Stephen King has an article up at The Guardian, pondering the rise of the Tiny Tyrant, and the hows and whys of it. Entertaining reading.
I had written about such men before. In The Dead Zone, Greg Stillson is a door-to-door Bible salesman with a gift of gab, a ready wit and the common touch. He is laughed at when he runs for mayor in his small New England town, but he wins. He is laughed at when he runs for the House of Representatives (part of his platform is a promise to rocket America’s trash into outer space), but he wins again. When Johnny Smith, the novel’s precognitive hero, shakes his hand, he realizes that some day Stillson is going to laugh and joke his way into the White House, where he will start world war three.
Big Jim Rennie in Under The Dome is cut from the same cloth. He’s a car salesman (selling being a key requirement for the successful politician), who is the head selectman in the small town of Chester’s Mill, when a dome comes down and cuts the community off from the world. He’s a crook, a cozener and a sociopath, the worst possible choice in a time of crisis, but he’s got a folksy, straight-from-the-shoulder delivery that people relate to. The fact that he’s incompetent at best and downright malevolent at worst doesn’t matter.
Both these stories were written years ago, but Stillson and Rennie bear enough of a resemblance to the current resident of the White House for me to flatter myself I have a country-fair understanding of how such men rise: first as a joke, then as a viable alternative to the status quo, and finally as elected officials who are headstrong, self-centered and inexperienced. Such men do not succeed to high office often, but when they do, the times are always troubled, the candidates in question charismatic, their proposed solutions to complex problems simple, straightforward and impractical. The baggage that should weigh these hucksters down becomes magically light, lifting them over the competition like Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar film Up. Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.
I decided to convene six Trump voters to discover how and why all this happened. Because I selected them from the scores of make-believe people always bouncing around in my head (sometimes their chatter is enough to drive me bugshit), I felt perfectly OK feeding them powerful truth serum before officially convening the round table. And because they are fictional – my creatures – they all agreed to this. They gulped the serum down in Snapple iced tea, and half an hour later we began. My panelists were:
Click on over for the full story.