“A scam artist, an ignoramus, a professional liar, a colossal and malignant narcissist, a vulgarian, a casino operator, a serial bankrupt – a Roy Cohn–mentored billionaire with deep Mob connections – is in the White House. Has there ever been a more American presidency? What took them so long?”
Regardless of how much has been said and written about Trump, something more always needs to be said, and Don Watson, in the March issue of the Monthly, says it. Watson is one of the great observers of America and its people, and in the election of Trump he sees not only something astonishing and unsettling but also a “simulacrum for all manner of events imagined or foretold that hover in the back rows of our consciousness”. Trump, in other words, isn’t so new at all. Pay close attention to American literature, film and television, Watson says, and you’ll discover that “in truth he’s dredged from the brute material of American culture”.
It’s a striking argument, a part explanation of Trumpism that’s uncanny, original and entirely supportable – as Watson demonstrates. Nevertheless, it will do little to ease any disquiet. And in a point perhaps best made by an outsider, Watson proves that as American democracy spins ever further from its historical axis the ways to understand this new trajectory are both rooted in its past and limitless.