Trump's Groundhog Day presidency
In that 1993 film directed by Harold Ramis, Bill Murray plays a cynical, self-absorbed weatherman sent by his Pittsburgh TV station to dreary Punxsutawney to cover festivities around the local groundhog's mid-winter forecast. Meteorologist Phil Connors (Murray) is disdainful of everyone around him, communicates via caustic one-liners, and treats his production crew with scorn. He even disparages the groundhog, calling it a rat.
Sound like someone you know?
Desperate to get out of town the moment his blah-blah story is filed, Phil encounters a driving snowstorm on the highway, forcing him back to Punxsutawney, where he enters a Twilight Zone wrinkle in time, reliving the same day over and over — from waking to the same grating Sonny & Cher tune on the clock radio in his stuffy B&B to getting repeatedly sloshed with icy puddle water by a glad-handing insurance salesman he went to high school with, plus countless other indignities.
As Phil moans of his no-exit dilemma: "What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing you did mattered?"
This is our life under President Trump.
Every day, we awaken to the same mean tweets from the president, the same outraged memes on social media, and the same screeching reports about lies, fake news, impeachment, the 25th Amendment, the wall, idiots and morons, and even treason. Instead of Sonny & Cher hitting us with the romantic "I Got You Babe," we're jolted awake every day at 6 a.m. by the equivalent of Barry McGuire's classic lament "Eve of Destruction."
Of course, it's natural for those on the outs of any administration to feel they've been exiled to a long, cold winter of discontent. Ask a committed conservative how endless eight years of Barack Obama seemed, or a progressive what it was like under George W. Bush. The whining from both sides still reverberates.
But the Trump presidency is a unique kind of boxed-in reality — or rather, reality show, where name-calling, pitchfork-raising, and rabble-rousing overshadow politics, policy, and ideology. Mr. Trump's volatile, bullying personality make it all but impossible to switch channels — or refresh any conversation — without landing in the same outrageous place we were yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that — even if the names and faces appear to change, or resign, or plead guilty.
You can obviously fault the president — after all, he appears to exhibit a massive case of arrested development; as Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly told aides, their boss has the understanding of a "fifth or sixth grader." And so, all the world's events are perceived as a personal grudge, as when President Trump claimed recently that revised death toll estimates in Puerto Rico from last year's Hurricane Maria were the work of Democrats out to "make me look as bad as possible."
In Hollywood's hands, this would be the point in our story where we begin to discern signs of an awakening in President Trump. He would evolve, as Murray's character did. But the chances of witnessing a transformation by Trump into an empathetic and lovable commander in chief seem remote, as does the prospect of lowering the volume about his fitness to serve through his presidency. But that doesn't mean there's no hope for those who feel caught in a recurring reel of lunacy. Get a pet. Learn a skill. Be civil and generous. Take the long view. Heck, you might even try falling in love, as Murray's character did.
In the final scene of the movie, Punxsutawney's streets are still packed with snow and the sky is gray, but the jade has been lifted from Phil Connors' eyes. And with his new perspective — and Andie McDowell beside him in bed — he's able to rejoice, "Today is tomorrow!"
Living in our own version of Punxsutawney, it's easy to fall prey to the daily taunts and tirades of the president, the righteous anger of your friends and neighbors, or the fear expressed by editorial and social angst-mongers that our democracy is failing. While that cycle isn't likely to break anytime soon, we all have the capacity to see beyond the pettiness around us and realize that this day, too, shall pass.