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We have entered a new dimension of diabolical dualities and dynamic doppelgangers. Haruki Murakami saw it coming in IQ84. Netflix saw it coming in Stranger Things. Now that we’re inside it, the fact that I’m a liberal who won’t vote for Donald Trump in November shouldn’t stop me from showing him some respect. He is the President of the United States of America, after all. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve done my best. As was drilled into me by mom when I was growing up, “Any job worth doing is worth doing well.” She despises Trump, and might not agree that this is a job worth doing, but I’m sure she will read it anyway. My dad, after all, was a staunch supporter of Nixon. In honoring her proverbial advice, I’ve tried to pay a truer, higher tribute to Trump than any conservative could. It’s not all nice, but it’s sympathetic, optimistic, and honest — circumstantially at least. It will be the bulk of what follows. There will be much about me, but it will all come around to Donald Trump, in many winks of an eye.

For starters, I have just read an insightful article about Trump as a successful salesman. When it comes to sales, I suck. I’ve had two jobs as a salesman in my life. They were a long time ago, but I have not forgotten how bad I was at them. The salary at both was based on commission, but I never sold enough to surpass the safety-net minimum guaranteed, which is all I ever ended up taking home. At both of them I earned less than minimum wage, around $1.60 per hour back at the time of the first one, and I’m not sure their combined earnings were even out of the red after subtracting work related spendings. They were also both jobs at which Trump would have excelled. Both should have involved talking a lot, and a healthy amount of ingratiating bullshit could have been financially rewarding, and even a little borderline lying here and there might at times have been profitable. I can not claim to have done very well on any of those counts on either of the jobs. Trump would have been a different story.

My first sales job was during my last semester at home before I started at UNL, at a time when good jobs were kind of hard to come by (keep in mind that Trump would have been 25 then, just taking over his family’s real estate business). It involved driving a van gas-station-to-gas-station to sell things like wiper blades and insect wipes. I can honestly see Trump excelling at something like this. I did not. I’m not saying that being in Trump’s financial situation at the time would have made me any more successful, but he might have had an advantage in little things like transportation. With the right accommodations it might have been less stressful driving a route that hit every service station in Omaha on a bi-weekly basis. Trump would probably have found a way to make that part of the job more enjoyable, even though Twitter was still in the distant future. Even allowing for little things like that, Trump would have trounced my salesmanship, or lack of it.

My main objective became to cover the route as quickly as possible, leaving plenty of time for breaks for unprofitable things like smoking pot (it was, after all, the summer of ’71!) and shopping, especially for books and 8-tracks. I can not see Trump being so distracted. As soon as I had located the station manager, told him the price, and heard him reply, “Sorry pal, I pay 45 cents less per crate from So-and-So,” I would exhale back to the van. Trump would have been just arriving, coming from who knows where, adjusting his sleeves and settling in for the sale. In his ensuing buddy-up to the manager, there would have been scant mention of the product’s price, certainly not up front and maybe not ever with total clarity, and Trump would have made connections from which he would eventually benefit tremendously, apart from the modest commission he would have been making from sales. One could even have seen him making enough money so that he could start skipping over the more ethnically diverse North Omaha part of the route, though it included a couple of stations he would still have visited because they were “easy marks” and just for appearances’ sake.

So well would he have been adapted to this free-market routine, that some could probably even have seen him eventually running for political office. I was not so well adapted, and probably could not have been seen even as getting elected to a small town school board. Though I would eventually lead a small town church choir for a spell, it was only because no one else was available who wanted the job. They settled for me partly because I was very familiar with The Messiah, which was slated for their upcoming performance. I’m sure I did as badly at directing it as Trump has done with the country facing a pandemic. They’re both tough nuts, which each of us tried, respectively, to crack with peter-principled integrity. Even though I poured my heart into it and did the best I could, anyone with any musical acumen would have seen my leadership for the sad joke it was, and possibly even as irreverent. As bad I was, it was still a step up from how I had done at my first job in sales. Did I mention that I only had that job in the first place because of my dad, Vern, who was a good friend and business associate of the owner? I’m sure Sam’s business would have done much better with Trump in my position, though Trump would probably have moved on in as little time as I did, albeit to something other than majoring in English in college.

