Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket
For the last four years, Donald Trump’s supporters have relished in the pain of their political enemies. When they talked about “liberal tears,” one image immediately comes to mind. You’ve probably seen it a million times. It’s a woman, on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, falling to her knees and screaming “No!” at the sky.
On the right, the image has come to represent what conservatives and racist Trump supporters see as the Democratic party’s inability to face reality: They thought Hilary Clinton was inevitable, but it was in fact the dawn of a reactionary age with no clear end in sight. More than anything, it was an easy way to twist the knife in the Trump era, when people continued to resist policies like family separation, the Muslim ban, etc.
Now, it is the other side’s turn to gloat and twist the knife. No account captures the moment in a more satisfying way than Coping MAGA Tweets.
“Cope” has become a ubiquitous term after the election to describe the reactions of Republicans who deny or are emotional about Trump’s loss. It’s a term that occupies every part of speech, somehow, being both a verb to describe what someone else is doing, and also a noun used to refer to the genre of humor that I now so enjoy. If you search for “cope compilation” on YouTube, all the results are from left wing YouTubers collecting the reactions of right wingers who are devastated by Trump’s loss. The term has even morphed into “copium,” an imaginary drug that right wingers are huffing in order to survive the election results.
What “cope” looks like varies, but it’s all about an outsized emotional reaction. Cops crying is cope. Ben Shapiro, who owes his fame to YouTube videos of him “owning liberals,” saying that the left should be tolerant of him is cope. Rudy Guiliani impotently decrying the media outside of Four Seasons Total Landscaping is absolutely cope. People on 4chan who are decrying that degeneracy won are cope; QAnons who thought Trump would literally win all 50 states are coping right now; the guy who screamed about the Biden Crime Family is cope as all hell.
If the image of Democratic defeat is of that protester screaming no, the image of MAGA humiliation is of Pepe the Frog or Trump himself hooked up to an oxygen machine that’s instead providing him with copium, watching the rare and humiliating end of a one term president.
“We saw an opportunity to make an account to immortalize all of it, like they did to us in 2016 when Trump won,” the two people behind the account told Motherboard. Neither people who run the account were old enough to vote in the 2016 election. Only a few days after the creation of the account, they already had over 10,000 followers, and myriad examples of MAGA coping. Today, they have over 60,000 followers.
This morning, the account was suspended by Twitter, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We think we have a chance at taking over the right’s ability to mock and be cruel to our opponents. Biden will certainly not promote this, but those of us who are farther left than him won’t need him to do that. We are celebrating Trump’s failure, not Biden’s victory,” they said. “We’re not going to show weakness now, we’re not going to be kind to the people who ruined our country and hurt millions of marginalized communities. We think this extends to more than just humor as well. The time to play nice is over. When they go low, we kick ‘em.”
Celebrating Trump’s loss isn’t just about kicking him when he’s down. It’s a useful way to center what’s the most important part of this election. The people making and watching cope compilations aren’t necessarily celebrating Biden’s win, but they’re all definitely celebrating Trump’s loss. Biden was far from a perfect candidate and his presidency will have issues, but recognizing that it feels good to have gotten that horse out of the hospital is healthy. We have to celebrate our gains, no matter how small, or else we’ll forget what joy feels like.
However, while it might be cathartic to gloat, to truly break free from the headlock Trump and his supporters have had on culture for the last four years, we will have to break away from their humor and way of seeing the world.
In reality, the racist 4chan users who are currently “coping” never had the numbers to control our culture or chart its future. One of the biggest mistakes the media has ever made is continually highlighting these people, and imagining their influence to be more powerful than it actually is. Trying at this moment to celebrate Trump’s defeat by using their language, their memes, and simply replacing a crying liberal with a crying conservative still leaves them in the center of the conversation, and imagines them as more important than they actually are.
The thing that makes cope compilations so satisfying is that as soon as it became clear that Trump won in 2016, his base essentially adopted the stance of “fuck your feelings” as official policy. The past weekend has essentially been a re-enactment of the sowing and reaping tweet. Pointing out that the shoe on the other foot is also a way for the people who voted out Trump to demand that his supporters respect the outcome. Facts don’t care about your feelings! At the same time, it does feel slimy to repeat those phrases. I want this to be a special treat, rather than the basis of my political action.
On Saturday, when news organizations finally called the race for Joe Biden, people flooded the streets and parks of New York City. I walked through Washington Square Park, having come quite literally from brunch, and while there was a decent amount of Biden and Harris Merch, there were more shirts and signs gloating over Trump’s loss. The anthem of the day, playing from car speakers every few minutes was YG and Nipsey Hussle’s “FDT.”
This anthem, which could not be further removed from the conservative and 4chan way of seeing the world, is the kind of voice we need if we are to truly break free of the Trump era. It’s not like hating Donald Trump was the only thing these people were passionate about. Among the Biden and Harris signs, there were more signs advocating for defunding the police and in support of Black Lives Matter. Trump may have lost, and the cope may be delicious, but the people who have voted him out don’t see it as the end of battle, but the beginning of a much longer fight.