I wrote this on Medium back when people though there was no chance he ever would.
I dreamed Donald Trump was president
I dreamed Donald Trump was president. It felt like any other day in America, if all you knew of America was what you saw on Reality TV. Trump was the indestructible villain who week after week remained in the race, or the house, or the relationship, or the job — no matter how many nauseating traits of a sociopath he revealed. For some, he was clearly a monster. But for those who grew up watching monsters for fun, he had just what they wanted. They wanted a spectacle and he gave them one.
They knew him because he spoke a crude form of Twitter that any child could grasp. His sloppy hashtags and off-key memes were absurdly compelling. He threw bizarre baby tantrums online then reeled them back in just as weirdly. Then came the allure of money. Rumored vaults full of money. With it, he bought tons things. Pretty things and gaudy things. Expensive things that nevertheless looked horribly cheap. No building was too high, no faucets too gold, no wife too perfectly plastic. None of this remotely resembled a normal American Dream but it was the dream of many millennials because reality TV had raised them to think that way.
Just land a spot on a show, prove you can survive some silly make-believe hardships, and voila! — become a celebrity and an overnight millionaire. Who cares if you got rich from sleaze, got fame from scandal, and built your empire on corruption. Chasing that spotlight, it doesn’t matter if they hate you as long as they’re talking about you. Some people will do whatever it takes. No selfie is ever too racy, no gaffe is ever too coarse. As long as it all goes viral, your following will surge. Whatever the backlash, simply feign regret and move on. From one mess and clean-up to the next, your empire just keeps growing. In a world where maximum notoriety reigns supreme, being notorious to the max is its own self-sustaining reward.
Hillary doesn’t come from that world. In her world fashion is trivial, pretension is pointless, and her well-earned status is no big deal. If esteem serves a higher purpose, that’s fine, but ostentation for its own sake is pathetic. She only does selfies because she has to. Hillary shows no sign of vanity and that’s turned out to be terribly disconcerting to some in America 2016 where vanity is all. “How can you go out with bags under your eyes? What do you mean you don’t have a trainer and no unattainable goal weight to stress about? Why not indulge in lip plumpers and fillers and Botox and hair dye?”
I dreamed Donald Trump was president and far too few Americans did anything to stop it. Those who wanted to, couldn’t stop it if they tried — the forces of media manipulation were too persuasive, too pervasive. It was a reality show with great ratings, frightfully fascinating stars, and a parade of wacky guest stars. There they are, The Trumps — The Kardashians of Manhattan — gleaming Aryan children flanking The Donald, the whole family jutting as much arrogant chin implants as cosmetic surgery can fabricate. He’s famous so they’re famous, so yay! we’re all famous! because he’s going to be our President! Ivanka, Melania, the creepy Trump boys whose personalities seem disturbingly interchangeable, with their vacant mannequin expressions (“lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes…”).
They will provide most of America with the satisfaction they so hungrily crave from all of our TV reality stars — an opportunity for us to feel we’re better than they are. Since very few of us are frauds to such a surreal extent, deep down we know we are better than the Trumps. So, yes, a good solid half of America can afford to love them. And do love them. Far too many of us get a kick out of this freak show and we don’t want it to end.
Imagine, an ongoing Trump storyline as he faces a flustered Congress because, oops! — the president decided it was a good idea to threaten North Korea with a nuke. “Who’s gonna stop me. Lyin’ Congress? Crooked Congress? They can’t stop me. There’s scrawny Paul Ryan, what’s he gonna do? Flex his pecs at me?” Then the Trump show confronts protesters who gather around the site of whatever reckless pipeline he’s just approved. “They think they can stop me from making America great again? Oil is thicker than drinking water, and a helluva lot more profitable, believe me!” The Trump show in season two goes to an international emergency summit to stop a giant blob of trash from suffocating the entire Pacific Ocean. “Who cares about fish. They’re fishy, those failed fish! Nobody wants fish when they can have a Trump steak.” The loyal Trump audience tunes in to watch as Melania Trump goes to an elementary school to read a Dr. Seuss story:
ALL FALL. Fall off the wall.
[She looks around for Latino kids. Finds none. Frowns.
SAD DAD. Dad is sad. Very, very sad. He had a bad day.
[Her voice cracks. Visibly shaken, she begins to sob.]
NIGHT FIGHT. We fight all night … oh God … the fights, the fights!
[Secret Service rush in, surround her. Whisk her away to the limo.]
But isn’t great TV? It is.
Reality TV came to prominence in this country right around the time the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush. It was right around the time of 9/11 and terrorism. It was right around the time of the Columbine shootings or shortly thereafter. The rise of reality TV coincided with the rise of the internet. Be a star on TV! Be a mass murderer star! Be an internet star! Click-bait would soon obliterate responsible journalism as we knew it. If it bleeds, it leads. So too, did internet news, for survival, turn into a ratings grab.
