Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trump's Healthy Humiliations - By James Lewis

Boastful men who get their just rewards for big audience laughs have been a comedy staple for centuries. Moliere’s The Bourgeois Gentleman is a very funny early modern play that still works for us because the Gentleman is a proud fool who gets suckered over and over again by a pompous scholar, using big and impressive words. Cervantes’ Don Quixote is another famous example. Mark Twain used the boastful dunderhead motif for the two con men in Tom Sawyer, a phony Duke and an even phonier Dauphin…….

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Enter Donald Trump, and now the big, big question is whether he’s dropping his media bombs as a trickster or not. Trump goes for audience laughs in his reality shows. But real narcissists are not famous for their sense of humor…….

….. is Trump simply using the same old comedy gag that brought him national fame in show biz? Trump usually starts his shows as a boastful bad guy (You’re Fired!). By the end of the show he turns out to be good old lovable Uncle Don, the Boastful Ego, but we guess he’s really okay. His audiences love the extended gag, and they keep coming back for more. People in show biz recognize it for what it is, because it’s an ancient formula. 

Would Trump pull essentially the same gag at the start of his election campaign, when every candidate has to go for the biggest screaming headlines? Early in the election game there’s no such thing as bad publicity -- but at some point presidential candidate must act presidentially…..

Trump has written another (!) autobiography on that theme, called The Art of the Comeback, all about his humiliating failures, and his ability to bounce back. Trump’s business career has been a repetition of military academy. His giant failures are at least as important as his successes. Without repeated failures and comebacks, Trump would be another Obama. 
The difference from Obama is that long history of painful setbacks and comebacks. Obama has always been surrounded by adoring fans, and still has genuine trouble dealing with setbacks. What Freud called the Reality Principle is the key to responsible adulthood. 

Reality is what happens whenever you run into that brick wall. Again.
Differential diagnosis is very hard -- which is one reason why politicians get away with lying. But there is a reality test: If the Jackie Gleason script is correct, Trump will start to change his public persona soon, until the average voter has forgotten how obnoxious he’s been. 
If he can’t act like a responsible adult, we will know it very soon. 

I’m betting on good old Uncle Don emerging sometime soon, just like his television routine. But the proof of the pudding… we should know the answer very soon. 
Trump is now running out of time to prove himself to the voters. 

I think he’s planned this provocative performance all along, and if I’m wrong about that, I’ll vote for Ted Cruz. 
It’s nice to have a choice.