Donald Trump, the gold-plated Republican king-in-waiting, serves in the same role the lavish movies provided for the masses during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Both give people a peek into the lives of the very rich. Like Hollywood, Trump offers the near-intelligent demoralized people reassurance and hope.
In the face of doubt and despair, people need something to get them through the tough times. The head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association William Hays said in 1934:
‘No medium has contributed more greatly than film to the maintenance of the national morale during a period featured by revolution, riots, and political turmoil in other countries.’
At the beginning of the Depression, people felt a profound sense of despair, so producers gave them the perfect antidote: gangsters, sleazy backroom politicians, and cynical journalists.
Trump is going to do the same, build a wall to protect us from the “drug-dealing Mexican rapists” and turn away all Muslims in case one of them might be a terrorist. He takes on the sleazy politicians and the “lame stream media.”
The New York real estate magnate lets us into his lurid fantasies about impressing Chinese visitors when they come to his “gaudy, lavish ballroom:”
‘Every time the top people come over from China… they put up a tent at the White House. We’ll have a ballroom at the White House. We’ll get the top people, the top everything, we’ll have the best ballroom.’
‘Because I notice they always put tents up on the lawn. Number one, it’s not a good security thing. Number two, the guy that owns the tents is making a fortune.’
At the height of the Depression, the producers released comedies with “an almost anarchistic disdain for traditional institutions and conventions.’ Sound familiar? Trump is most certainly comedic relief for many of us.
You remember those classic stars: the Marx Brothers, Mae West, and W.C. Fields. The purpose of those actors and the gold man is to provoke outrage, and give people an outlet for their anger toward an economically unfair country.
Then, as the depression began to wind down, people started feeling optimistic. A perfect example of that is the movie “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” Cowboys in white hats rode in to save the heroine. Detectives and other defenders gave people a sense of control over their lives.
Movies made people feel as if they could succeed, gave them a government that would protect them from outside threats, and provided a classless society.
Why do people like Trump? He seems totally oblivious to the painful world surrounding him, where the middle class is dying a painful, lingering death.
But Trump offers people hope, when he promises that he will “Make America Great Again!” He totally ignores the plight of people clutching their few Social Security coins, seeing a car as an unattainable luxury, and watching jobs scatter like casino chips hitting a polluted river.
Those of us who think Trump is a glaringly, gaudy huckster are a bit more pragmatic than the Trumpsters. We want to take care of our neighbors’ need for better social safety nets, universal healthcare, breaking up the big banks, and earning a living wage.
But Trump wants that ballroom. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a page from the “outrageously extravagant Busby Berkeley musicals —depicting chorus girls as flowers or mechanical windup dolls,” for his ballroom.
Sure, kids are going hungry and drinking lead-loaded water, but we can forget about that. Maybe, the Donald will rent out the ballroom, when he isn’t entertaining visiting dignitaries, in his fantasy world where he is president.