My second sales job came about a dozen years later, so Trump would have been approaching 40, but I was working summers during the early part of my teaching career because the pay wasn’t that great and I had student loans to pay off, just for starters. If Trump had been in my position then, instead of living in Trump Tower, he might well have had a knack for the sales position I found myself in. I was working for the Hudson Bay Company, and most of the employees I knew spoke very highly of working there, including stories of earning commissions that dwarfed the minimum wage. It did involve a lot of talking, but mostly by phone. It was not really sales, but solicitation for political donations. The people being called were usually former donors to similar causes, but for some reason I was assigned to a list where this was not the case. The calls I got to make were to Southern states, mostly Louisiana, asking for donations towards some far-fetched campaign for centralized medical care. It was a cause to which they were not predisposed, and it had little connection to their previous donations. More than a few of those who answered were Evangelicals, and my pitches would often end in wire hell. In spite of these extenuating circumstances, my performance was seen as dismal by company standards, and I was fired before the end of the summer. Unfairly, of course, I told myself, and good riddance! But inwardly I was embarrassed, because not only had I failed a cause that I somewhat supported, but I was also a high school debate coach at the time and should have been good at such things. Some of my students who had worked there had been. This continued to nag at me intermittently over the years, and not until a few days after writing this did I realize that what I had seen as my strengths were actually liabilities for the job at hand.

I learned of this while reading yet another article about President Trump, which focused on how his rambling, disconnected style of speech, which often contributes to him being seen by many, myself included, as uneducated or even stupid, can be powerful with certain audiences and in some contexts. “Donald Trump’s Strange Speaking Style, As Explained By Linguists,” gives a “scientific” account why he is able to communicate so effectively with his core followers, mostly through his use of
normal techniques, particularly in conversational speech. "Is he reading cognitive science? No. He has 50 years of experience as a salesman who doesn’t care who he is selling to," Lakoff says. On this account, Trump uses similar methods in his QVC-style pitch of steaks and vodka as when he talks about his plan to stop ISIS. "He has been doing this for a very long time as a salesman — that’s what he is best at," Lakoff says. This is in spite of, or perhaps partly because of, the fact that "His speech suggests a man with scattered thoughts, a short span of attention, and a lack of intellectual discipline and analytical skills . . . .” More sophisticated thinkers and speakers (including many past presidents), Pullum argues, are able to use "hypotaxis — that is, embedding of clauses within clauses." Trump can’t seem to do that. (Golshan, Tara; Vox 10/19/16)
One need only re-read the first part of this paragraph to realize, if it wasn’t already apparent, that I am guilty of the opposite. My writing often unconsciously commingles devices like hypotaxis to a fault. This is one of many points, not limited to language use, on which I seem to be Trump’s antithesis. It also goes a long way in explaining how he might have prospered in situations where I floundered.

If Trump had somehow ended up in my position with the Hudson Bay Company, alone with a phone in a cubicle up there on the 4th floor looking out towards Memorial Stadium, can there be any doubt that his calls to Louisiana Evangelicals and the like would have been a resounding success? Would he have let a trivial little happenstance like it being for a liberal cause stand in his way? Let’s not forget that this would have been way before he showed much interest in politics, other than as a nuisance in his business dealings. In fact, had he been born into a privileged position like I was and enjoyed the many advantages I was blessed with, instead of being cursed from birth with a lifestyle warped in wealth and devoid of middle-class values and enjoyments, perhaps he would even have been a better President and person. I almost find myself feeling sorry for instead of hating him, but maybe he is what he is, and no amount of empathy or understanding can excuse it. Or maybe not.

That may not sound like the transition into more extended praise for Trump it is. Even though I may appear at times to hate him, I can’t deny that he seems to have brought out the best in me and made me a better person in multiple ways. For one thing, he has roused me, along with many others, from a state bordering on political apathy. I’m not sure if that’s a red state or a blue one, but I’m sure that over the years I’ve hung up abruptly on many calls like those I made for the Hudson Bay Company. There is no doubt that I will vote enthusiastically in the next election, and this has not been the case for many years, excepting maybe with Obama to a lesser degree. I will also, mainly because of President Trump, be a more informed voter, and my involvement in the political process will go far beyond just voting. I have even gone so far as making a financial contribution (though it didn’t go to Trump), which probably hasn’t happened since I made a small one to the local Socialists way back in the 70s. If Trump affects enough people like he has me, our increased participation may cause him to lose the next election. How fair and self-sacrificing of him!

