It’s Trump coronation week. My wife and I were out with friends last night, sitting in a bar, watching a muted screen that featured Melania Trump giving her (plagiarized?) speech at the convention. A muted screen was perfect to focus on what really matters at this convention – the optics. The screen behind Melania was a fetching color of patriotic red. Shots of the audience showed a mostly clean-cut crowd of predominantly White people, politely applauding, sprinkled with occasional shouts (which happily I couldn’t hear).
As I watched the spectacle, I turned to my friend, another historian. We both waxed nostalgic for political conventions that featured real news rather than manufactured drama. For example, I vividly recall the Republican Convention of 1980, when it seemed for a fleeting moment former President Gerald R. Ford was joining Ronald Reagan on a “unity” ticket. (It was not to be, which is sad. Such a ticket may have saved us from the rise of the Bushes.) Nowadays, barring a major gaffe (plagiarism again?) or perhaps a violent protest, nothing much of consequence happens at these conventions.
Of course, readers of this blog know that I reject Trump, and all his works, and all his empty promises. But that doesn’t mean I won’t give the devil his due. Trump is a deceiver, a con man par excellence, and many Americans are desperate to believe the con.
An example from my local paper. A reader wrote: “Without Trump’s help, we’re all going down,” following that with “We are on the Titanic, and it is going down. Hillary is snug in a lifeboat. The rest of us are in steerage. I don’t care what his hair looks like; we need to be rescued.”
What can one say to that? As I recall, once it struck the iceberg, the Titanic was a doomed ship. Putting Trump at the helm would only help it to slip under the waves faster, perhaps a mercy for those fated to die, but certainly no salvation for ship, crew, and passengers. But if it sped up the Titanic movie and Leonardo DiCaprio’s death scene, that at least would have been a cinematic mercy.
In all seriousness, this reader’s letter moved me. Not for its logic, but for its desperation. Yes, for many people these are desperate times in America. They know the ship of state is sinking. They know they’re stuck in steerage. And they know they’re fated to suffer the consequences, even as Hillary Clinton and crew have ready escapes.
But, and it’s a big “but,” America: Putting a con man at the helm of a foundering ship is not exactly the wisest course of action.
There are alternatives to Captain Trump and Lifeboat Hillary. Seek them out. Get involved. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character found his way out of steerage. Yes, a bit of Hollywood fantasy, but remember the Unsinkable Molly Brown? She was real.
Give me the generosity of Molly Brown over the narcissism of Trump any day — or any year.
(Dedicated to Paul and Mo, my friends at the bar.)