Publisher’s Note: Rob Anderson, a writer from DeQuincy, recently formed an exploratory committee for Louisiana’s third congressional district, which is currently held by Clay Higgins. Anderson, a self-described progressive independent, expects to make a decision within the next three weeks. If he runs, he will be Higgins’s third announced opponent, along with lawyer Josh Guillory, a Republican, and Dr. Phillip Conner, a Democrat.
Donald Trump just isn’t that interesting.
Allow me to modify that statement: Donald Trump, as a person, just isn’t that interesting; as a concept, a lowbrow salesman catapulted into the office of the Presidency, his historical relevance will be significant and noteworthy. The man himself is just another prevaricator.
I have encountered and interacted with liars with agendas throughout my life; we all have. We learn to recognize the symptoms of the type – the smooth conversation that always seems to agree with you, even when he is spouting trope that disagrees. The gelatinous physical contact, the endless handshakes and back pats and arm stroking. The fierce gaze, focused on nothing. An accomplished peddler of snake oil will take the slightest opportunity to demonize someone else to ingratiate themselves with you.
We all know liars: they sell cars, copier machines, stocks and vacuum cleaners. The ability to hawk a product with no basis of belief is the hallmark of a snake oil salesman. A truly accomplished seller of goods, one to whom you might return to buy additional products, is one who believes in what they’re doing, at minimum; they might be selling average products, but at least their verisimilitude is average, as well. A computer salesman at a chain store will offer you a lack of critique of a midrange product, desirous of commission, but will not sing its praises in a manner that inspires disbelief.
Those salesmen who sell products that are egregiously substandard or shoddy are the topic – those who sell for the act of selling. Those who would lie, cheat and steal to encourage a customer to part with money for the benefit of the salesman, no matter the veracity or necessity of the product.
It is those oleaginous barkers who represent Donald Trump’s ilk, and they aren’t that interesting. There is no need to condemn or vilify a cheap pair of shoes with a meretricious sheen; we identify the shoddy merchandise and move on.
Before Donald Trump, here in Louisiana, there was Dudley LeBlanc, a four-term state senator who made and then lost a fortune selling the cure-all elixir Hadacol, which was nothing more than alcohol and honey. When asked by reporters why he chose the name Hadacol, LeBlanc would famously quip, “Well, I hadda call it something.”
I lived in New York City during the 1990s, when “The Donald” was often splashed across the covers of the New York Post or the Daily News – he was (and is) a glutton for media attention, a perpetual self-promoter. Perhaps it was due to the level of sophistication of the audience, but Mr. Trump did not inspire gasps of awe or even surprise, with his (seemingly) incessant antics – he was a sideshow, a loud and braying example of a salesman who took his head start in the money game (beginning his business career with a $10 million loan from his father) and parlayed that into shady real estate deals and other dubious ventures. He somehow always ended up in the tabloids, with yet another blonde, Eastern European wife, or another failed casino, or even an airline stamped with his name (as well as the expectation of spectacular failure, as with anything branded by the canard-clouded salesman). We shrugged at The Donald show, much as we shrugged at another, frequent cover model: mobster John Gotti.
Donald Trump is the subject of much overwrought handwringing, and it isn’t because of his unique nature: it is because his mediocrity has ascended to an office once thought to be reserved for the best and brightest beacons. The President of the United States, leader of the free world, has ever been an office which the citizens under its umbrella ascribed with dignity and merit.
In an equitable examination, it must be noted that many of our Presidents have been, in retrospect, “unworthy” of the attribution of greatness: Ulysses S. Grant should never have been allowed to raid the White House’s liquor cabinet, and the more obvious examples of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton also come to mind. Nixon criminalized the office, with paranoia and spying, and Clinton marginalized the implied gravitas with oral sex in the Oval Office.
Donald Trump isn’t even our first “bad” President; he is simply not that interesting. The quandary that faces us is the realization that it is happening now; we think that if we stamp and shout loudly enough, his frat boy behavior and his sixth grade vocabulary will retire in shame, and return us the blind self-deception that great offices make great men.
It is the converse that is true: great men have made the office great. We are a (relatively) new country, only 241 years removed from our status as an arm of the British Empire; we have no long history of Kings or Pharaohs with which to succor our reminiscence. We have the memories of Washington, Lincoln and both Roosevelts to console ourselves as we read of The Salesman-in-Chief’s latest simplistic implosions.
We have bought a fraudulent bill of goods, thanks to an inexplicably popular sales pitch. We can only hope and pray that his dull mediocrity does not permanently assail the fabric of our Republic, and remember to keep the receipt.
The Bayou Brief is a non-profit news publication that relies 100% on donations from our readers. Help support independent journalism about the stories of Louisiana through a monthly or one-time donation by clicking here.