Salman Rushdie, the noted author, commented on Bill Maher’s show a few weeks ago about the absurdity of Donald Trump’s candidacy. He tongue-in-cheek made reference to the possibility of The Donald being a Manchurian Candidate. He was joking and did not believe that to be the case, nor do I, but it is an interesting supposition that echoes what a small number of folks have said from the outset.
For those not familiar with the movies (1962 and 2004) and novel by Richard Condon penned in 1959, “The Manchurian Candidate” involves the machinations by the Chinese government to have a manipulated puppet candidate be in position to win the White House. The story involves the brainwashing of a soldier, who returns a hero, but is psychologically programmed to assassinate the nominee for the White House at the national convention to enable the Manchurian favored candidate to win. The candidate is not what he appears to be.
In the context for today’s presidential race, there is a small cadre who have opined that Trump is really a Democrat who is masquerading as a Republican to win their nomination. The basis is his past Democrat leanings and statements made in public. Those who have opined this have noted that would enable the Democrat candidate to win. Yet, if this were indeed true, The Donald would want to ride this surfboard all the way in if he could given his ego. He would want to win. As I noted earlier, I do not believe this to be true, but Rushdie’s comments coupled with over the top, inane comments made by the candidate make it plausible.
What would it take to do this? First, you would need a demographically challenged party where the demographics are at odds with the rest of the country’s. There would be a strong feeling to “take the country back” as it is changing in front of their eyes. Second, you would need a party who is on the wrong side of most issues, but does not realize it until the resolution of issues does not go their way. This is attributable to telling people a version of the news they want to hear, that has been fed to them by strong personalities. They would feel everyone is out to get them.
Third, you would need a growing voice of malcontents who have more access to power due to gerrymandering and funding bent on using them. What is not realized is these funders have been using their votes for the funders’ purpose. Fourth, you would need the opposing party in power making it easy to portray them as the archangel from hell. Fifth, you would need most of the party at odds with the malcontents, so when what the malcontents want is not accomplished, they would want someone’s hide.
With that kind of stage setting, a candidate who is well-known, highly confident, and brazen, can swoop in and tell a thirsty electorate, everything they want to hear and blame the other side for their problems. Further, the candidate can blame the weak-kneed politicians on their own team for being too weak to take on the bad guys. It does not matter if any of this is true, it just has to appear to have some element of truth, as the fantasy can take it from there. The candidate need not have serious plans, but should release a few that feed the beast – like building a wall, kicking out all immigrants who do not pass muster, saying guns should be handed out much more freely, and taxes must be cut. The candidate would need to have a sense of bravado, that would let him denigrate others and deflect criticism with words accusing questioners of incompetence, being a loser, or being out to get him. And, he would have enough money to say “I cannot be bought,” which is not needed since he is doing the buying.
Again, I don’t believe this to be true, but it is not hard to fathom how it could happen. Yet, either way, The Donald is speaking the so-called-truth like it is a variable commodity, changing today what he said yesterday, and differing with what he will say tomorrow. So, with such variability, it gives him license to do whatever he sees fit if he wins. So, maybe he is his own Manchuria.