36. He is a miserable failure masquerading as a brilliant success

A failed real estate tycoon pretending to be a successful real estate tycoon gets a gig on television. With no experience in politics or law and no track record of success in management or indeed in any field, he runs for the highest office in the land. He makes empty promises—some of them mean-spirited, others just meaningless—but is unable to articulate any credible plan for how he will deliver them. When one listens to him, all one hears are inanity and dog whistles; what little substance one can discern amid the hot air is all unpleasant. His party hands him the nomination. He is a belligerent man, devoid of warmth or empathy, with a history of racist rhetoric. The revelations about his mistreatment of women come fast and furious as Election Day looms, but the race tightens. Is there some contaminant in the water or air, one wonders, that is making so many people gullible enough to fall for this pretender? The election happens and he wins. Four long years later, as the nation reels from the effects of having a pretender as its president, no one is quite confident that they’re going to see the last of him come January.

A straightforward Electoral College win seems unlikely for DT this time around, and he knows it. So he’s trying to bluster his way into four more years through an array of dishonest and dishonorable tactics that one might hope the American people are sophisticated enough to see through. But are they? A colossal effort is being made by Republicans who have tied their fortunes to this pretender to persuade voters that he isn’t a pretender. Look, they cry, the economy was roaring before the coronavirus arrived. People weren’t sick. Give him another chance and he’ll wave his magic wand and make things great again.

Don’t tell me that they’ll fall for it. He isn’t the Wizard of Oz, another famous pretender and humbug who, like DT, was practically worshipped by his loyal followers. Unlike DT, the Wizard was humble and harmless and meant well. DT doesn’t mean well. He means trouble, and we cannot survive another four years of it.

Meet the new clothes, same as the old clothes

In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” two con artists posing as weavers offer to make for the emperor a fine suit with magical properties: the fabric is invisible to fools. It’s the talk of the town, and everyone is dying to see beautiful new threads. When the time comes to don his new suit, the emperor finds he cannot see it but, not wanting to be thought a fool, he pretends that he can. Then he exchanges what he’s wearing for the new suit, allowing the swindlers to “dress” him, and leads a procession down the main avenue amid cheering subjects who all pretend that they’re impressed at the awesome new clothes. All, that is, except a small child at curbside who pipes up to exclaim that the mighty emperor is wearing no clothes at all. When he hears that, the emperor realizes he is in fact naked, but he feels he must maintain the pretense and so continues his procession anyway:

He carried himself even more proudly, and the chamberlains walked along behind carrying the train that wasn’t there.

Pretense of this sort has become downright trendy of the last four years in the United States, although when it comes to DT, his old clothes weren’t any more real than his new ones. Anyone possessing a reasonable facsimile of a functioning brain knows full well that his abject failure as a statesman mirrors his abject failure as a businessman. Being a serial liar, he of course insists that he’s the greatest of successes at both. The more he screws things up, the more he insists he’s improving them. And scarcely a Republican, from the marble halls of the Capitol to the beer halls of suburban and rural America, will contradict him. At least not publicly. What are they so afraid of?


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