Donald Trump may be unable to repeal the Iran Deal, Obamacare, or get tax reform done, but he has accomplished the exposure of the two Americas. There is a real disconnect between Democrats and blue collar voters in the Rust Belt and elsewhere, but the Trump era has exposed a fissure far deeper than that which defined John Edwards's doomed candidacy. The United States finds itself in the midst a Civil War between those with a sense of humor and the insufferable, the tsk-tskers who would make St. Paul blush with their hyper-literal moralism. Reporters, comedians, and late night hosts have gone all-in with the latter, but luckily two writers had the temerity to break rank and laugh as Washington, D.C., burns. Christopher Bedford's The Art of the Donald and Rob Long's Bigly: Donald Trump in Verse are an antidote to the humorlessness afflicting our nation. Both are quick reads and deserve to be the go-to stocking stuffer for liberal and conservative relations alike.
Bedford, an editor at the Daily Caller News Foundation, captures the Trump campaign as it unfolds. Political junkies will not find much in terms of revelation or hidden scoops in this handsome book—the blue faux-snakeskin cover and binding alone warrants the $19.99 cover price—but what they will find is an exploration of the hashtag "That's How You Got Trump." Reporters are dizzy as to how a man who described inner city ghettos as hellholes and denigrated illegal immigrants as rapists could be elected president with larger shares of African-American and Hispanic voters than wholesome and well-mannered Mitt Romney. Every utterance from Trump's campaign rallies, his debate performances, and his tweets disqualified him from being president, according to these experts. Yet here we are.
The press has been flummoxed as to how they got it wrong—wielding their dulled Occam’s Razors to spin fabulous conspiracy theories about Russian interference, fake news articles shared by anti-Hillary forces with other existing anti-Hillary voters, and the exaggerated power of advertising to account for why they got it wrong. The more obvious explanation, as Bedford demonstrates, is that Americans have a sense of humor. Americans did not hyperventilate when Trump celebrated Cinco de Mayo by tweeting out a photo of himself, fork and knife in hand, about to devour Mexican food.
"Happy #CincoDeMayo!," the tweet said. "The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!"
The press went wild with accusations of bigotry, stereotyping, and white privilege. The American people laughed. The book does a magnificent job demonstrating how Trump triumphed over a hostile media, an inevitable Democrat, and the entrenched Washington, D.C., consultants who managed to take the most promising group of Republican candidates ever assembled—senators and governors with impeccable credentials and rock-solid ideology—and lead them to ruin.
Bedford believes Trump triumphed because he ignored the rules D.C. has played by for generations: "Redefine things on your terms" is how he puts it. Of course the press was going to focus relentlessly on Trump's past support for the Birther conspiracy theory against President Obama. Trump leaked to the press that he would address his despicable past at a press conference. Every camera in America came to capture what was supposed to be a national self-flagellation. Instead Trump trotted out dozens of veterans to praise him and plugged his newly opened hotel. The media was outraged. Normal people laughed. Bedford is there laughing with them, a refreshing reminder that not all journalists are screechy.
Rob Long, the writer and producer of the sitcom Cheers, delivers a traditional book mocking every president. Bigly renders Trump's absurd speeches and diction into verse. It is worthy of buying if only to infuriate the New Yorker, which acknowledged that such books emerge anytime a newly elected president takes office, but condemned Long because "what kind of writer finds it amusing to recast the President's most narcissistic, inflammatory, bigoted statements in the form of jokes?"
In the civil war between the insufferable and the amused, these two books are persuasive cases for the latter.