According To Literature, We Should Have Expected A Trump Presidency

According To Literature, We Should Have Expected A Trump Presidency

Literature has the uncanny prescience and knowledge we need to understand politics.
35
views

When I tell people I’m an English Literature major, their response is “Oh, so you want to teach?” This is the polite way of saying “Oh, I see you decided to study something so useless that your only choice now is to teach said useless study.” Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on my personal experience, but I do believe there are far too many people who see literature as mere escapism, having no relation to reality.

To me, this mentality is somewhat problematic, or at the very least, a sign of our collective naivety when it comes to the purpose of literature. As far as I’m concerned (and yes, this statement is loaded with a shit ton of bias), literature posits problems and solutions we all face in the real world and, if we all took it seriously, our world would be plagued by a lot fewer issues.

Now, obviously, there isn’t any proof that I’m right and thus, I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong. However, I will try to give some examples of some books I’ve read recently that demonstrate the uncanny prescience some texts have in regard to our societal problems; in this case, specifically politics.

The first novel I would like to address is “It Can’t Happen Here," written by Sinclair Lewis during the Great Depression. In short, the book is about the rise of fascism in America, as a fictional presidential candidate wins the favor of the citizens by promising to help the lower-classes. Once in office, he fails to fulfill all of his promises and tries to keep power by attacking the liberal media.

Sound familiar?

If not, I will just inform you that this book has gained some recent popularity since Trump has taken office. Now, the events that take place in “It Can’t Happen Here” are much more absurd than our current political atmosphere (I know, sounds impossible), but this is why the novel, written in 1935, was able to foresee the politics of today--because Lewis had the imagination to envision a president as ridiculous as Trump.

This is quite different from the overwhelming majority of people who never gave Trump a chance, not even the so called “political experts.” But in literature, everything is possible, and something as improbable as a fascist president is more than probable.

Continuing with politics in literature, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World Revisited” (written in 1958) is his reflection on the ideas he proposed in “Brave New World.” In an essay about political candidates, Huxley says,

"He must also be an entertainer who never bores his audience… All speeches by the entertainer-candidate must therefore be short and snappy…The nature of the oratory is such that there has always been a tendency among the politicians and clergymen to over-simplify complex issues...The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate as though he were a deodorant positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything."

Looking at this quote, it seems that Trump would have been the favorite, for clearly, he was the most entertaining. Furthermore, his campaign was simply perfect, for at no point did Trump offer insight on how he was going to fix the complex problems of our contemporary society. Rather, he went around demanding the end to ISIS and denouncing anything and all things that didn’t benefit America. By doing so, he managed to convince half the nation that conditions in the United States would vastly improve if he were president, without knowing anything about politics. How terribly brilliant!

Based on these two literary texts, Trump should have been regarded as a serious threat to our liberties and democracy the second he decided to run for president. Yet, we didn’t really take him seriously, and many non-voters (myself included), didn’t bother to vote, primarily because we didn’t see a world where Trump was president (it also didn’t help that Hillary was fucking awful).

This is just one example of how literature can alter how we see the world and provide us with the knowledge we need to make a difference. Once again, I can’t say reading will enlighten us enough to create change, but who knows, maybe if I and some other non-voters came across “It Can’t Happen Here” and “Brave New World Revisited” prior to the election, we would have felt more compelled to vote.

In short, outside of politics, literature can emphasize the problems of our world by exaggerating them to the utmost extreme. However, in this extreme, which initially seems impossible, we come to realize that the impossible will one day become possible and open our eyes to not only the problems of humanity, but also to the potential of humanity.
Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

Popular Right Now

Comey's Failure

How his plan to exonerate Clinton backfired
122
views

The interview between Former FBI Director James Comey and George Stephanopoulos revealed new information surrounding Comey's decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. Comey explained in the interview that the decision to reopen the investigation was not made by him alone. Comey stated, "The senior team of the FBI, including the general counsel, thought we have to."

So now we know that Comey did not act alone, but it is important to note that the decision to reopen the investigation undoubtedly hurt Hillary Clinton's chances and could have very well cost her the election. It is evident that Comey was aware of this possibility going in, but facing pressure from other FBI officials, forced him to go back on his prior reassurance that Clinton was no longer in need of investigation. It would be easy to dismiss Comey as a political hack working against Hillary Clinton, but his explanation during the interview shines a new light on his reasoning.

Now, do I think Comey is a political hack? Yes, I do. But not against Hillary Clinton. After Stephanopoulos asked Comey if his decision was made in some capacity to legitimize Clinton when she won the presidency, Comey acknowledged that,

"I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I’m sure that it was a factor,” Comey said. "I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she’s going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out"

Based on Comey's response, it would appear that this was a man acting with a goal in mind. Let's further break down that goal using his own statements. Comey, by his own admission, was acting as though Clinton was going to win the election. He further realized the implication of new Clinton emails appearing on the laptop of Anthony Weiner. Comey was evidently concerned with how this would impact Clinton's presidency if left untouched by the FBI. So what was his next move?

The FBI had forced his hand and made him reopen the investigation days before the election. It would be idiotic to assume Comey did not understand that his credibility would take a hit with this announcement. Comey gives context to the situation in his discussion with other FBI officials with one saying, "We can't possibly finish before the election because we have to read tens of thousands of emails".

This, to me, highlights a major problem. It was clear that they could not adequately review the information before the election ended. But wait, why did Comey then tell congressional leaders that their was no criminal wrongdoing? He just admitted on ABC that they did not have time to review all the emails. So how exactly would he know if there was no criminal activity within those emails?

Here's my take: Comey knew he had to reopen the investigation and understood how it could negatively impact Clinton's chances. So, he did what any good lawyer would do. He presented the investigation and got the chance to paint the scene and exonerate her before her political opponents could go after her post-victory.

His acknowledgement that there was not enough time to review all the emails and his subsequent conclusion that she was not guilty shows clear intent to exonerate without proper investigation. It was a facade designed to appease the American public and convince them that Clinton did nothing wrong even after the evidence was not properly reviewed before a true conclusion was reached.

This would have worked out in Clinton's favor had Comey not gone about the investigation so poorly. Comey's investigation was not convincing and therefore left a bad taste in voter's mouths when it came time to hit the polls.

Cover Image Credit: Quartz Media

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

A Love Letter To You, Paul Ryan

You finally located your spine!
33
views

My dearest Paul,

I must start off with saying that I'm incredibly proud of you for your recent decision to retire as Speaker of the House.

You've finally located your spine.

When you first took on this role, I was sad that I'd no longer see John Boehner's poorly tanned, orange face behind the President, scowling as Joe Biden beamed like a proud dad ever time Barack spoke. Thankfully though, we have a new orange-faced scowler at the helm! What a relief!

I used to get lost in your blue eyes. I mean, come on, how could a girl not? Your wife is so lucky that she gets to stare into them every day.

You have truly left a legacy: a divided and extremely polarized House, multiple government shutdowns, and a party that seems to have complete lost it's identity because you and the President, who are supposed to be working together, can't seem to meet eye to eye.

I hope you take a page out of Barack's book and take a vacation. You deserve it! It's got to be absolutely exhausting to accomplish leaving a crucial branch of our government worse off than it was before.

My best advice: get a massage. Who knows what your spine has been up to these past few years. You definitely need to work out those knots.

All the best,

The House-flipping Hopeful

Cover Image Credit: Biography

Related Content

Facebook Comments