The voice of the 1980s pro-wrestling manager Donald Trump hears in his head could not be happier. The performance-art-offered-as-reality these folks perfected has finally come home to roost in the best possible way. What better place for it to explode than within today’s American politics in general and Republican politics in particular? Trump’s campaign thus far has been an irony bomb of mass destruction. And, like the first hours of the 9/11 attacks, no one knows yet if it’s over.
It’s a fact that American governance, particularly at the national level, has been a “disaster”—to use a favorite Trump term—for decades. Greater and greater numbers of the American public either know it first hand or can at least sense that something is seriously screwed up. Then, the inability of anyone in a prominent position in politics to appear to have any clue as to what to do about it, only intensifies the public’s frustration. But it’s not just politicians; the major American media outlets are so entirely co-opted by the system they make it appear as if this condition is normal and everyone should just get used to it.
Enter Donald Trump. Since early adulthood, Trump has been a fearless businessman who gets results. He walked into the Manhattan real-estate-development arena—one of the toughest in the world—when he was a twenty-something and right away began acting like he was the only one in the room who knew the how to do things. Ordinarily, a person like this would have been squashed like the annoying little insect he was by the very large, very established rulers of New York business and government. But the opposite happened. Trump said he was a get-things-done guy, and he didn’t lie.
Then there’s another side of Donald Trump. This is the side who has been a frequent call-in guest on the Howard Stern Show for years. Trump has said he has high respect for Stern, but it’s also clear he’s been a student of Stern’s method. At the Police Gazette, we’re also familiar with Howard Stern and know he’s been this generation’s Richard K. Fox—the most audacious and successful owner the Gazette ever had. As such, we know in his 1980s and ’90s heyday, Stern worked in irony like Picasso worked in oils. It’s a “shock” method that uses crass, “inappropriate” language. But dig a little deeper and there’s method to the madness. At its best, this method gets people thinking and talking about problems they’d been afraid to up to that point. Police Gazette columnist Paul Juser puts the current situation succinctly: “Trump clearly knows he is the mirror the other candidates refuse to look in.”
But using irony and humor to illustrate problems does not necessarily a president make. If that’s all that was at work here, Trump would be in the same league with Stern and Stephen Colbert. Then we remember that, unlike Stern and Colbert, entertainer is not Trump’s main career. He has a long track record of spearheading big projects against tough odds and “getting things done.”
This would not be the first time a seemingly ego-maniacal, borderline-insane person became president and actually did pretty good. In another life Theodore Roosevelt might have found a job shooting up movie theaters. As it was, he led a progressive agenda to success that might not have happened without his peculiar brand of energy and persistence.
So Trump has taken the ironic performance-art styles developed in the 1980s by Stern and wrestling managers like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan—pictured on this month’s cover—and unleashed them on the intransigent mess that is 21st-century American politics. But since Trump is actually a very successful businessman in real life, he just might be able to show those humanoids how to get things done. And we all wish him Godspeed on his quest!