I also suddenly find myself reading a lot more political articles than I have since back in my days of coaching debate. Almost all of these have been about Trump. Initially they were all against him, but my scope has broadened out in an attempt to understand him and all the things, including his supporters, that I once would have off-handedly dismissed as being cluster-f____ed around him. There is no denying that he is an enigmatic, intriguing character. Concomitantly, I have started writing more than I ever have, at least since college, on a regular basis. This has not been limited to political commentaries, but has included poetry, political slogans, autobiography, notes to myself, and even pieces (hopefully including this) that are a little genre-bending. Almost all of these have been in some way about Trump. It would be unfair to deny that I have been inspired by him, and that he may be bringing out the best in me as a writer. Hopefully, this proves it. Because of him, my transformation as a writer has been as sudden as his own from liberal to conservative, and every bit as political.

I also have to credit Trump with making me more self-aware. I have had to question how much I have been guilty (though hopefully on a smaller scale) of some of the same things I have accused him of, like cheating, lying, sexual mis-adventures, and even racism. This isn’t the place to dwell on my shortcomings, especially since I’m trying not to dwell on Trump’s, but here’s an example. I was reminded of it during the outrage over his “xenophobic” tweet and subsequent comments last summer directed at four progressive congresswomen, where he basically told them to go back to where they came from. Like President Trump, I had found myself in a position that was trying my patience. I was still back in my first decade of teaching, perhaps comparable to his first term as President, and it happened in one of those classes that can be particularly difficult to work with.

Two of the primary reasons for this, as the whole class was well aware, were two female students who also happened to be Blacks, a usually inconspicuous minority where I taught. For the most part, my relationship with these two girls had been friendly, and I think they knew that I actually liked them. On this occasion, however, they had started bickering with each other in a way that was very disruptive to the class and preventing me from doing my job. One of them was practically yelling at the other, something along the lines of, “Why can’t you ever just shut the f___ up and be quiet.” Without even thinking I interjected, with a teacherly forcefulness that couldn’t be missed by anyone in the room, “Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!” Immediately, a pall of silence engulfed the class, and every eye in the room was on me with an accusatory, or at least questioning, penetration.

For a moment, I didn’t even realize this was because of what I had said. It was a proverbial phrase I had heard used many times before, mostly while growing up, and I had undoubtedly used it before then myself, though not in a situation with such an obvious racial context. When it finally dawned on me that I had “misspoken,” I tried to defend myself. “Do you think that if I had even been thinking of their color I would have risked making a statement like that?” I asked, adding, “It’s just something said to someone who’s making an accusation about something they are guilty of themselves.” I’m sure I sounded to them like Trump now sounds to me. I probably could have made it more of a “teachable moment,” but at the time I thought it was a reasonable defense. Things quickly settled back into a more convivial murmur, and after several long minutes I was saved by the bell. At least I had managed not to lose my cool and ramble on like Trump.

Although I’m sure the incident was run through the student gossip mill outside of class, nothing was ever said to me about it. President Trump should be so lucky. I don’t know if it ever came to the attention of another teacher or the administration, or what would have happened back then if it had. At worst, I probably would have been mildly reprimanded. I do, however, know of teachers in the last few years who have been fired for saying things with similar overtones, even though they were also in difficult situations and may have spoken without racist intent. Was my statement as bad as President Trump’s? Let’s just say another thing I’ve learned from him is how easy it is to make things worse by trying to defend yourself, especially when you’re wrong. Suffice it to say that I’m simply trying not to be a “pot calling the kettle black” with respect to the President.

