Let’s put on a show. For a good cause, of course. Call it the Andy Hardy Strategy. All singing. All dancing. Fundamentally, all fluff; that is, all surface. And the central key to success? A deceptive, shameless appeal to emotion.
Oscar Levant once said, “Beneath all the tinsel and glitter of Hollywood—is more tinsel and glitter.” How aptly this characterizes the unfolding essence of Donald Trump.
The old MGM Andy Hardy films most famously showcased the teenaged Mickey Rooney (all energy, and without an ounce of self-reflection) and the talented Judy Garland. Propelled by some trivial goal which necessitated raising money, the pair would embark on a whirlwind effort to put together a neighborhood “show”. Innocent fun, with the expected happy ending, mixed, naturally enough, with some tears along the way.
Who would’ve imagined, three-quarters of a century later, Donald Trump as a much-weathered Andy Hardy, parading across the presidential stage, and, increasingly, never far away, his curiously pushed-into-the-limelight daughter, Ivanka. This time, though, the circumstances are somewhat more grim.
Pure and simple, Trump won the presidency due to the masterful showmanship of his rallies. (Hillary, by contrast, gained little from her public appearances.) And, he took Andy Hardy one step further: He fed, with an instinctive brilliance, upon the aggrieved mood of a middle class that was not so much forgotten, as actively ignored. Huey Long whispered in his ear. Trump, the blue-collar billionaire.
Trump sang and danced a few simple, emotion-charged, messages, endlessly repeated. Central among these was his most resonating concept: America First. First on the border. First on trade. First in statesmanship. And despite his fatuous talk of a “depleted” military, the underlying anti-interventionist sentiments were welcomed with relief by his financially-struggling base of supporters, for whom charity very much begins at home.
To understand Trump is to understand that he is, at bottom, an actor, and a far more effective actor than the sublimely bland Ronald Reagan. Hollywood is Trump’s psychological home turf. Like most actors who have achieved great fame, Trump cannot bear to be upstaged, especially by someone on his own staff. To garner excessive notoriety under Trump, even if unsought, is to risk demotion, or, more likely, dismissal. Trump loves to surround himself with talented, successful individuals…so long as they don’t get too big for their britches.
Among Trump’s most astonishing histrionic accomplishments is his ability to exude a strong father figure aura, with a 1950s-era sense that papa will make things right again. This continues to register strongly across the demographic landscape.
But cracks are appearing in the make-up. With the swift rise to prominence and influence of Ivanka, “Father” is morphing into “Daddy”. More and more, it’s looking as if all the promises, and all the positions, were only a cynical “show” after all, only perhaps this time without the happy ending.
Suddenly, the skies over Syria have started raining objects shaped like cruise missiles, with the same transparent lies given as justification. What happened, Daddy?
“They” kill “beautiful babies.” Apparently, the ones “we” kill are not quite so beautiful.
And what of the mysterious young Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, recently installed as America’s do-everything official crown prince? His first mission? Throw Daddy off the Trump Train and tie him to the tracks.
Sing and dance, Daddy. The neocons need entertaining.