How the Classic 1980s Film “Gremlins” Predicted Trump’s America

‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless you’re a loser. That’s right, the end of 2016 is upon us, and aside from remorselessly swiping David Bowie, Prince, and Natalie Cole from the world of the living, 2016 also installed a boorish orange Philistine into the highest office in the land. There have been numerous watershed elections in U.S. history, but the race that hacked the astringent Trump loogie out of the dankest corner of America’s collective nasal passage and spat him into the Oval Office will surely rank as one of the rankest examples of American democratic excess.

Donald J. Trump — he of the speed-bumped squirrel bouffant and Tang-tinged rice-paper skin — rode a tidal wave of white resentment that allowed him to give high-school swirlys to the aloof establishment nabobs in both political parties. But anyone who cared to pay attention to the festering cloud of amorphous fear mixed with shoulder-chipped resentment that has floated across the Heartland for decades should have noticed that Trump wasn’t some new development in American politics; rather, he’s the culmination of a long-building new American identity: that of the hopelessly besieged.

One seemingly silly movie from the 1980s perfectly envisioned the idea of a besieged America that would push voters into Trump’s charlatan claws some three decades later. I’m talking about the 1984 Steven Spielberg-produced, Joe Dante-directed holiday horror/comedy Gremlins.

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Ducks on Fish and Donald Trump

A Trump yard sign stuck in a yard in Meadville, PA, the county seat of western Crawford County.

A Trump yard sign in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the county seat of western Crawford County.

There’s a country called America. It’s a place where amber waves of grain dance along the horizon like so many sprouting capitalist entrepreneurs. It’s a country that built an impressive interstate highway system to provide weary travellers with easy access to Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s a place that might elect as its next president a filthy-rich, xenophobic, muskrat-domed can of sentient Spray Tan.

Not every corner of America is Donald Trump country, of course. But if you wanna know what pockets of this great nation embrace the Great Orange Demigod, then look no further than the small towns and boroughs of William Penn’s old stomping ground. Referred to derisively or proudly as “Pennsyltucky,” the swath of ‘Murica that sits between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia like a super-sized Norman Rockwell diorama loves itself some Trump. In particular, there’s a region in western Crawford County (straddling the border of Ohio’s Ashtabula County) where you can watch ducks and geese traverse the wet backs of thousands of Wonder Bread-chomping carp. Here, amidst all the fish and fowl, Trump signs abound.

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Why America Always Has Been (and Always Will be) Divided

Protestors face off against Baton Rouge's heavily militarized poice force folowing the shooting of Alton Sterling.

Protesters face off against Baton Rouge’s heavily militarized police force following the shooting of Alton Sterling.

On the evening of July 27, 2004, during a steaming hot summer in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the junior senator from Illinois took the stage at the Democratic Party’s national convention and delivered one of the most important speeches in modern political history. Though the convention’s focus was to anoint the hapless John Kerry as the party’s standard-bearer for what became a futile effort to boot President George W. Bush from the White House, the convention’s keynote speaker focused less on an uncertain present and more on a hopeful future.

That keynote speaker — future President Barack Obama — delivered an address squarely aimed at undermining the toxic national divisiveness that defined America during the Bush years. In perhaps the defining moment of his political career, Obama insisted that, “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” Twelve years later, in the twilight of President Obama’s second term in the White House, some think that America is more divided than ever.

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Why Hillary Clinton is the Best Worst Candidate in the 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton has officially won the presumptive nomination for the less-awful-than-Trump party. Yay.

Hillary Clinton has officially won the presumptive nomination for the less-awful-than-Trump party. Yay.

Whelp, it’s over folks. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has made history by becoming the first woman to (officially unofficially) clinch the nomination for a major party’s presidential ticket. While I’ve been vocal in my support for Sen. Bernie Sanders over the former Secretary of State, Clinton’s nomination is nonetheless an awesome and historic moment in U.S. history.

Think about it: it took until two-thousand friggin’ sixteen for the United States to get a viable female candidate for the highest office in the land. That’s frankly disgraceful, but to paraphrase an apocryphal quote from Winston Churchill: Americans always do the right thing after they’ve exhausted all the other options.

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Donald Trump & George Wallace: More Than Just Demagoguery

George Wallace campaigns in 1962 on behalf of aggrieved white dudes across Dixie

George Wallace campaigns in 1962 on behalf of aggrieved white dudes across Dixie.

As the presidential primaries bleed into an American spring that’s sure to be unlike any other in recent political memory, one thing has remained bewilderingly consistent: Donald Trump has made the Republican Party his chew toy, and like a stubborn beagle who just found your favorite pair of socks, he isn’t letting go. Whether the boorish billionaire wins or loses the GOP’s presidential nomination, he’s already made his bug-splatter-like mark on the American national windshield, and it’s gonna take a hell of a lot scrubbing to clean off.

Plenty of commentators (including your’s truly) have placed Trump within a rich tradition of American demagoguery. Few comparisons, however, have been more apt than the striking similarities between The Donald and Deep-South reactionary George Wallace, who ran for president during the 1960s and 1970s on a platform of reactionary racism, crude anti-intellectualism, and economic populism.

