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An Ineffective Satire

The Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri penned an opinion column on September 15, titled “I can’t believe you’re forcing me to vote for Trump, which I definitely didn’t already want to do.”

It’s supposed to be a rebuttal of Danielle Pletka’s opinion column from the previous day, titled “I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year.” In addition, it’s meant to be a scathing satire about Americans who defend why they’ll vote for Trump again. It fails in both regards for the same reason: the opinion column exhausts the one-joke premise without providing any insight or cathartic resolution for the reader.

Using an exaggerated tone and hyperbolic language, Petri imitates a conservative voter and lists one frivolous reason after the other for why she’ll still vote for Trump. It’s meant to be a sharp tonguein-cheek satire about the kind of false equivalencies rife in American politics today.

Using the flimsiest of logic, Trump and Joe Biden are presented as equally dangerous options. It almost works, thanks to a headline that’ll outrage most readers of The Washington Post. But those who take the bait are eventually left disappointed.

Petri’s idea was certainly novel, at least as a concept.

Many Republican voters convince themselves they have to vote for Trump. It’s a bizarre and fascinating topic to explore.

An OpEd could have helped conservatives understand their cognitive dissonance while providing an explanation to liberals who find the entire process inexplicable. An effective satirical piece would have held up a mirror to some voters while shedding light on a political ideology for others.

However, Petri opts for repeated barbs about the hypocrisy of conservatives over a more nuanced exploration of conservative reasoning. It’s a case of what they say and do, rather than a query about why they do so. The result is a tepid opinion column that starts by making you chuckle but leaves you underwhelmed.

This is reflective of a larger issue pervasive among media outlets.

They “preach to the choir,” leaving everyone feeling hoarse, deaf, and none the wiser. Rather than provide concrete responses to Pletka’s paranoid opinions, Petri turns her into a caricature. Washington Post readers would have been better served with facts that would dispel the unfounded fears of their MAGA hat-wearing neighbours and relatives.

Instead, Petri’s writing ensures the partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans remains intact, or perhaps even widens.

Maybe Petri’s column was simply an exercise in eliciting laughter, for it certainly didn’t counter Pletka’s arguments in a methodical manner. However, with an election mere weeks away, her jokes were “too late.”

When people on both sides of the political divide are preparing to enter the trenches for what is sure to be a historic election, an opinion column poking fun at those who have the power to alter the course of the nation does not help.

After all, it’s easy to laugh at caricatures. But impossible to then convince them to change their opinion.

In the end, those who needed to read Petri’s column, won’t. And those who will, didn’t really need to.