Democrats and the media are confused about the meaning of Donald Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. The president-elect’s critics say his appointment of wealthy Republicans to cabinet positions is hypocritical and reveals him to be a phony populist. “Hypocrisy at its worst,” cry Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. “Trump’s Economic Cabinet Picks Signal Embrace of Wall St. Elite,” reads the headline on the New York Times. “Stick a sterling silver fork in Trump’s ‘populism,'” reads the title of a Washington Post column.
In the early 1960s, when Neil Gaiman was eight years old, he read a story called “The City on the Edge of Forever” in the collection Star Trek 2. The piece was an adaptation of a Star Trek teleplay that had been written by one Harlan Ellison. Two years later, Gaiman read a story called “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” in the anthology World’s Best SF Third Series. This hallucinatory, post-apocalyptic tale of four humans trapped inside a sentient and psychotic computer had such a terrifying effect on Gaiman that he looked up its author. Ellison had written it too.
The liberal hysteria over Donald Trump’s election as president extends to coverage of his transition. “Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State of Disarray,” says the New York Times. “Intraparty fratricide looms over the GOP,” says a columnist for the Washington Post. “The GOP Civil War Is Just Beginning,” says a writer for Slate.
Donald Trump’s election as the forty-fifth president of the United States is the most significant political event to happen in my lifetime. In one respect Trump’s victory is more remarkable than Ronald Reagan’s in 1980, eight months before I was born. Reagan, also a former Democrat, was a two-term governor of California who had been active in public life since traveling the country for General Electric in the 1950s. Trump has never held office, never been in the military, and if anything faced more resistance than Reagan did from Hollywood, D.C., New York, and academia. None of that stopped Trump from winning more Electoral College votes than any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
One of the most important speeches of the 2016 election was delivered in Utah in June to an audience of ultra-rich Republicans that included Mitt Romney. The speaker was Edward Conard, who joined Bain Capital after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1982 and worked in private equity for twenty-five years before retiring to become, of all things, a pundit.
Unprecedented. Incredible. Never seen anything like it.
These words have been uttered often about the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump, it is said, is a unique figure. He’s leading a populist movement unlike any America has experienced. His scorched earth, apocalyptic campaign is one of a kind.