While it’s true he could have never written anything like this, the President has written prolifically and stunningly through the medium of Twitter, where he has a powerful magnetism, feeding even on formidable critics, and selling himself unguently. The strategy he uses there is similar to what he does with Press Conferences. I don’t know if I can compete with him on this level, but one thing that might give me hope is honesty. Never forget the unlikely accomplishments of Honest Abe! I might have an edge on Trump there. But still another of the things I have learned from President Trump is how much I don’t know about Trump. Or Hitler. Or FDR. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or the WHO. Or Civil Liberties. And So On. Many of the things I have written about. But then, how much does one really need to know anyway, to do things the Trump way?

For instance, I did not know until very recently that even before he was elected, Trump had publicly answered the question about comparisons between himself and Hitler by suggesting he was more like FDR. With the little I know, that strikes me as an effective answer, and it appears to have been made, at least on one occasion, off the cuff and with composure, as though he were actually thinking on his feet. It makes me wonder what happened to this after he was elected. Did he go suddenly senile, or could it be an act? If so, he certainly has many of us sold on it. And why was I not already aware of the FDR rejoinder? Because at the time it was given, I already knew who I would vote for. This wasn’t because of any great knowledge about or understanding of Trump, though I of course got snippets through the news and people I knew, but mainly just because I didn’t like him. Would knowing about his FDR answer and its context have changed this? Though I do know some, I honestly don’t know enough about FDR to know if Trump’s answer would have mattered. But isn’t that the point? Before the elections, Trump’s character was not the same as the one who now makes us question and look into everything.

Isn’t that also what “Fake News” and “Draining the Swamp” are really code names for? President Trump has become a Joker in the Gotham City of America’s political doldrums. He’s Made America Alive Again. There’s a heightened awareness about what the dangers of Hitler (and Hillary) really are (or aren’t). There’s retired teachers like me getting interested in things like FDR and how he compares to Trump, who flip-flopped - from liberal to a well meaning Joker masquerading as a Republican - overnight. It’s not really an act. Just a really, really, swell sales job. Was the FDR “allusion” a hint that there’s a good guy hiding behind the Presidential mask? I might buy it. Watch the video where he says, “more like FDR.” Now watch the video where he’s said to be promoting drinking bleach to cure covid-19. Which one looks more like acting? I’ve always suspected a wry sense of humor behind almost everything President Trump says and does. As the butt of his joke, let’s hope America can have a healthy laugh, or at least a hearty snicker, when this Joker finally reveals himself as an older, wiser, more beneficent Trump. That might be a Trump to lead us through the next four years. Could he do a good job of it if he really wanted to?

When will we know, if ever, if there is any hope of this? Elections seem to be pivotal in Trump’s salesmanship of himself. His earlier FDR response was made leading into the last election, almost immediately after which he emerged as President Trump à la Joker. Would it make more sense for him to flip-flop back before the election, or after, or never? My hunch is that President Trump doesn’t know this yet himself, and this could be a good thing. There are a number critical factors involved, and it will depend on how things develop. I’m sure the Joker is monitoring them closely, and he seems to have an uncanny knack for timing. There have already been conspicuous hints of a flip-flop back into form, though if there has been any hints of a submerged substance, some hidden beneficence, they have been artfully cloaked in dastardly connivance. There was Trump in a stately uplifting of the Bible, following a Presidential promenade to perch before an historic church, in the midst of a glowering protest parted before him like the Red Sea. Never mind that his power bellowed forth as teargas and not as the result of any spiritual connection through a godly staff. But could the Bible still be a subliminal hint of better things to come? Then there was Trump in the foreground of Mt. Rushmore in a spectacle of petulant fireworks and brandishing of jets. You have to dig pretty deeply to find examples of Trump delivering things as smoothly as he did his speech there, even though it was still tele-prompted from an unenlightened source. In this context, it’s good to remind ourselves that the speech was written for him, and that he may not have believed or been committed to a single word he spoke. Though it was clearly aimed at and adored by his core of cultish worshipers, they are oblivious to what has been suggested by some highly observant critics: that he probably despises them.

