In the 1979 movie Being There, the late, inimitable Peter Sellers plays a kindly, bumbling, simple minded gardener named Chance who ventures out into the world and, through a series of improbable fortunes and happenstance encounters, stumbles his way to the very threshold of candidacy for President of the United States. Most theatergoers of the time were charmed but a minority of them were scandalized. Such a premise, the reasoning went, represented far too much disbelief than they were prepared to suspend.
Yet when life imitates art it sometimes does so in darker shades, so perhaps the film’s detractors would recognize an updated version of Chance in the malign apotheosis of Donald Trump, and assess its premise more charitably today. To be sure, this preposterous latter day incarnation of Chance would strain belief suspension far beyond its elastic limit if it didn’t just happen to be true.
In a recent interview with The Hill, for example, Trump, the man who promoted the Obama Birther Conspiracy, the man who endlessly refers to the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and a conspiracy of the Democrats and the “Criminal Deep State,” said, “I don’t like to use it [the term “Deep State”] because it sounds so conspiratorial, and believe it or not I’m really not a conspiratorial person.”
It’s hard to credit that we have become so inured to such self contradictory rubbish that it passes virtually unnoticed in an ocean of similarly excruciating nonsense. But there it is. Donald Trump’s supporters have long stopped defending this kind of crap because it hides so successfully all by itself in plain sight. Neither is Trump required to explain or justify it. Recall when we lived in a time when a politician could destroy himself by merely misspelling the word “potato?” Well no more. In our present era of anything goes, sooner or later anything does, and today all Donald J Trump has to do to preserve that status from becoming anything but quo is to continue to keep, well, being there.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.