Monday, July 20, 2015

Does America Deserve The Donald?

Here's a scary thought: President Trump. While those of us with a sense of humor are actually kinda excited that he announced his candidacy, the prospect of Donald Trump being President of the United States is pretty unsettling. He has already said crazy things, and it's only a month into the campaign. But what if the unthinkable is true? What if Donald Trump is the president that America not only desires but actually deserves?

I should probably state upfront that I am in no way advocating or campaigning for Donald Trump. I think he is a racist, misogynist, megalomaniacal jerk. That being said, I want to use some of the crazy things he has said recently, as well as his personality and career, to simply propose that he totally makes sense as a presidential candidate.

1) Money. The most well-known thing about Donald Trump aside from his hair is that he is ridiculously wealthy. It's why he can have the deplorable hair: when you're as rich as he is, you don't have to look any way or do anything that you don't want to. When Trump announced his candidacy, he had to disclose his net worth, reporting $9 billion. NINE BILLION DOLLARS. (This is a suject of much debate online, by the way, as a Google search for his net worth brings up many articles about what he's "really" worth. We'll stick with the $9b figure because it's still a ridiculous number!) I think this has only exacerbated his cartoonish personality, as most of us can only imagine that kind of wealth in the following way:

But Americans simply cannot begrudge someone their financial successes when we've predicated our entire philosophy of work on the accumulation of wealth above all else. Donald Trump is just a capitalist, making extensive use of his silver-spooned childhood privilege and parlaying it into more money and more power. Incidentally, he shares this with so many other presidential candidates, both past and present, although maybe not to the tune of NINE BILLION DOLLARS. The fact of the matter is that to be president, you have to be rich. And the Donald is.

2) Television. I've seen maybe five episodes of "The Apprentice," but I know enough about reality television to know that Donald Trump is perfect for it. He's a loud, cartoonish man who plays the arbitrary judge of character and intentions, occasionally using the right words to make it sound like a morality play--the basic formula for any good reality tv show. He also happens to fit nicely into what I've called "wealth porn," a television phenomenon wherein shows exist almost exclusively to put the wealth of others on display. The fact is that Americans love rich people because our collective understanding is that we're all just rich people in waiting. In the ethos of American consumer life, isn't Trump the ultimate role model, graciously demonstrating the keys to success in prime time?

Furthermore, he managed to take one of the most horrific speech-acts in most of our lives, "You're Fired," and turn it into a mechanism for a game show. Behind every "You're Fired," however, was the audience's renewed hope in the American dream whereby hard work=money. They'll learn and work harder next time, Trump sang in our ears, that same tired tune which refuses to acknowledge privilege of any kind.

3) Racism. Among those "crazy things" that Trump said in the last month was the following:

"[Immigrants from Mexico are] bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting."

Most people aren't really surprised at such comments from the Donald but that doesn't make them any less shocking. Many companies have responded by pulling Trump products and doing what they can to distance themselves from his company. What his comments reflect, however, is the pervasive racist and xenophobic discourse that structures so much of our foreign and domestic policies. Other candidates and leaders may not call Mexicans rapists, but they certainly have sponsored economic and military policies that have destroyed the lives of droves of refugees, immigrants and migrants around the world. Closer to home, our justice system is maybe only now being truly examined (if it really is) for its well documented racism and codified injustice. On these fronts, Trump is more of the same.


I don't think that Donald Trump is the president that America needs. I do think that, on some level, he is the president that America deserves. If we continue to let our political discourse spin out into higher levels of absurdity, evidenced in no small part by the proliferation of cable "news" organizations, we will continue to attract absurd candidates. More importantly, however, is that when we allow our electoral system to be dictated by corporate money to such an extent that corporations are understood as persons with the same rights of free speech as individual Americans, we may as well sell our offices to the highest bidder. What Trump has shown us by his latest attempt at public office is not how absurd he is but maybe how absurd we may have become.