Analysis

Unfathomable Trump Phenomenon Fuels Bonfire of Inanities

From time travel to apocalyptic visions and a 'Handmaid’s Tale,' Trump's otherworldly presidency is evoking the supernatural

The internet has been buzzing in recent weeks over a book entitled “Baron Trump and his Marvelous Underground Journey.” It describes the adventures of a rich young boy who lives in “Castle Trump” in New York on his way to an underground wonderland that is reached through a breach in the earth’s surface in Arctic Russia. The young Trump’s mentor is called Don, who is known as “Master of All Masters.”

The contents of the book may sound at first like a mishmash between breaking news and young adult fiction except for the fact that it was published in 1893. The author of the book, Ingersoll Lockwood, published another book a few years later called “The Last President.” This book describes the election of a populist anti-capitalist president who ultimately dismantles the American republic. The beginning of the book tells of a mob of socialists and anarchists that targets a hotel on Fifth Avenue, where Trump Tower stands today. The riot takes place on November 3, which is the date of the 2020 presidential elections.

Other amazing coincidences can be found in Lockwood’s books, though some require flexibility with facts. The Baron in the book isn’t different from the Barron who peered at the solar eclipse at the White House this week only because of a difference in spelling: For the former it’s a mock aristocratic title, for the latter his private name. The same is true of Don, which isn’t a hypocorism, or shorter version of Donald, but the Spanish honorific instead. These minor details didn’t dissuade conspiracy theorists, of course, from teaming up with science fiction aficionados in an effort to find an explanation for Lockwood’s seemingly astonishing, 120-year-old prophecies. The most popular theory, at this point, is that Barron Trump and/or his father and/or Lockwood himself are time travelers who lived in the future, bounced back to the end of the 19th century and from there to the start of the 21st.

The theory of Trump’s time travels actually preceded the present ballyhoo over the Baron Trump books. It’s been a long standing belief of those who don’t believe anything they’re told, that Trump’s truly distinguished uncle, John Trump, who was a professor of engineering at MIT and a groundbreaking developer of radiotherapy, stole the secrets of time travel when he was asked by the FBI in 1943 to examine the seized papers of the then-recently-deceased Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, after whom the famed electric car is named. Even though John Trump certified that Tesla’s papers did not contain any groundbreaking revelations, conspiracy enthusiasts are convinced that his public statement was a camouflage. At first they were convinced that Trump had taken the formula for the almighty Death Ray that Tesla had mentioned but now they believe it was time travel, which the New York-based genius was also interested in. That’s how Trump came from both future and past to fix the world or to destroy it, depending on your point of view.

The need for out-of-this-world narratives that can explain the Trump phenomenon isn’t surprising. There aren’t many people left - on both sides of the political divide - who don’t see his election and presidency as a historical aberration that is hard to understand or digest. A man who is ignorant, arrogant, volatile, foul-mouthed, hot-tempered, misogynistic and probably racist to a degree sits in the White House, where, as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reminded everyone this week, nothing can come between his finger and a nuclear apocalypse. America and the entire world are riveted to an unfolding drama that could end up as an historical oddity but also as an extinction-level event, culturally if not physically.

The fear of what Trump portends has invigorated the dystopian genre, which was on a roll even before he arrived on the scene. The quality of the disturbing series “Handmaid’s Tale,” which is based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, would have assured it of success in any case, but the drama turned into a cult sensation by virtue of the doom and gloom that overtook parts of America in the wake of Trump’s election. If America can fall into the hand of a reckless billionaire whose sanity is a matter of fierce debate, then it’s not too far a stretch to imagine it, in Trump’s aftermath perhaps, enslaved by a cruel theocratic tyranny that oppresses women. The Amazon series “Man in the High Castle,” which depicts a Japanese and German occupation of the United States during World War II, also seemed suddenly relevant due to Trump’s election victory that separated its second season from its first. Reality imitated art, as Nazis in Charlottesville bloomed in conjunction with those in the Greater Nazi Reich in America who flourished.

Christian fundamentalism pours even more fuel on the bonfire of inanities. Evangelical support for Trump remains extraordinarily strong at 75 percent, more than twice the national average and the highest for any demographic group. Some of it stems from the belief that the new president is an instrument of God whose mission is to bring on the End of Days and the Second Coming. Those who detest Trump’s behavior see him as the anti-Christ who will push Russia to launch a war of Gog and Magog that will start in the Middle East but end with the eradication sinners, as the Book of Revelations projects. And since the anti-Christ is often Jewish, it can’t be a coincidence that Jared Kushner’s headquarters in New York are located at 666 Fifth Avenue, a number that belongs to the devil.

