To put it simply: This is Trump fan fiction.
For the unfamiliar, fan fiction allows fans to take well-known entertainment properties and write their own scenarios into them, creating everything from brief stories to entire novels. What if Kirk and Spock were lovers? What if you threw Harry and Hermione into the “Star Wars” universe? What if the a cappella singers from “Pitch Perfect” had to fight zombies?
Or what if Trump were a caring, compassionate, totally non-racist person who saved America from the coronavirus pandemic? Wouldn’t that be an interesting twist?
So Republicans decided that the way to handle the crisis affecting all our lives was to present an alternate timeline, a bizarro-universe story in which rather than spending months denying the coronavirus would affect the United States and claiming it was about to disappear, Trump was in fact the only one who realized how serious it was.
“One leader took decisive action to save lives: President Donald Trump,” said the narrator of a video laying out a fantasy in which Trump personally wrestled the pandemic into submission.
Speakers were brought in to testify to how fantastically Trump performed and how much America benefited. “I can tell you without hesitation Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during covid-19,” said Amy Johnson Ford, a nurse from West Virginia. “President Trump truly moved mountains to save lives,” said G.E. Ghali, a doctor and the chancellor of Louisiana State University Health Shreveport.
You’d never know that over 174,000 Americans have died of covid-19, or that while many of our peer countries, such as Germany, Canada, and South Korea, have the pandemic largely under control to the point where their daily death tolls are in the single digits, America is still ravaged by the virus.
But not in the GOP fanfic. “Just imagine what 2020 would have looked like,” said cancer survivor Natalie Harp, had Trump not done such a magnificent job. “Millions would have died. Millions more would have been infected.”
Just like in all those countries unfortunate enough to lack the benefit of Trump’s leadership, like … um … well, anyway, the pandemic is pretty much over, right?
Then there was the rewriting of Trump’s character. That Trump we all know, the petty, vindictive, crude, selfish narcissist who only seems comfortable around other humans when they’re telling him how great he is? Forget that guy. The convention gave us a fan-fiction version of Trump, one brimming with kindness and compassion.
“I’ve seen up close a man who has a deep love for family,” said RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who literally was forced to change her name because Trump found the “Romney” in it displeasing. (She’s Mitt’s niece.) “I’ve seen private moments where he comforts Americans in times of pain and sadness.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan told us “how much he truly cares about people,” by relating a story in which Jordan asked Trump to speak on the phone to a family member whose young son had been killed in a car accident. Rather than saying no, Trump spoke to the man for five minutes. Could any mere mortal display such compassion?
Former football star Herschel Walker testified too to Trump’s boundless love for ordinary people. “I watched him treat janitors, security guards, and waiters the same way you would treat a VIP. He made them feel special because he knew they were,” said Walker, saying he’s seen “what a caring, loving father he is.”
Walker also insisted that Trump — he of the racist birther lie, “s---hole countries,” and too many bigoted remarks to mention — is actually a great friend to Black people. “It hurt my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” Walker said. “The worst one is racist. I take it out as a personal insult that people would think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist.”
Four years ago, the Republican Party said to America: Why not the worst? What if we searched far and wide to find the most corrupt, immoral, ignorant, narcissistic, impulsive, childish, bigoted demagogue in all the land, a guy who cheats on his taxes and has been accused of sexually assaulting women and is a literal con artist, and made him president? Which we did, and we all know how it worked out.
So now they ask: What if we imagined that none of that actually happened? If we imagined a Trump who is kind, gentle, and compassionate, and the worst disaster of his presidency, the one that has destroyed so many families and left the economy devastated, never occurred? What if that spectacular failure was actually a tremendous success? Wouldn’t that be great?
Well yes, it would be. But the thing about fan fiction is that it’s fiction. And we’re all stuck with the reality.