Monday, April 3, 2017

Stephen King Discusses Political Rise of Donald Trump & Resemblance to Own Fictional Political Demagogues

Some pictures I found recently of chalk sketches of the great writer himself.

Most everyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of Stephen King. Frankly, I would not even say that I am a huge fan of the horror genre in particular, but just a fan of his writing style. The same could be said of his son, Joe Hill, although I also really enjoyed Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, and have read it several times (although that is also not as horrific as many think, and is actually rather intellectually stimulating and provocative). That said, I do not mind a decent horror movie every now and then, especially right around Halloween.

Almost everyone who knows me also knows that I am not fan of Donald Trump, even if I wrote a spoof April Fool's article expressing my support of him just a couple of days ago. That was for a laugh, although in reality, there is nothing funny about that man, or his alarming rise to the presidency. Frankly, I would go so far as to say that few public figures that I know of - politicians are not - are as uniquely unqualified and undeserving of the presidency as Trump is. Yet, here we are, in 2017, and he is the president.

Clearly, Stephen King is also not a fan of Trump, and has been highly critical of the man in the past year and change.

Well, on the same day that I wrote my April Fool's Day prank article in support of Trump, King wrote a more sobering piece on Trump, and tried to examine how Trump could rise to the White House like he did by doing what he does best - writing fiction. He created six fictional people, and then had them agree to take a powerful truth serum.

Okay, okay, I know that some people who are decidedly not fans of Stephen King would likely be rolling their eyes right about now, whether or not they are supporters of Donald Trump. But I urge you to take a look at this Guardian article available online. King is a terrific writer, and he might just surprise you with his keen insights on the state of the country, and the mindset of the people living in it. After all, there is a reason why people like me, who are not natural fans of terror, still flock to his books and make a point of reading everything that the man has done, and it is because his fictional characters bear a strong and impressive resemblance to real people. So, maybe he might have a better understanding than most of what motivated some to vote for such a man as Trump.

King starts off by suggesting something that I have mentioned here on my blog a few times since Trump's election win in November - namely, all of the pro-Trump posters and bumper stickers that you saw all over the place in the weeks leading up to the election:

I’m from northern New England, and in the run-up to the election I saw hundreds of Trump-Pence signs and bumper stickers, but almost none for Clinton-Kaine. To me this didn’t mean there were no Clinton supporters in the houses I passed or the cars ahead of me on Route 302; what it did seem to mean was that the Clinton supporters weren’t particularly invested. This was not the case with the Trump people, who tended to have billboard-sized signage in their yards and sometimes two stickers on their cars (TRUMP-PENCE on the left; HILLARY IS A CRIMINAL on the right).

Yes, that is exactly right. Somehow, the closer we got to the election, the more vocal and visible the supporters of Trump and Pence became. This coincided, of course, with the growing acceptance of Trump as the GOP's candidate from those who had formerly been reluctant to lend their support to the man. This included, but was not limited to, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, among others. And it felt like many Republicans who had sworn that they would never, ever, under any circumstances vote for Trump wound up changing their minds, rather conveniently, just before Election Day. I would also add that whatever momentum Hillary Clinton seemed to have also just seemed to stop dead in it's track roughly two weeks before the Election Day as well, so that the final result really was not all that shocking.

King famously has had fairly similar characters rise politically in his own works of fiction, as well, and he discusses them in this piece. One of my personal favorite King works is "The Dead Zone," and King has this to say about the political demagogue in that novel:

Greg Stillson is a door-to-door Bible salesman with a gift of gab, a ready wit and the common touch. He is laughed at when he runs for mayor in his small New England town, but he wins. He is laughed at when he runs for the House of Representatives (part of his platform is a promise to rocket America’s trash into outer space), but he wins again. When Johnny Smith, the novel’s precognitive hero, shakes his hand, he realizes that some day Stillson is going to laugh and joke his way into the White House, where he will start world war three.

Then, he goes on to talk about another such figure in a more recent book. That would be Big Jim Rennie in "Under The Dome," and King describes him in this article, as well:

He’s a crook, a cozener and a sociopath, the worst possible choice in a time of crisis, but he’s got a folksy, straight-from-the-shoulder delivery that people relate to. The fact that he’s incompetent at best and downright malevolent at worst doesn’t matter.

He then brings these two together, and explains how such men have indeed risen in the past in history:

Both these stories were written years ago, but Stillson and Rennie bear enough of a resemblance to the current resident of the White House for me to flatter myself I have a country-fair understanding of how such men rise: first as a joke, then as a viable alternative to the status quo, and finally as elected officials who are headstrong, self-centered and inexperienced. Such men do not succeed to high office often, but when they do, the times are always troubled, the candidates in question charismatic, their proposed solutions to complex problems simple, straightforward and impractical. The baggage that should weigh these hucksters down becomes magically light, lifting them over the competition like Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar film Up. Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.

After this introduction, King dives into his fictional project on what the mindset of Trump supporters just might be. There are humorous moments, and King makes some of these at his own expense, making sure that some of these characters do not like his writing or respect him, personally. Also, these characters seem to have a difficult time staying focused, and they also let slip some of their honest feelings from time to time, meaning ideas or opinions that they might not necessarily want to broadcast to everyone they know.

Towards the end, King points out to them what some researchers are increasingly pointing out, not so coincidentally, about extreme narcissism and sociopaths:

Psychologists mention four basic traits when diagnosing a sociopathic condition known as narcissistic personality disorder. People suffering from this condition believe themselves superior to others, they insist on having the best of everything, they are egocentric and boastful, and they have a tendency to first select love objects, then find them at fault and push them aside. 

Yup. That sounds about right. Once again, King has hit the nail on the coffin, so to speak. Only this time, he utilizes the powerful tool of his own fictional writing in order to get down to a serious and revealing truth about where we are in this country at the moment. It was a good and entertaining read, I promise you, and I strongly recommend taking a look at it by clicking on the link below, from which I got all of the quotes (highlighted in yellow) used above:

Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’ by Stephen King, April 1, 2017:

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