A splinter group of the Armageddon lobby doesn’t think Trump is the anti-Christ but rather another member of the Unholy Trinity, the Beast “rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name,” which certainly reminds one of Trump. After receiving “his power, his throne, and great authority” from the dragon, the Beast proceeds to bring on End Times, as required. In most portrayals, the Beast is depicted a fire-eating dragon that looks like one of the children of Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones.

Other believers, especially those for whom Israel plays a central role, don’t view Trump as a negative type who will bring death and destruction but rather as a latter day Persian King Cyrus, an actual divine messiah, a la Prophet Isaiah. Cyrus was good to the Jews, who had been exiled by the Babylonians, and allowed them to reclaim and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem after it was cleansed of its sinners and criminals. Even those who fail to find many redeeming features in Trump are grateful for the fact that he rid the world of Barack Obama, the real anti-Christ, and saved us from the heresies of Hillary Clinton as well. Even if Trump is no Cyrus, his presence provides a historic opportunity to sanitize government, fumigate its liberal sins away and rebuild a nation that is proud, Christian and as white as possible.

According to reporters who covered Trump’s rally in Phoenix this week, his declarations on his fabled wall with Mexico garnered more enthusiasm than all the rest, including the perennially popular attacks on the media. There’s a good reason why Trump is now threatening reluctant Republican senators with a government shutdown if they don’t include funding for the wall in the federal budget. Just as he tried to please Evangelicals with his transgender ban, Trump knows the wall has deep meaning for his followers. Like the wall built around Jerusalem by the biblical Nehemiah, which was meant to protect Jerusalem, remove its shame and keep it unsullied, so supporters of the wall, believers and non-believers, see it as much more than a way of keeping out illegal immigrants, who are ostensibly taking their jobs. The wall is also a spiritual and symbolic barrier that will isolate the nation and protect it from all its contaminators, including the globalists (especially Jews) who want to weaken it, dilute it and prevent it from fulfilling its historic destiny.

Trump is fighting their fight. He is their knight in shining armor. After most of those who voted for Trump as the lesser evil have already owned up to their mistake, Trump is left with the hard-core nucleus of his base. They will follow him through thick and thin, no matter how outrageous his statements are or how egregious his mistakes. For them, he is a tribal chief before he is a president, and they are his soldiers and kinfolk. His critics, including liberals, intellectuals, the media, the establishment, minorities, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and all other heretics, are their enemies as well. For his friends, on the other hand, from Fox News through neo-Nazis to Vladimir Putin, all is forgiven. Whoever tries to harm him, from Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is probing Trump’s Russian ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who failed to get an ObamaCare replacement passed, will ultimately answer to them.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the argument over the removal of Confederate heroes of the Civil War has reverberated so widely and strongly, much to the dismay of foreign observers who can’t grasp what the fuss is about. Not only is the Civil War the most traumatic event in U.S. history, not only does the debate over the statues expose deep layers of racism in American society, not only is their removal viewed by many reactionaries as another attempt of an arrogant North to dictate mores to a righteous South, but everyone understands, though few will say so, that America is no less polarized today, and that an abyss of fear and loathing separates its two distinct nations. Thus, being warned of the damage he’s doing to himself, Trump did not retreat from his public opposition to the removal of the statues and to his claim that doing so distorts history. 

The president switched personalities this week at a rate that most people change their underwear. He went from full-on racist to commander in chief, to vicious rabble-rouser to the nation’s unifier within days, even hours. Many analysts suddenly had an epiphany that Trump was actually trying to bring his own presidency to an end. Whether it’s a product of uncontrollable arrogance, total inexperience, colossal stupidity, emotional imbalance or all of the above, Trump often seems bent on self-destruction. Any rational president who would understand that McConnell is allowing his aides to leak that the senator from Kentucky can’t see Trump finishing his term, or hear Tennessee’s Bob Corker publicly doubt the president’s stability and competence, would immediately take steps to put out the flames. Trump, on the other hand, takes out the jerry cans to pour more fuel to the fire.

One theory is that Trump is terrified of Mueller’s investigation and can feel the former FBI director’s noose tightening around his neck. If Trump’s demise is at hand, by impeachment or resignation, it will only come from Mueller’s probe rather than some generic move to depose him or to invoke the 25th Amendment. Any other avenue other than Mueller’s could spark a dangerous clash with die hard Trump supporters and would set a very dangerous precedent for the future, as former Obama adviser David Axelrod warned this week.

But if Trump is ultimately compelled to leave office, there are already those who are peddling a scenario that in his last minute in office his head of hair will turn out to be a very sophisticated transmitter that will start to glow bright red as he sends out an SOS signal to a golden flying saucer with TRUMP engraved on its side that will suddenly swoop over the White House, beam Trump up and take him back to the planet that he came from. Commentators on TV will hit their foreheads and admit: It all makes sense now. That’s why he kept on talking about aliens. We should have seen it coming.