My Fellow Americans

Welcome to Margin of Error, a politics column from Tom Scocca, editor of the Indignity newsletter, examining the apocalyptic politics and coverage of Campaign 2024.

The State of the Union is a privatized moon lander dying on its side in the moon dust, power draining away, because someone back on Earth was too cheap to run a preflight check

The State of the Union is nine elementary-school kids in Florida sick with measles, and the state surgeon general telling the other kids exposed to measles it’s OK to get out and mingle before the standard 21-day isolation period is over, and the presumptive presidential nominee for a major party campaigning on the message that he would strip federal funding from any school system that requires vaccinations. The State of the Union is the presumptive nominee’s spokesperson saying that the nominee only means COVID vaccinations, even though the presumptive nominee doesn’t say that, leaving the message in the superposed state of meaning one thing to vaccination opponents and another thing to the fact-checking sector of the press, who are responsible for not being accused of misrepresenting the things that the presumptive nominee is promising. 

The State of the Union is 3,700 babies—3,761 babies, precisely—born with congenital syphilis, a tenfold increase in an almost entirely preventable disease in the course of a decade. The State of the Union is 7,500 people killed by motor vehicles while walking. [Applause.]

The State of the Union is a three-and-a-half ton electric pickup truck punching straight through a standard highway guardrail at highway speeds in a laboratory test. The State of the Union is hundreds of thousands, millions, of internal-combustion pickups or SUVs on the road in that weight class. [Applause.] The State of the Union is an old and crumbling parking garage collapsing under a full load of today’s vehicles. The State of the Union is that if their car gets bigger, your car gets smaller, unless your car gets bigger, too. [Applause.]

The State of the Union is the National Guard in the New York subway, in camouflage, checking people’s bags before they can get on board. The State of the Union is the beefy guy bracing his weight on both handrails on the uptown train, yelling about AR-15s while everybody else scoots off to another car. The State of the Union is scooting off to another car. [Applause.]

The State of the Union is the kids come home from school [Applause] and one of them had a soft lockdown that day, probably a drill, and they’re talking about soft and hard lockdowns at the dinner table, and when they hide in the corner for the drill and when they hide in the closet, and you remember at your dinner table what you read about what happened when somebody emptied an AR-15 into a tiny closet packed with schoolchildren trying to hide, how the investigators talked around what they saw in the closet afterward, or no, it was a tiny bathroom

The State of the Union is it could be worse, right? [Applause.] The State of the Union is, objectively speaking, it could be worse, [Applause] and not only that, you can see things that would definitely make it worse, and you can see people trying to make those exact things happen. 

The State of the Union is we haven’t even talked about the bombs yet, about the bombs we’re shipping to people who genuinely despise America and who are using the bombs to make bare physical life impossible for 2.2 million people, to run 2.2 million people from one end of a tiny strip of land to the other, away from electricity and food and drinking water, over the rubble of their homes and hospitals and universities, over the thousands of bodies in the rubble, until there is nowhere physically for them to turn that is not more rubble. The State of the Union is that we honor our commitments. [Applause]

The State of the Union is the new AI help chats the tax-preparation software companies added that tell you tax rules that aren’t true. The State of the Union is websites full of AI text in the shape of what you wanted to know, but without the facts. The State of the Union is job listings for humans to do gig work to train the AIs, the whole website swamped with copies of the same listing over and over again, [Applause] burying any real jobs that might have been there. 

The State of the Union is we haven’t even talked about the climate yet, the skies orange and reeking with smoke and the routine afternoon rainstorms turning streets into flash floods. [Applause.] The State of the Union is we haven’t even talked about abortion yet. [Applause.] The State of the Union is we haven’t gotten around to talking about the campaign around the country to drive trans people out of public existence. [Applause.]  The State of the Union is we haven’t even talked about the migrants yet, about what we’re doing to the migrants by bipartisan consensus. [Applause.] The State of the Union is the richest person on the planet sharing conspiracy theories attacking the migrants, telling millions of people the migrants are coming to steal the election and replace the white race, on the huge communication platform he owns. 

The State of the Union is billionaires and millionaires and random sick souls with an audience of millions saying things proudly, in the open, about how Black people and women couldn’t possibly be qualified for jobs, about how gay people are perverts who can’t be allowed near kids. The State of the Union is the stuff writhing underneath a rock, if every rock were turned over at once and there was nowhere for it all to crawl to but all over the clean grass in the daylight. [Applause.]

The State of the Union is a man who owns Adolf Hitler’s silver teapot and also a curated assortment of federal judges. 

The State of the Union is one day follows the next. The State of the Union is an incoming phone call from your own phone’s area code and exchange, connecting to someone in a boiler room on the other side of the planet who makes you wait after saying hello before they get around to lying to you about something to try to rip you off. [Applause.] The State of the Union is you bring your international guests to the airport for their long flight home, nearly 10,000 miles, and the clerk at the counter tells you that they may have bought a fare but they haven’t bought a seat and now the seats are oversold. The State of the Union is the new Adidas the kid got for Christmas coming apart, because the glue isn’t holding. The State of the Union is they were on sale. The State of the Union is that you get what you pay for, but you don’t even. [Applause.]

The State of the Union is an airplane popping out a piece of its fuselage in midair because the airplane company got sloppy about keeping track of the bolts. 

The State of the Union is not even talking about how a million people died, way more than a million, and everyone just picked up and kept going and started pretending it didn’t really happen, or that it wasn’t really that bad. [Applause.] The State of the Union is people still dying. [Applause.] The State of the Union is the people having a snarling meltdown in the checkout line, the people hooking a left turn from the right-hand lane, the people coming apart in public everywhere, in every possible way. The State of the Union is what these people must be doing in private. 

The State of the Union is a very tired, very old man visibly struggling to keep it together. [Applause.] The State of the Union is there’s nothing behind him. The State of the Union is what more can you ask for? [Applause.] What more can you—you—ask for. [Applause.] We’ve got you here with us tonight, right here. [Applause.] Stand up. [Applause.] Can you stand up? [Applause.] Let them see you. [Applause.] Let them see you.

 [Applause.]

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