Nobody knows how covfefe happened or what it meant. The best guesses generally were “the president fell asleep mid-tweet” and “nothing.”
At the time, four months into the Trump administration, exhausted Americans took in the bizarre errata (less a typo than a total malfunction) like a hot stone massage in the middle of a brutal beatdown. Those early months had been so full of urgent malevolence—the giddy, ramshackle rush to block migrants from Muslim-majority nations and cancel Obamacare, among other ordeals—that Trump’s harmless goofy gibberish provided a much-needed shared laugh.
Back then, a Trump typo tweet could still bring people together in a semi-meaningful way. But the moment has long since passed. Or at least, it should have passed.
As of last November, Trump had tweeted 188 misspelled words, and it feels as though we still greet each of these in the same way, even at this late date. The typo appears in a presidential tweet, creating an ethereal window of time until he deletes it. The offending word trends on Twitter as everyone gets their identical jokes in, leading media outlets to cover it, and then, several hours and news cycles later, late-night talk show hosts make fun of it on TV. No less than two late night talk shows have covered Trump typos just this week!
It’s time for them, and all of us, to stop.
I understand the urge to mock these typos, along with any resistance to a rant against doing so. Sometimes, a frivolous story will catch people’s attention online and then some pious killjoy will scold others for rejoicing in, say, #Megxit, rather than scrutinizing the Iran debacle. I’m not suggesting only focusing one’s social media output on the most pressing issues at all times. Obviously, it’s possible to care about two things at once. But in 2020, lampooning these familiar, boring typos doesn’t even rise to the level of useful distraction. In fact, it’s counterproductive.
Typos are among the easily defensible of Trump’s myriad misdeed because everybody does them. The president’s most amazing magic trick was convincing so many people that, beneath the gauche golden penthouse veneer, he is just like them. Trump’s tendency toward typos only further cements his ill-gotten everyman cred. And making fun of him for them only feeds his supporters’ boundless resentment. A scientific study from 2016 found that people who constantly point out typos are “less agreeable” than those making them. When Trump’s defenders see your amazing “IMPEACHMENT IS ‘EMINENT,’ CHEETO” tweet, it only helps prop up Trump as man-of-the-people underdog, incurring the slings and arrows of the egghead elite.
Just because Trump constantly serves us reminders that he can’t spell doesn’t mean we have to use them to point out this deficiency. If we’re going to keep bringing up troubling things we already know about Trump, there’s no shortage of much worse traits that tend to go unfairly under-discussed. Whenever the latest “hamberders” is trending, it could be birtherism, climate change denial, or the many credible sexual assault allegations that should always follow Trump like the stink lines on Pig-Pen from Peanuts. Imagine if every Trump typo inspired hundreds of thousands of people to tweet about how Trump once bragged to Howard Stern about barging into the changing rooms at his Miss Teen USA pageants to catch the contestants undressed. It probably wouldn’t change anything, but it might at least remind people of something that should probably be more consequential than the fact that he accidentally misspelled his wife’s name.
Trump is a poor speller with sausage fingers. Everybody knows this about him, even his fans. Such basic linguistic failures would be troubling with any other president (or school teacher or regional car dealership manager), and it is troubling with him as well. However, Donald Trump’s lack of spelling skills and laziness around spellchecking are among the least troubling aspects about him. The novelty has long since worn off. Making fun of Trump’s typos is subterranean low-hanging fruit. The thinnest gruel. At this point, it’s just making fun of the deck chairs on the Titanic.