Alan Zendell, January 6, 2023
We all know the story of Frankenstein, the obsessed scientist who creates a living creature from used body parts. There are different versions, the original Mary Shelley novel, and four Hollywood movie screenplays, but they all have some things in common. The creature, known as the monster because of its grotesque appearance, is wrongly accused of murder, driven mad by alienation, persecution, and rage, and becomes a dispenser of death and destruction. Some versions suggest that the monster ultimately turns on his creator, but it’s actually the creator who turns on it and concludes that it must be destroyed.
We can learn a few things by looking at Donald Trump’s MAGA movement through the eyes of Mary Shelley. Trump created his movement largely from the discards of society, people who felt disaffected and disenfranchised, who had retreated into a variety of cult-like settings. From survivalists to ad hoc militias to xenophobes, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis to uncared-for PTSD-damaged war veterans, Trump patched together a movement of angry people looking for someone to blame for their circumstances. The resulting grotesque political monster swept Trump into the presidency and attempted to take over the Republican Party.
No allegory is perfect, and while Frankenstein’s monster is driven mad by being falsely accused of murder, Trump’s monster is guilty as charged. Trump dreamed of becoming a Vladimir Putin-like autocrat, with his monster protecting him and keeping him in power. But like the fate of most mentally ill narcissists, his dream of wielding power and controlling his MAGA movement was delusional. He motivated his misfits to attempt a violent overthrow of the Congress and the Constitution. But having once experienced the heady corrupting force of power and notoriety, the monster realized it no longer needed him. And Trump made things worse by abandoning his minions to the justice system and ripping them off to the tune of nearly a billion dollars in contributions whose only purpose was to enrich Trump further and cover his legal fees.
The 2022 midterm election and the attempt to seat the newly elected Congress show us what happens when monsters are allowed to run free. Like Doctor Frankenstein, Trump found the monster he hoped would bring him fame and fortune was beyond his control. Having enabled it and encouraged it to release its fury against the government and the clear majority of Americans who rejected it at the polls, he is slipping into decline while his followers wreak havoc in Congress, threatening to turn what was a barely functional body into a carcass.
This is being further enabled by another, not overly smart narcissist who craves being elected Speaker of the House, while the hard core remnants of Trump’s monster vow to prevent that from happening. While there is great entertainment value in pitching Kevin McCarthy against the uncompromising MAGA holdouts and Trump himself, the drama is being played out on live television to a worldwide audience, with pundits informing us that until a Speaker is elected, the legislative branch of our government is essentially offline. That means no action on the debt ceiling or on appropriations to keep government agencies, including the Defense Department and the military operating.
Because McCarthy, like Trump, cares only about his own power and position, the priorities of governing have been derailed. Because McCarthy, like Trump, is a man of limited vision, and one who despite his own view of himself as a master negotiator and deal-maker is showing himself to be incompetent at both, the victim of MAGA’s war against the government will be the United States of America. If McCarthy is ultimately elected speaker, and reports of the things he has given MAGA in exchange for their votes are correct, we will need new words to describe the Congress’ dysfunction.
Stalemate, impasse, and logjam won’t do anymore, because they all suggest temporary situations that can be fixed. If McCarthy empowers Matt Geatz and his crew as he is reported to have done, he will have given them the tools to accomplish their main objective: to tear down the federal government. Every one of the ultra MAGA rebels holding the House hostage voted not to certify the election of President Biden, and several were directly implicated in the January 6th insurrection. They cheered when their former master recently suggested that the Constitution be suspended so he could be reinstated as President.
If like many Americans, you believed that the fading of Donald Trump’s political star would signal a return to normalcy, think again. We still have a Supreme Court that is seriously out of step with more than two thirds of America, and we have a spineless narcissist on the verge of become Speaker of the House who is willing to give the monster all the power it needs to wreck our political system.
The MAGA rebels are not interested in governing. They only want to make trouble and get air time on Fox News. I wish that the media would stop calling them “conservatives” as they are anything but conservative. They are actually anarchists.