The president of the United States is obsessed with dishwashers. Also toilets, but dishwashers have really moved to the top of his list. At a moment when his impeachment trial is soon to begin and we’re still in a crisis with Iran that could lead to war, this is what he was ruminating on at a rally on Tuesday night:

But I’m also approving new dishwashers that give you more water, so you can actually wash and rinse your dishes without having to do it 10 times — four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. [Here he mimes pressing a button over and over as the crowd’s cheers grow louder.]
Anybody have a new dishwasher? I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for that. It’s worthless! They give you so little water. You ever see it? Air comes out, so little water. So what happens? You end up using it 10 times, and the plates, then you take them out and do them the old-fashioned way, right? But what do you do? You’re spending 10 times for the electricity, right? So I’m putting the water back. Most places have so much water they don’t know what the hell to do with it. A lot of people don’t realize that.
So dishwashers, now, you’re going to have just as much as you’ve ever had, and you’re going to use now one shot, your dishes are going to be beautiful.

This is part of a group of complaints about household items Trump is now repeating at every available opportunity: In addition to poor dishwashers, lightbulbs make you look orange, you have to flush toilets 10 times, showers and sinks don’t give any water.

As far as I know, he has not addressed America’s toaster crisis.

As utterly bonkers as it is that this is what the most powerful person on Earth is spending his time thinking about, there’s a logic here, one that connects right back to the way Trump won the presidency in 2016, even though this one is far less likely to hit its mark. In fact, dishwashers that don’t wash your dishes are intended to be the “Build the wall!” of 2020.

But before we explore that, let’s just clarify for the record that his beef with household appliances is a Trumpian combination of an almost legitimate point mixed in with outdated beliefs and outright fabrications.

The one true element in what Trump is saying is that since 1992, federal regulations have mandated lower flow rates on showers than was the case before then. Lots of people don’t like that. As for lightbulbs, some people don’t like the light produced by fluorescent lights (including, presumably, people who put on orange concealer every day). But measures to encourage energy-efficient lighting have produced a drastic decline in the price of more pleasing LEDs, which are rapidly replacing the compact fluorescents that enjoyed a brief popularity a few years ago.

As for dishwashers and toilets, anyone who has bought one in the past 10 years or so knows they are far, far more effective than they ever have been, regardless of how much water they use.

No one needs to run their dishwasher cycle 10 times, and the president, who has surely not washed a dish in 50 years, is under the impression that the way to get cleaner dishes is to maniacally press the start button on the dishwasher over and over again, which is not how dishwashers work.

But the most important part of that clip, and the reason Trump is not going to stop talking about this, is the reaction of the crowd. They know the truth about dishwashers and toilets, but they react as though this is a hilarious comedy routine (which it is supposed to be), laughing and cheering vigorously. They’re telling Trump not only “That’s so right, ha ha — do airplane food next!” but also “You’re the best!”

As those cheers wash over Trump like the spray of a pre-1992 shower, he knows — or at least believes — he has found something resonant, which is why he keeps talking about it. This is the connection to 2016 and “Build the wall.”

As the New York Times reported last year, talking about building a wall was an idea hatched by Trump’s aides as “a mnemonic device of sorts” that would help Trump “remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue.” But when Trump saw the enthusiastic reaction it got from crowds at his rallies, he realized they had hit upon something powerful.

It became the centerpiece of his campaign, a way of tapping into not just xenophobia and fearmongering but a sense of lost potency and stature that was prevalent, particularly among certain white people. In a changing world, Trump said, we’ll put up a big, beautiful wall and make Mexico pay for it, winning back our manhood by subjecting them to humiliation. It all started because when Trump said it, his audience of supporters loved it.

These days, Trump has a number of sources of information he trusts: Fox News, Breitbart … other shows on Fox News. But none provides him the kind of immediate, visceral feedback that his rally crowds do. And when he riffs about dishwashers, they react with a joyful enthusiasm that can be easy to misinterpret. It’s not because they’re grateful for a president who promises better dishwashers, but because Trump obviously loves the riff, so they send the love right back, encouraging him to keep going.

If you want to discern a logical message here, it would be that Trump understands your petty gripes about modern life and is fixing them for you. Don’t like your dishwasher? Trump’ll give you a better one! Having a hard time in the can? Trump is on it! As long as he’s in charge, government may not solve big problems like inequality or climate change, but you’ll have a faucet that could fill a swimming pool.

But people aren’t really that angry about their dishwashers. It doesn’t strike at their sense of self and their place in the world the way his voters’ anger about immigration did. If they keep cheering at the dishwasher routine, they’re only fooling him into thinking this is an electorally meaningful issue that will help him win another term.

So keep on talking about dishwashers, Mr. President. It’s what the people want!

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