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Trumpocalypse Now! What Super Tuesday 2016 Means for America

Donald Trump declares wictory on Super Tuesday, while Chris Christie imagines what hell will be like when he shuffles off this mortal coil.

Donald Trump declares victory on Super Tuesday, while Chris Christie imagines what Hell will be like when he shuffles off this mortal coil.

If you followed the Super Tuesday primary results and suddenly felt a noticeable rumble beneath your feet, that was no earthquake. It was, in fact, the reverberation caused by Donald Trump’s gargantuan balls crashing through America’s purple mountain majesties and landing with a tremor-inducing thump into our amber waves of grain.

Trump’s dominating, if not entirely sweeping Super Tuesday victories were just the latest loogie hocked into the national Gatorade bottle during Election 2016. This is a race in which a long-festering culture of anti-politics has combined with bare-knuckled populism to create what will be the most uninspiring — and genuinely terrifying — party tickets in modern history.

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Crash and Bern: The 2016 Iowa Caucuses

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz crusied to victory in IOwa by Trumping Trump.

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz cruised to victory in Iowa by Trumping Trump.

Every four years, the Iowa Caucus allows Iowa to be just a little bit more than that Field of Dreams state. The 2016 Iowa Caucus was an interesting affair, to say the least.

First off, there was the not entirely unsurprising second-place finish of marmot-domed billionaire braggart Donald Trump. The Donald got thwomped fairly decisively by immigrant Ted Cruz, proving that the universe does indeed have a sense of humor. Trump’s defeat was predictable: his entire campaign has been long on foamy-mawed resentment but short on real-deal, right-wing meat and potatoes. The policies he’s mouthed – building a Mexican border wall; banning Muslim immigration, and shoring up Social Security for cranky old honkies – have ranged from the absurd to the frankly liberal, hence the disdain he’s engendered among GOP establishment Grand Poobas.

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American Conservatism’s Authoritarian Streak

A really big chunk of Americans really like to be told what to do.

A really big chunk of Americans really like to be told what to do.

What do you look for in a political leader? Do you value intelligence? Religious faith? Commitment to national security? An assertion of family values? Or, do you find yourself drawn to leaders that separate the weak from the strong; that promise to use all of their accumulated power to advance the interests of the U.S.A. as the most dominant country on earth? If you find yourself identifying with the former description, then you just might be attracted to the presidential campaign of a certain billionaire braggadocio with a gnarled squirrel on top of his noggin.

That’s right, of all of the qualities that have transformed Donald Trump’s presidential run from a seemingly Quixotic national experiment in the limits of extreme narcissism into a viable path to the White House, few are more important than his appeal to conservative voters’ authoritarian instincts. While not necessarily interchangeable, conservatism and authoritarianism go together like peas and carrots, like bread and wine, like trigger-happy white police officers and unarmed black dudes.

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Trump and the Pungent Politics of Exclusivity

Donalnd Trump trumpets the politics of exclusivity in Richmond, VA. Former capital of the Old Confederacy.

Donald Trump trumpets the politics of exclusivity in Richmond, VA, the former capital of the Old Confederacy.

Donald Trump is a boorish, brash, braggadocious blowhard. He’s the kind of guy who’s richer than — and therefore better than — you, and if you don’t agree, then you’re an idiot. He’s tailor-made for the shame-drained slime bucket that is American politics. This fact ought to be a no-brainer at this point in the 2016 presidential campaign, but America’s over-paid beltway media fluffers still can’t comprehend why the GOP voting base laps up Trump’s uncouth stew of xenophobia, bigotry, sexism, and overt plutocrat sanctification like a St. Bernard who’s jowls-deep in a bowl of gravy-slathered kibble.

In an article for Reuters, for example, Bill Schneider claims that Trump is a new kind of candidate, an unholy, Frankensteinian daemon cross between “the political outsider and the fringe candidate.” This makes the blustery, ball-capped billionaire all the more perplexing to Schneider, who observes that, “Trump is a multibillionaire running against the establishment. He’s a candidate with no coherent political philosophy running as a conservative champion. It doesn’t make sense. But, so far, it’s working.” Trump’s conservative grass-roots appeal confuses the American punditocracy because they don’t want to admit that the secret to U.S. politics is exclusivity: that those with their grubby white maws already stuck in the national cookie jar will always vote to exclude other groups who are demanding some crumbs of their own.

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Trump, Immigration, and the Return of the Know Nothings

Trump trumpets his hard-line immigration stance in Alabama.

Trump trumpets his hard-line immigration stance in Alabama.

If there’s one thing that’s always struck terror into the quivering hearts of status-conscious white American whimperers, it’s the threat of the looming “not like us” immigrant hordes. Throughout history, Real ‘Muricans of blanched complexions and insecure egos have duplicitously ignored their own non-tribal status while insisting that America should embrace the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses just so long as said masses ain’t too Catholic, too dusky, too Asian-y, too Slavic, or too Messican.’

Enter Sir Donald of Trump. In an era when the American ethnic demographic is rapidly shifting towards a non-white majority amidst an uncertain, recession-smashed 21st-century world, Trump’s hard-line immigration plan is just the sort of paranoid tonic to sooth conservative America’s anxious cultural cough.

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