This was the week the man
Changed his mind about mass deportation.
There will not be a total ban
Of Muslims, only extreme filtration.
And the week the nominee was unhorsed
By a revelatory video that hit
And the New York Times was forced
To print words that were not fit.
He was 59 and talking about his great luck
With women who were celebrity-struck
And how he was free to be a schmuck —
A cartoon, a strutting, squawking Donald Duck.
A role model, but for what role?
The Joker? Darth Vader?
A black hole?
Maybe the Terminator.
The man is a 70-year-old adolescent,
A playboy, a teen queen, a juvie.
Take him away, give him a suppressant,
Roll the credits, end of the movie.
It’s the scariest and hairiest election of this old man’s life, and I pore over the polls and the electoral maps. One day Iowa is red, the next day blue. Hillary Clinton pulls ahead in Pennsylvania, Donald Trump in Ohio. Tiny New Hampshire, more like a county than a state, comes to prominence. Other democracies miss out on the excitement because they forgot to include an electoral college, which got a bad rap in 2000 but which makes a national election a series of local ones. Democrats win the West Coast and Northeast and chunks of the Midwest, the GOP takes the Bible Belt and the Wild West, and they go marauding for the swing states. This year, Mr. Trump has succeeded in turning a number of reliably Republican states into swing states. Remarkable.
But there comes a time when a man must take a break before his brain turns to jelly and so I flew to London for a few days, and I ignored the plunge of the pound amid the nonsense of Brexit and the general political chaos — sorry, not my problem! — and simply walked around on sunny autumn days through the mazes of streets and alleys where modern office towers have been planted among Georgian and Victorian grandeur, where you get a wad of pounds from an ATM with your American cash card and stroll around the corner and there is Gough Square and Dr. Samuel Johnson’s little brick townhouse where he slaved to make the first great dictionary of English. I took a picture of it with my phone and posted it on Facebook.
Dr. Johnson said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” and his house is a stone’s throw from Grub Street, where hacks and scriveners hung out in the taverns, scribbling satire, polemics, poesy, political screeds, for measly pay, a band of misfits held in low esteem like the strumpets in the doorways. Nowadays, this crowd has found a happy home on the Internet, but back when writing was all on paper, a man could be pilloried for offending the wrong prince or duke. Your arms and neck were locked in a wooden brace and people threw rotten eggs and dead fish at you. Daniel Defoe was thus punished for satirizing the church and its treatment of dissenters. He was a pen for hire who served both Whigs and Tories, and his view of politics was succinct: “All men would be tyrants if they could.” In other words, you’re all alike, liberals, conservatives, whoever, only out for power. It must’ve given him great pleasure to go off and write “Robinson Crusoe,” and imagine a peaceful hermit on a desert island.
Mr. Trump would have enjoyed the 17th century, the tumult, the divine right of kings, the suppression of Parliament. Vituperation was normal discourse, the idea of privileged sexual aggression was common in high places, money flowed freely, rich men commissioned great monuments to themselves. He was in excellent form on Sunday night, strutting, stalking, words and phrases flowing out of him like water from a hose — “disaster” and “horrible” over and over — and if you put him on Grub Street in 1650, he’d be magnificent in his great swirling robes, surrounded by courtiers and sycophants, ranting against the Puritans, supporting the monarchy, smiting his enemies. The problem in 2016 is that most of what he says is a lie. Nobody learns anything from lies. The country is not in crisis. The government is not a disaster; it is a culture of process and law and organization that is alien to him. The Syrian refugee will quickly know more about this country than the man in the triplex penthouse. It would have been better if, instead of running for president and wasting everyone’s time, he’d just sat down and written a novel.
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