With weeks to go before Election Day in 2012, a video went viral. You know the video. In it, a crying 4-year-old girl is consoled by her mother off camera. “I’m tired of Bronco Bama and Mitt Rom-in-ee!” she sniffs, her little spirit all but crushed by the final surge in an election year’s political news cycle. It’s been viewed 17 million times. It was so relatable. Everybody was so tired of everything. Everything was bad.
It all seems so quaint and simple now that things have gotten so much worse.
“I like to turn on the TV in my bedroom as soon as I wake up to hear MSNBC tell me what’s happening,” says Don, a 65-year-old retired writer, editor, actor, and theatrical manager who has called both the West Coast and the Midwest home. “Two weeks ago, as I reached for the remote, I wondered to myself how long it would be until I heard Donald Trump’s name. It was two seconds. Literally.”
Cassie, a Wisconsin resident, can’t even find relief when she leaves her house and television behind. She’ll be reminded of Trump “the next time I leave my driveway and see his signs posted all over my neighbors’ yards.”
In 2012, the candidates running against each other were pleasant, normal-ish humans with demonstrated ability to complete a sentence that made sense. In 2016, the human embodiment of a YouTube comments section is a major party nominee. To make matters worse, he’s demonstrated that he’ll do whatever it takes to get publicity, and the media has demonstrated that it will take the bait every time. That means that for people who have even the smallest passing relationship with the news media, Donald Trump is impossible to escape. Fatigue has set in, bigly.
“It’s been so ugly lately, like watching a pitcher refuse to surrender the mound and just try to whack every member of the opposing team in the head. I’m ready for this game to be done,” says Lareign, a 32-year-old writer from Spokane, Washington.
Steve M., an automotive designer in Detroit, tried and failed to avoid Trump. “I honestly got so tired of hearing about him that we cancelled our cable,” he says. “Despite my best efforts, it all still crept back. You can’t avoid it. You’d have to go completely off the grid at this point.”
With a daunting month to go in an exhausting election season, it’s hard to remember a time when Donald J. Trump’s name and face didn’t sit at the top of this country’s collective consciousness like the header of ostentatious stationery.
“Looking back over the last week I think I might have managed to not have [Trump] cross my mind last Wednesday,” says Byron Blood, 68, retired from the computer industry and living in Richfield, Minnesota.
“I was very busy with other things that day and I may not have even looked at my Facebook account and I certainly didn’t watch any TV that day. But that is just speculation. It’s almost impossible to avoid him no matter how much I try.”
Will, 37, an IT consultant in Atlanta, hasn’t been so lucky. The last time he thinks he went an entire day without thinking about Donald Trump was “probably all the way back to November of last year (the Sunday my undergrad alma mater fired their coach, and I had a grad school paper due that Tuesday.)”
Most seemed distressed by the question, since asking it prompted them to realize that they had been thinking about Donald Trump for so many consecutive days that they’d lost track. “That’s like asking me when the last time I skipped lunch was. I don’t know,” says Ali Philander, a 32-year-old Californian who works in medicine. “I know it’s happened but not in recent memory.”
Some have moved from grumpy to angry, like Lesley Bunnell, 43. “I haven’t gone a day without thinking about Donald Trump since he puttered down that escalator announcing his candidacy. He is omnipresent and you can’t escape him because some asshole on Facebook is talking about how great he is or those who detest him won’t stop, either. And of course, media loves this mess, so they don’t stop.”
Nobody could have predicted on that day of the much-ridiculed escalator ride—June 16, 2015—that we’d spend such a large percentage of the next two years hearing about every time Trump said just about anything. And now, nobody can predict when the drunken Tilt-a-Whirl ride of Trump saturation will end.
Trish Nelson, a 38-year-old New Yorker who works in the entertainment industry, yearns for a simpler Trump-free existence. “If only I could go back and taste June 15th, 2016 again. I would savor every last drop of that day,” she says.
“I’m yearning for [the next Trump-free] day like my true love that I’ve been separated from by a pointless war,” says Brent Rose, a 37-year-old writer in California. Alli, a 31-year-old Louisiana nonprofit worker, doesn’t think relief from wall-to-wall Trump will come until February or March of next year, at the earliest.
“It’s hard to stop thinking about him,” says Susan, a librarian in Illinois. “He’s everywhere and is showing no signs of going away even if he loses.”
But what if he doesn’t lose? “If that creamsicle Mussolini is elected I won’t be able to go a day without thinking about him for at least four years,” says Julian Brett, 25, of Illinois. “[I’m] terrified for my autonomy, safety, reproductive rights, the rights of all minorities and immigrants, and ready to move as far away from this country as possible,” says Eliana Berkoff, 24, of Colorado.
Trump’s poll numbers are flagging—data released Wednesday shows him down seven in Wisconsin and tied in normally-blood-red Utah. But the candidate is not backing down; Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail grows more outrageous as Election Day grows nearer and his path to victory fainter. Just in the last week, he told supporters at a rally in Pittsburgh that they should monitor “other communities” to make sure the election isn’t stolen “from us,” and that he was glad to finally be free from the “shackles” of the GOP establishment. That Hillary Clinton should smile. And, as he’s been saying for months, that the election might be rigged.
“Even if Clinton wins, we’ll be hearing about Trump for a long time,” says Hillary Fox, a 38-year-old English professor in Michigan. “If he’s not leading the charge of angry, spoiled white nationalists in whatever the post-election fallout will be, we’ll be talking about the way his candidacy has made ignorance, nastiness, and violence a legitimate mode of citizenship—it’s something we’ve been building towards for a long time, but he’s its tacky, bellowing apotheosis. Optimistically, I’d say mid-2017 might see my first Trump-free day, assuming we haven’t disintegrated into a Young Adult dystopia by then.”
Or, at the very least, a country of desperate citizens weeping into a camera lens, begging for all of it to be over.