Folks, there are two empirical reasons why America will not be done with the problem of Donald Trump after Election Day, believe me. Okay? It’ll make your head spin what I’m about to say. I have the best words—including and limited to: unbelievable, luxurious, great, humungous, and super-luxurious—but before I use them to take what hack reporters call a “deep dive” into the phenomenon of Donald Trump, before this grain of sand is added to the Sahara Desert of Trump think pieces, and before being either recycled or scrolled past, let me explain why it’s taken me this long to write about DJT.
The only money I have ever been paid in the profession of journalism came when I researched and fact-checked Donald J. Trump’s statements and positions—insofar as he has positions—for Mark Singer of The New Yorker. After many phone calls, emails, and scores of links, videos, transcripts, and even a hard copy of Trump’s latest hyperbolic book that he didn’t write, with the Trumpian title “Crippled America,” my research was distilled into my boss’s beautiful and hilarious prose in the newly published book, “Trump and Me.”
Perhaps the rush of seeing my name on page 109 of a published book prevented me from adding a grain of sand to the Sahara Desert of Trump think pieces. The only thing I’ve ostensibly written on the man was a review of his abysmal appearance as the host of Saturday Night Live last fall, which an over-caffeinated copy editor entitled, “Donald Trump Renders SNL Unwatchable.”
Yet the truth was that I couldn’t stop watching. Not only do I fall under the categories of “news junkie” and “political junkie”—which are used most frequently by vanilla-wafer reporters who have never covered someone who is actually addicted to drugs—I actually feel a moral obligation to observe and attempt to understand the rise and success of Donald Trump.
While there is certainly value and importance in criticizing Hillary Clinton, ignoring Trump either in favor of criticizing the democratic candidate more or outright ignoring Trump altogether by lazily claiming that, “both candidates are equally bad” is like saying that Wesleyan and the University of Alabama are the same schools.
Although Trump likely won’t win at this point, his movement will continue because of one key circumstance stateside and a frightening precedent in France.
In France, a man name Jean-Marie Le Pen was Donald Trump before Donald Trump was Donald Trump, minus the excess hyperbole and inflated sense of self-worth. Le Pen was the leader of the Front National, a far-right nationalist party that provided a political home for anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers and those who wanted an immigrant free, all-white France.
Yet the party’s real danger didn’t come until more recently, when his daughter, Marine Le Pen, began running the party in 2011. She started what is known in France as the “dédiabolisation” of the party, quite literally the removing of the devil from the Front National. Though she holds many of the same xenophobic and racist beliefs as her father, Marine Le Pen is seen as having a broader appeal to the party, which in the most recent regional elections won more seats in the National Assembly than ever before.
Ivanka Trump, for example, could very easily follow this model. Maybe 1980s supervillains Don Jr. and Eric could as well, but Ivanka’s following is far more diverse than her father’s, and up until Donald ran for president, Ivanka was known as a champion of progressive causes. Trump’s heavy reliance on his kids throughout the campaign, as well as their prominent speaking positions at the convention, ensures a dangerous political legacy should the kids find the Trump Organization to be a sinking ship.
The more imminently dangerous next move for Trumpism is the form of an Alt-Right news network the likes of which no one has ever seen. Trump’s recent partnership with Steve Bannon of Breitbart and his consultation with former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes—who was recently booted from the company after an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations—could prove to be a potent mix of bigoted media moguls.
Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine has had the best reporting on Roger Ailes both pre- and post-law suit, and what he has uncovered leaves Donald Trump no excuse to work with a man so paranoid and so devious that he uses early 20th-century espionage tactics to spy on his enemies, including Sherman himself.
Bannon, on the other hand, is simply a reckless nationalist who allegedly physically abused his wife to the point of giving her severe bruises. According to court documents, he even broke the house phone after she tried to call 911. It’s unclear what Bannon’s influence on the campaign has been thus far, but letting someone who runs a website as insipid as Breitbart into a legitimate presidential campaign shows not only a lack of judgment, but an appetite for white identity politics that is insatiable.
Will the Trump News Network (TNN, you heard it here first) take off and become more powerful than Fox News, or will it go the way of Glenn Beck’s withering glorified podcast? Only time will tell, but unfortunately, the man has options. As much as many of us would like to see Trump washed up and broke after the election, he will keep slithering along toward the abyss, dragging this country’s already problematic reputation with him.