and narrow waist have not switched places”.
Her selfhood is impossible to grasp. It’s like trying to weigh a breath, or live in the moment: as soon as you observe it, it’s gone. Like time under Trump, she is always folding backwards, undoing in flash that which took centuries to be done.
But no matter her confused logic or politics, she remains, biologically at least, a human. Her physical form has no choice but to be dragged, slowly, and linearly, through the progression of time. Like Trump, and all his lackeys, she will age, and her viewpoints will be cast under the harsh light of future scrutiny, and her way of life will rot off the bone. People like Conway, and Trump, may not believe in time, but they are ruled by it like the rest of us, and its arc is not on their side.
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This piece was originally read live at The Paper Machete, Chicago’s live magazine.