PAINT­ING FIT FOR A PRES­I­DENT

The New European - - Expertise -

One of the most re­marked-upon fea­tures of a re­cent wide-rang­ing in­ter­view Don­ald Trump gave to CBS News was the brief glimpse of this art­work, seen hang­ing on a White House wall.

The paint­ing, called The Repub­li­can Club, de­picts Trump and pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pants of the Oval Of­fice from the GOP.

con­clude that Amer­i­can fas­cism, even if friendly, would be some­how re­lated to over­seas ex­pan­sion.” On the con­trary, to­day’s US im­pe­rial pres­i­dency has been adamantly mov­ing to­wards iso­la­tion­ism, how­ever im­pos­si­ble that prospect might be in re­al­ity.

Some ob­servers of the present de­press­ing ru­ins of Amer­i­can democ­racy may take hope in the fact that fas­cism re­quires over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity ap­proval. Michael Moore’s Fahren­heit 11/9 heav­ily jux­ta­poses Trump with the ad­vent of Adolf Hitler in Ger­many. Yet when Hitler was elected, his pop­u­lar­ity lev­els, as far as can be cal­cu­lated ret­ro­spec­tively by his­to­ri­ans about a time be­fore such polling took place, was It is part of a series by artist Andy Thomas, from Mis­souri, that reimag­ines his­tor­i­cal fig­ures in var­i­ous con­texts. As well as this gath­er­ing, Thomas has also painted the Repub­li­can pres­i­dents play­ing poker and pool.

Other works in the series de­pict for­mer Demo­crat pres­i­dents drink­ing, and play­ing pool, with Barack Obama tak­ing on An­drew Jack­son, as oth­ers

at least dou­ble that of Trump, who hov­ers around 40% ap­proval. As their suf­fer­ings dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in­creased, the Ger­man pop­u­la­tion’s af­fec­tion for Hitler would de­cline. Yet it may never have been as low as

Amer­i­cans felt about their new pres­i­dent from the very start of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Rather than try­ing to pin­point el­e­ments of Gross’s book that ap­ply to to­day’s US govern­ment, Moore might have more use­fully looked to other Amer­i­can writ­ings that make no pre­tence at fac­tual prediction. The No­bel prizewin­ning Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Sin­clair Lewis wrote It Can’t Hap­pen Here (1935) about Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Win­drip, a dem­a­gogue who runs for pres­i­dent, look on. Thomas him­self says he is not a mem­ber of ei­ther party and his lib­er­tar­ian in out­look, although he has most of­ten voted for the Repub­li­cans. He says the woman ap­proach­ing the ta­ble in Trump’s paint­ing – who is also shown in other works in the series – is in­tended as a sym­bol to in­di­cate that the US will one day have a fe­male pres­i­dent.

sput­ter­ing about pa­tri­o­tism and old-style Amer­i­can ways. Win­drip is elected and opts for a to­tal­i­tar­ian govern­ment bol­stered by para­mil­i­tary sup­port, akin to Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (SS). A jour­nal­ist forms the main op­po­si­tion to Win­drip’s rule. Lewis’s fic­tion was re­put­edly drawn from the ex­am­ple of Huey Long, a cor­rupt Lou­i­si­ana politi­cian who was shot in 1935 while plan­ning to run for the pres­i­dency. It cov­ers more themes that echo with the Trumpian present than Ber­tram Gross’s fac­tual study could.

An­other novel which has been dis­cussed as pre­scient in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate of Wash­ing­ton, DC, is Philip Roth’s The Plot Against Amer­ica (2004). In Roth’s imag­i­nary tale, Charles Lind­bergh, an anti-semitic iso­la­tion­ist, de­feats Franklin D. Roo­sevelt in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 1940. While mainly con­cerned with the ef­fect upon Amer­i­can Jews of an anti-semitic regime that al­lies it­self with Euro­pean fas­cism, The Plot Against Amer­ica joins other nov­els, from Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Cas­tle (1962) to Mar­garet At­wood’s The Hand­maid’s Tale (1985), that are seen as il­lu­mi­nat­ing views of to­tal­i­tar­ian or dystopian so­ci­eties. Th­ese nov­el­is­tic fan­tasies share with the­o­ret­i­cal pre­dic­tions by po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists a lack of di­rect ef­fect upon the Amer­i­can elec­torate or the regime in place.

While writ­ers of fic­tion have no obli­ga­tion to in­clude op­ti­mistic mes­sages

Photo: Bri­ar­cliff En­ter­tain­ment

HARD TRUTH: A scene from Michael Moore's Fahren­heit 11/9

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