By John Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.
Donald Trump is as predictable as any dark villain or monster that seems vanquished but keeps returning. Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter films comes to mind, as does the humanoid Vecna of the Netflix hit Stranger Things. In fact, having watched an episode of Stranger Things immediately before Trump’s 2024 presidential run announcement, I was struck by a terrible thought:
America has become a surreal but real-life horror series. Just when you think you are safe and life is returning to normal, the lights flicker, the walls shake, lightning cracks the sky, and the hideous creature appears yet again to wreak havoc and terror.
Like Vecna, Trump is the product of a group of people who tried use him for world domination only to have him become uncontrollable and a grave danger to all. Vecna lives with his army in the Upside Down, a dire, dangerous alternate landscape that mirrors the real world the way MAGA/Trump World renders fiction as truth.
Those who do Trump’s bidding usually end up in political, legal or even physical jeopardy. Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Mike Pence, the participants in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, Kevin McCarthy, and Mitch McConnell are a few examples. Yet, the real horror is how popular Trump remains with millions of Americans despite his blatant corruption, his poisoning of our political discourse and faith in our institutions, and his violent plot to overturn the 2020 election.
Listening to Trump supporters, I’m reminded of Science Officer Ash in the movie Alien. Ash is an android secretly protecting a horrific xenomorph as it kills off the crew of the spaceship Nostromo. His goal is to secure the monster for use as a weapon by his corporate masters, and his admiration of it sounds like a Trumper: “I admire its purity. A survivor … unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality.”
Trump is still being hailed by supporters as the conservative say-anything/do-anything battering ram that finally began laying waste to decades of liberal advances in America. Yes, he is now being blamed for costing the GOP the 2020 election and many midterm races in 2022, but some of his most prominent minions recently won (among them J.D. Vance in Ohio, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Greg Abbott in Texas, Marco Rubio in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Elise Stefanik in New York) or were only narrowly defeated (Kari Lake in Arizona, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Adam Laxalt in Nevada, Lee Zeldin in New York). Republicans also regained control of the House of Representatives and will be using its considerable power to besiege and torment the Biden Administration.
As much as I dread the next two years and beyond, I am finding a measure of gallows humor in the mystification and anger on the right where GOP party members, pundits, former media allies and even members of the MAGA base (particularly evangelicals) have only now discovered that Trump is out for himself and will not listen to counsel for the good of his movement. Like Vecna, his ego is insatiable and will consume anything and anyone to further his own ends and glorification. But we can rest assured that if Trump secures the GOP nomination in 2024, those who are turning on him now will be groveling in his wake and supporting him again.
Trump’s speech announcing his 2024 run was, as typical, full of glaring falsehoods, but what really struck me was this ironically ominous statement (italics are mine):
"Much criticism is being placed on the fact that the Republican Party should have done better and frankly, much of this blame is correct. But the citizens of our country have not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through and the total effect of the suffering is just starting to take hold. They don’t quite feel it yet. But they will very soon.”
Sounds like a threat, doesn’t it? All the GOP will be able to do until 2024 is obstruct President Biden and the Democrats and let our nation’s problems fester in a gamble that enough Americans will demand change in the form of Trump’s return to power even if he and his party have no coherent plans other than revenge and empty promises of former glory.
Many in the GOP obviously fear that enough Americans will be wise to what Trump is up to, but the party is trapped in a prison of its own making. It can’t win with him and can’t win without his obsessed base full of people who see a blood drinking, cannibalistic, pedophiliac Satanist in every liberal and Democrat. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a bona fide challenger, but he and Trump are likely to be locked in an Alien vs. Predator death match that will be hard to ignore as it further degrades our political climate.
Can anyone save the day (and the nation) by finally bringing Trump down with a conviction for tax fraud, election interference or illegally possessing highly classified documents? One thing is for sure: Trump keeps proving that with enough money and political support, he can remain above the law and constantly return in hair-raising sequels.
In the words of Science Officer Ash, “You still don't understand what you’re dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”
John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.