Trump’s Candidacy a Mix of Richard Pryor and the Twilight Zone
I had a good laugh the other day when a regular visitor to this website wrote that Donald Trump’s campaign conduct reminds her of six-year-old Anthony Fremont from the classic Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life.”
The comparison was dead-on.
For those of you who’ve never seen the episode (or its remade version in the Twilight Zone movie from the 1980s), here’s a quick rundown:
Anthony looks like—and exhibits the same level of maturity as—any other boy his age. What makes him very different, however, is that he has godlike mental powers, including the ability to read people’s minds. He uses those powers to keep all of the adults living in his small town (including his parents) from leaving.
The adults tiptoe nervously around the young boy, and lavish him with constant praise to prevent him from getting upset. Because when someone makes Anthony Fremont upset by having negative thoughts of him, they are deemed by the child to be a “bad person” and get wished away to mystical place where they’re never seen or heard from again.
It’s the same complex displayed time after time by Mr. Trump. Whenever someone criticizes him or questions his credibility, his fragile ego compels him to interpret their words as a betrayal, and he lashes out at them in a demonstrably adolescent way. Most of the time, it comes in the form of name-calling or the denigration of one’s career. Other times, it’s much uglier.
When Senator John McCain was a “bad person” for taking a shot at Trump supporters, Donald sneered at the notion that McCain was a war hero, and went as disgustingly far as mocking American POWs for their capture. When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly was a “bad person” for asking tough questions of Trump at the recent GOP primary debate, Donald decided (and implied to CNN) that she must have been on her period.
Though many people would insist this to be part of a persona, I believe this is the real Donald Trump—a man whose butt has been kissed so many times throughout his career that he now views anyone who challenges his greatness as a disrespectful employee that requires a harsh reprimand.
Though the insults and crassness have certainly earned Trump a lot of media attention, such things aren’t what has gained him such a large, loyal base of support. Let’s face it: No one wants an Anthony Fremont in charge of our country’s nuclear arsenal. And even if Trump didn’t routinely say nasty things about people, he would still be topping the GOP polls right now.
Why? The easy answer is the same one that countless pundits have offered up in canned fashion over the past couple of months: Trump’s tapping into an angry electorate that is frustrated with ‘the establishment.’
That explanation certainly has some truth to it, but I would take it a step further and suggest that much of the billionaire’s support represents a portion of the electorate that has essentially given up because of that anger, and is no longer taking the role of the presidency seriously.
For these people, Trump has become the “None of the above” candidate that Richard Pryor represented in the 1980’s comedic movie, Brewster’s Millions.
As you might recall, Pryor’s character in the film runs to be the mayor of New York. He does so not because he wants the office or because he believes he can win, but because he needs to burn through a large sum of money in order to be awarded exponentially more wealth. Recognizing the disillusionment of voters and the phoniness of the establishment politicians offering empty promises, Pryor realizes an opening for him. He throws his hat into the ring and runs as the ultimate protest vote, labeling himself the “None of the above” candidate. He capitalizes on public discontent, and puts forth a platform absent of serious issues and positions, and heavy on elaborate publicity stunts and blunt rhetoric. Voters get caught up in the fun and throw him their support.
While I’m sure the Trump supporters who are reading this will take exception with me categorizing them as unserious, I feel pretty confident in my assessment. I’ve talked with enough of them over the past couple of months to determine that they couldn’t tell you with certainty where Trump stands on any given issue. And furthermore, they don’t really seem to care. They don’t know why his liberal stances don’t bother them (when those of every other Republican candidate do), and they shrug their shoulders at his crushing disapproval numbers within key voting demographics.
What they do like is the spectacle, and that he’s a thumb in the eye of the status quo. Somehow that’s enough. And to me, it’s an unfortunate sign of resignation.
Trump’s motivations for running are different from that of Pryor’s character, of course, but not as much as one might think. While he’s not seeking greater monetary wealth, he is pursuing something I believe he values even more at this point in his life: respect from the national pundits and politicians who have long laughed off the notion of a President Trump. He wants to show them that he can win, which is why he talked about “leverage” in last week’s debate. Actually winning? It’s an afterthought.
This is all about a billionaire’s ego and a desperate need for acceptance…not the betterment of the country. I’d say that I wish Trump’s fans recognized that, but I’m pretty sure (on some level) they already do, which is all the more unsettling.
Personally, I’m ready to cross out of the Twilight Zone and concentrate on defeating an increasingly weak Hillary Clinton. I’m hoping others will join me.