Was there even a shard of hope of some emergent saving grace in all of this? The least effective part of his Rushmore speech was towards the end, where he methodically delivered a formulaic and uninspired recap of the accomplishments of the Presidents on the mount. In spite of this, and consistent with his executive order, soon to follow, for the creation of a sculpture garden of monuments to American heroes, there is little doubt that Trump aspires to be right up there with them, or even to cast them in his shadow. Could it be that he has an inkling of what that kind of honor really means, and is only waiting for the most propitious moment to shed the shackles of public perception and to emerge humbly but forcefully, willing to go to any length as the savior of our troubled nation at a time of nearly unprecedented need? If there is anything like this in the offing, he’s probably hedging his bets on getting re-elected with a few more carefully placed Joker prods to the body politic, though it’s possible those will need to get even a little nastier than those we’ve become accustomed to. But if it works, his unmasking, or flip-flop back into form with an anti-tyrannical twist, could make for a magnificent Inaugural or State of the Union address. With a few strategically timed and well worded tweet leaks, the streets around the Capitol might indeed be teeming, with liberals and conservatives alike. If so, it will have been the penultimate ruse, engineered by a benevolent huckster, and forged in the lackluster resplendence of our crystalizing new dimension.

So how, some of you may well be asking, can I say I won’t be voting for this to happen, or at least to give it a chance? Funny that you should ask — seriously. There are many good answers to that question, but if you’re asking it, it’s possible that your truth detecting sensors have not yet been fully awakened by The Joker. How bad do things have to get? While much of the preceding is true, including the personal history and most of the “factual” information, in its entirety it’s still a farce or, as I prefer to think of it, a “fantastical, post-modern” speculation about Trump and the upcoming election. In simpler terms, it is a pro-Trump tribute written by someone who will certainly vote against him. “Make no mistake about it.” Some of the Trumped-up positives attributed to him may have an element of truth, but they do not begin to measure up against the many negatives, most of which have intentionally not even been mentioned here, though a few are hinted at somewhat strongly. If what we have been witnessing, many of us in utter dismay, has indeed been an elaborate ruse, what may come under four more years of Trump, unpressed by having to be re-elected, is much more likely to drill down in the opposite direction from what has already been imagined here. And it could even be for a lot more than 4 years.

This article began partly with a self-realization that many of my own accusations against and theories about Trump, some of them presented in my more straightforward commentaries elsewhere, have been sometimes correctly criticized as overblown, uninformed, and even bordering on hysteria. I decided to self-medicate by attempting to write a similarly flawed article from the perspective of a Trump supporter, or, to use the title I was originally going to use for this, to “Trump Myself;” to use the same qualities I am accused of in a way my critics might approve of; to try to beat Trump at his own game, but on my own ground. I also thought it might prove interesting to see what Trump supporters might have to say about the result. I’m curious what my conservative friends will think of this. I will confess that it proved much easier than I anticipated to “defend” Trump, and that I am now able to see him in a different light. I may have been able to portray that favorably, but that does not mean there are not still grave, over-riding concerns about his re-election. If I need to tell you what those are, I “have a hunch” it won’t do any good. The only hope is for you to “Go Trump Yourself” from the side you now oppose. I don’t care which side you start from, try to make your worst political villain into a hero. See what you learn from that, and then express it in what you are best at. This may also prove the only way to escape from an encroaching Upside Down, for truly we are in the midst of Stranger Things.


FDR video footnote. I couldn’t find this video again after having viewed it several times. It’s not at all like this phone interview (where he is at least a little more coherently impassioned than has often been the case), but it’s from around the same time. I know it was before he was elected President. He is standing and there is someone just off to his right side who doesn’t say anything. Those are the only two shown in the video, but Trump is definitely answering a question from someone in front of him. His answer is very brief and composed, and no big deal is made of it. I’m thinking the date was from 2015 on the article or whatever it was, but it might have been a little later. I remember the video very well and can still see it in my mind, because I had it open in a browser tab right next to another one with his more recent “bleach speech.” I went back and forth and watched each of them several times for comparison. Usually I bookmark things like this if I think I might use them, but I can’t find it among the hundreds I’ve amassed. When I saw it, I wasn’t really planning on using it for anything. I’ve also tried a large variety of search strategies because I know that’s how it came up in the first place, but it’s not turning up. I’ve also tried searching my browser histories, but still no luck. It’s really not that important to the article above, especially since it is only used in the more “fantastical” segment towards the end. Of course, this could also just be a devious device to convince you that I didn’t just make it up (who would tell a lie like that?), but if you happen to come across it, please let me know.