Cape May County likes to think of itself as Trump Country but very soon all that will remain will be an unprincipled value system and a tacky reminder flying from your neighbor’s porch.
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, October 7, 2020
There is a scene at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglorious Basterds, an inventive reimagining-of-history-as-spaghetti-western set in Nazi Germany, where Brad Pitt’s Aldo the Apache character explains to his prisoner, Hans Landa, an infamous Gestapo colonel, that he is not about to let him to simply take off his Nazi uniform and go about his business as if nothing ever happened. So he carves a Nazi symbol in the man’s forehead with the sole purpose, as we have been forewarned earlier in the movie, that he now carries with him something he can never take off. A permanent reminder of who he was and what he did.
The Nazi references get old pretty quickly, I will readily admit. They are such an obvious trigger that you hate to use them at all, because they generally shut the conversation down. After you’ve referenced the Third Reich, there is really nowhere else to take the conversation without resorting to fisticuffs. But at the same time, it is impossible to ignore the obvious symbolism of Nazi Germany, as it has been beaten into the national consciousness of America by the avalanche of popular culture of the later half of the 20th century, nearly all of it supremely patriotic and nationalistic in nature. Hitler and his party were the defining enemy of our time, the zenith of evil in the world, and the face of fascism beyond anything Mussolini ever dreamt. They are a yardstick by which we measure both the evil that may lie dormant in even the most timid civilian population, as well as the dangers of unchecked fascism to an otherwise peaceful people. Therefore, Nazis are, an unavoidable baseline from which to measure our decline.
After their inglorious defeat in World War I, Germany was a country despondent and fractured, desperately in need of a hero and a renewed sense of pride. In their moment of need, they were unified by an improbable character sporting an unfortunate combover and peculiar mustache. Hitler was initially ridiculed and widely scorned, until he rather unceremoniously vanquished his betters and assumed the position of supreme leader.
Hitler branded everything he could and reveled in theatrical showmanship. His rallies and parades were things of legend. Children sang songs about him and wore costumes in his honor. Neighbors competed to prove their loyalty to the Party and to the Führer with larger and more elaborate adornments to their homes.
The Führer himself demanded absolute loyalty among his staff and was cruel in his response when it was not afforded him. An insecure individual, he required constant affirmation and reminders of his brilliance, and frequently pursued the adulation of the people with tightly coordinated rallies.
If you’ve driven around Cape May County in the past month or so, you’ve seen the signs. Not the usual campaign signs or even the flags adorning condos on the islands, attached to telephone poles along the backs roads, or flying from the masts of yachts in the marinas, but actual red yard signs produced by the local Republican Party that declare that Cape May County is Trump Country.
People put these in their yards, as a point of pride. The scale seems to be inversely relevant to the value of the property. The less the property would be worth on the open real estate market, the larger the flag and the more signs in the yard you will find.
This isn’t a political movement any longer and if truth be told, probably never was. Donald Trump has no discernible political ideology and by all accounts never excepted to win, so never had any ideas on how he might want to govern. The whole affair has just been one long grift, an ongoing episode of his reality show where he is always the star, and the ratings are king.
The notion that his fans exist in the world is nothing more than an abstract thought. The idea in the back of your head that if there is a television camera pointed at your, that somewhere at home people are watching you. The American public aren’t a reality to Donald Trump, but a Neilson rating. He doesn’t see Ohio, he sees a 6-share. He’s like Cypher from the Matrix looking out over the population and seeing only ones and zeros. You can guess who he thinks the zeros are.
Without belaboring the metaphor too much further, the point is that when Trump finally goes away, where will all that energy go? Trump will likely lose this election, making him one of the few one-term Presidents in the modern era, but given that no one expected him to win in the first place, least of all him, no one should be that surprised. But that’s the thing. A lot of people, his people, will be surprised. They are convinced that he’s invincible, because he’s told them he is. He’s like Clyde Barrow or Al Capone, seemingly incapable of being taken down, apparently immune to the long arm of the law. It’s easy to see why they would believe he’s invulnerable after so many near misses where he walked away without a scratch. Even he seems to believe it.
But Trump will go away eventually. Whether it’s because he loses this election, dies of obesity and drug addiction, or is taken away in chains, he will eventually go away. When he does, and the rule of law and democracy are hopefully restored, when indictments are filed and people find themselves before juries, it will be interesting to see how willing people will be to still wear the uniform and fly his flag. Will they fly it defiantly, like the Stars and Bars, as a dog whistle to their compatriots that they will not be silenced, or will they pack it away in the attic for their grandchildren to find with shame?
Donald Trump is not just an openly racist, bigoted, misogynist. He’s a wholly corrupt grifter. Even Bernie Madoff eventually got caught. Eventually, everyone who runs a Ponzi scheme, has to pay the piper. Everyone has to come clean. Everyone gets caught.
Countless politicians across the country have risen to power on the coattails of the Corrupter in Chief. They have waved his banner and sang his praises, because they thought it would give them an easy base of support. They were right, for a time.
But when the Trump circus leaves town, what will they have except a few peanut shells, a pile of elephant dung and a legacy of fraud and corruption? How will they uncouple their cart from that catastrophe? What will become of their tribal pride?
As long as Trump has been running his three-ring circus of lies, shady deals and embezzlement, the spotlight has been on him, but pretty soon the show is going to be over, the house lights are going to come up and your mayor or county commissioner, police chief or Senator are going to be left standing there holding a shovel next to a pile of shit.
It’s not going to be pretty.