By the time Facebook and Comedy Central came along, it was hard to tell the difference between real news and fake news. Our kids grew up into this, thinking every hysterical link from US Uncut was real. Believing that vicious hacks like H.A. Goodman were real journalists. Trusting that if someone got paid $5 million a year to spin the days events into slick three-minute packages every evening, then it must be true! “Bernie is the truth-teller,” they all proclaimed. “Hillary is hopelessly corrupt,” they all proclaimed. Because that’s what they’d been told. So it was tweeted; and so it was done.
Hillary had been voted off The Isle of Man already, so how the hell did she win the nomination? The system must be rigged! Hillary was the one they had cast as Dolores Umbridge — the Wicked Witch of the East trying to lead us astray, the Marie Antoinette suggesting we just eat cake. Why was their Bernie, their chosen hero, now telling them to vote for this Medusa? None it was making any sense. This is not what they’d been promised. What had they spent they $27 donations on? It was all so horribly unfair.
Half of America want Hillary to go down. They want to see her — and all of the grand, Shakespearean ambition they imagine collapse under the weight of manufactured myths of her failures. No one who sits in the front of the class and dresses and looks like that gets to be a winner.
I dreamed Donald Trump was president because an anxious cadre of white male intellectuals didn’t like being told they should lay off criticizing Hillary — even as poll numbers tightened alarmingly. “No, it’s our right to be prickly! As men! As testy sacks of ebbing testosterone!” They may hate Trump, they may genuinely deplore him — but you can’t make them fake an ounce of respect for Hillary. Not for eight years or four. Not for five crummy minutes. (God help them if they had to spend an entire lifetime faking adoration or even tolerance to please an insecure man. They couldn’t do it.) No, all the huffy authorities and taste-maker roosters have chosen to pussy out right now, in the final act, because Hillary isn’t quite perfect.
I asked one of them, Harry Shearer — you know, Derek Smalls? Le Show? — I asked him how could he keep tearing down Hillary with so much at stake. But he might as well have been Matt Tiabbi of Rolling Stone or producer Gavin Palone. Don’t they care about the myriad threats Americans would face with a full-blown white supremacist in the White House? Couldn’t they find it in their hearts to think about the fate of Muslim American families? Mexican Americans who would be victims of hate crimes? To them, Hillary is a war monger and any threat against our citizens, our country, the environment, global safety is nothing compared to “what Hillary would do.”
“Where do you want the bomb dropped, Madam President? Where do we sign to green-light your plans? Say the word, ma’am. You say jump, we say how high.” As if.
Face it. None of the white male elites have a clue what to do about Hillary. They may dread the idea of Trump but at least they feel comfortable with him because he represents a familiar extension of their own male bluster. So they lie. They lie and pretend they don’t want Trump, but deep down so many of them truly do. What do they have to lose? They don’t fear a world where Trump is in charge because that would keep many of the same gang of blowhards in charge in the bargain. No surprise, they secretly like being in power as white males. Why would they ever want to give that up? Give the most powerful job in the world to a woman? And THAT woman?
It doesn’t have anything to do with rational common sense. It probably involves something more primal. Something that reaches back hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of years — a tiny signal in their reptilian brains. The faint voices in some of their addled heads say: “This woman holds no value for me. She is no longer of any use as a receptacle for my shriveled sperm. I am innately greater than her by birthright, because I am male. I decide. I don’t need to care what this means for anyone else. I’m not a worrier; that’s what women are for. Instead, I decide power. I AM power.”
I dreamed Donald Trump was president in an America that has become a waking nightmare. His ascent is the perfect answer to what America has become and perhaps what it has always wanted to be. He buys anything he wants to buy, as most of us we wish we could. He bankrupts and ruins anything he wants, for his own selfish reasons. And sadly so do we. He eats fast food because he likes it, and so do we. All of our ravenous habits combine to destroy the environment, but not enough of us care. As long as there’s plenty of bacon till we die, let future generations figure out what do with all the grease.
Trump generates trash. Literal trash, ideological trash, intellectual trash, moral trash. Trash to fill as many garbage bags as Mar-a-Lago can withstand and he spews it night and day with impunity. Like it or not, Trump is us. We are Trump. We don’t want anyone telling us what we mustn’t buy, what we need to eat, what we shouldn’t say. We came to this once-pristine continent and took whatever we wanted, systematically wrecking it from sea to fetid sea. We never looked back. And we never looked ahead either.
America now seems ready to say “Fuck it. We can’t stop global warming, it’s too late. We can’t solve racism, so why bother? We can’t fix our own schools or jails, much less save the rain forests, it’s all too hard” and besides, it’s Hillary’s fault and anyone who voted for her.
I dreamed Donald Trump was president. It was the night of the Harvest Moon. That big beautiful swollen moon rising to shine a light of judgment on the scramble towards madness below. Every time we reached for it — to stop the planet rising 4 degrees, or to stop a nuclear bomb or to stop an unarmed citizen getting shot in the street — our own worst instincts send us tumbling back down back into the arms of the forces that invaded and conquered this continent. THEY decide. They are power.
All we can do is what we’ve chosen to do: sit back and and watch in an apathetic trance as a top-rated, hypnotic reality show holds us in its heinous thrall.
© Sasha Stone