Donald Trump: Performance Artist

Dear Fellow humans:

Over the last few months, I have been watching the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican Primaries with some alarm. I mean, seriously, most of the Republican front-runners are disturbing in one way or another (Carly Fiorina’s insistence that what can most charitably be termed her hallucinations while watching a video are more valid than what the people who actually made the video say is in there; Ben Carson’s attempt to brand himself as in some way dangerous; Jeb Bush’s increasingly obvious desire to be somewhere, anywhere, else; Rand Paul’s existence; etc.) but the Donald is head and shoulders above the pack. He’s not just the clear front-runner in the polls, but also the clear front-runner in sheer offensiveness. He’s the kind of politician who makes satirists take to (more) drink, because there’s no way to exaggerate the reality of what Trump says. As Hunter Thompson said in similar circumstances, “the reality itself is too intense.”

Trump at CPAC 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Trump at CPAC 2011.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

It’s at times like this I miss Stewart and Colbert. And understand, I mean no insult to Trevor Noah or Larry Wilmore – it’s nothing more than the difference a decade plus of hosting makes. In 2026, those two will be honed by experience to an edge of satire even sharper than we now remember Jon and Stephen being. In 2016, even they are stumbling to keep up with Trump. How does he do it? How does he confound some of the best satirists in the world? How is he always one step ahead?

And then it came to me.

How Trump does it.

The candidacy of Donald Trump is nothing more than the next logical step from the persona Stephen Colbert played for all those years on The Colbert Report.

He can’t be satirised precisely because his entire candidacy is nothing more than a giant satire of the entire system it purports to be a part of. Donald Trump the Candidate is merely a character played by Donald Trump the man.

And Donald Trump the man is very, very good at his art.

Now, I realise that there is no evidence at all to suggest that my theory is correct, but of course, there wouldn’t be. Trump isn’t about to leave that to chance, after all. Of course he’s going to be all “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” at this point in the proceedings. A year from now, maybe, he’ll come clean (although frankly, I think a posthumously released home video memoir is the most likely way he’ll tell the truth: free of consequence and at a profit).

Nor should anyone think that I mean to insult Trump with this theory. Quite the reverse – if I am correct, Trump is an absolute genius of political satire. Indeed, listening to the hateful, moronic bile that spews from the word-hole beneath that horrid toupee, I think that this theory is the only viable one for anyone who wants to respect Trump’s intelligence and media savvy.

Trump's star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo by Adam Fagen.

Trump’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo by Adam Fagen.