Right, so here's the deal. I am now convinced that Donald Trump is a living genius and that his re-election to the presidency currently looks almost inevitable, even though he will end up being President when he is 78 and may yet kill us all.
Never let it be said that my opening paragraphs lack punch.
So let's concentrate on the key word: that the man is a genius
. This, of course, is blasphemy to almost any Scottish readers, largely because of his hair which seems to have attracted more comments from Scots than anyone else. Other than his inability to string together a decent sentence. (Do you know his minders have recently added a new word to their lexicon of words that he likes to use? It's orgine – viz much of the orgine of crime near the Mexican border, etc.)
Right, well, I am here to educate you about his genius, and it's worth reading, because you might as well know who might be about to kill you. It's always handy to know your enemies. Firstly my credentials. I am currently, well, I was till this morning anyhow, the storyteller in residence at somewhere you won't have heard of either: the very wonderful Mississippi State University (MSU). You probably won't have heard of someone being a storyteller in residence either – few have – I'm the first, though I doubt I will be the last. Storytelling and the evaluation of the narrative will soon become a far more serious academic study. Still not convinced? Well, cop a load of this:
The average student that I have been teaching over the last month now uses their mobile phone for two hours a day, some as much as five hours. I asked all my students if any of them read a hard copy newspaper each day. Not one did. And these were honours students, the cream of the crop. The days of students engaging in the assimilation of the majority of their information through chomping through big articles are long gone. No, they get much of their daily data in tiny nibbles which they amass into narratives, or stories. For up to 35 hours a week. So, isn't storytelling worth having a bit of a think about? Sign your children up for careers as storytellers and they will never starve. It's the new black.
The bizarre thing is that if there is one type of communication that needs a good story told about it, it's storytelling. And this is it.
Anyhow, back to dear Donald. And my astonishing claim that he is a genius.
A week into my second visit to MSU, I get two pieces of wonderful news. The first is that the Democrats have managed to pass various motions that will ensure that the evaluation of his alleged crimes will become official, and secondly, that his first chance to respond to their campaign for impeachment will be at a massive rally only an hour away from my flat. The third piece of news is that I have managed to scam a White House press pass so that I get to spend two hours within 10 yards of him at the rally and gain a little more of an insight than listening to people taking him down for his hairstyle and grammar.
So, genius? You really have to see him close up to recognise it. Fine, so the public relations people kick off by giving us two solid hours of inspirational rock music and prayer sessions, and even the mass swearing of oaths to the constitution, after which the drums roll and on he comes.
Little bit of context to understand the crowd. The state of Mississippi has around two and a half million people in it, so that's half the size of Scotland, and of these, 40% are African American. So it's like saying, ball park, that the population of Edinburgh is black and all the rest of Scotand are white.
I spent my two hours wandering around interviewing the crowd and I promise you I only counted eight black people in a crowd of 10,000, and that 10,000 is accurate – it was a full house. Picture it if you will. A Scottish political meeting with less than 0.1% of the audience from Edinburgh. Silly comparison, I know, but it illustrates the enormity of the tribalism. So these folk. Crazy racists? Misogynists? Nasty folk that you wouldn't let in your house? Not a bit of it.
In the dozens of interviews I conducted, there wasn't a single soul who wasn't quite immaculate in their manners and generous in their response to my often direct and forceful questioning. Not one was drunk, there was no litter, their patience and love for their children was exemplary. Their opinions may be repulsive to many, including me, but I was far more impressed with their domestic manners than I would be at any parallel Scottish crowd.
And then Trump finally walks on the stage and these quiet and docile people go absolutely mental. And I choose my words advisedly.
He really looks quite extraordinary and the way he handles himself in terms of political pragmatism to that particular audience is quite without fault. The waves to the crowd, his applauding of them, facing in all directions, so kind, so loving, he is like a sort of giant golden teddy bear. A genius.
I don't think I have ever seen anything so terrifying in my life.
What he actually
says verges on occasion on the gibberish. I spoke to one commentator who was directly behind him and he told me that his prompt screens were often peppered with entreaties by his minders to return to the carefully written script, but he refused, constantly drifting back to his idiotic whimsy of half-completed sentences and ideas that sometimes had obviously only just occurred to him. And his speech was horrible. The insulting of his enemies. The sadistic brutality of his description of the killing of some terrorists. The hidden racism. The attacks on the press. Halfway through, I had to get out of the auditorium as I literally felt nauseous.
But it was his handling of the crowd that really puts him in the genius slot. This man is the greatest storyteller you can imagine. If he says that he approves of the building of a museum, as he did, and there is a ripple of support, then he talks museums. He makes grotesque remarks about how he has just ordered the killing of a terrorist, and as he feels the crowds response, he builds on it.
Today, I was given a two-hour lift to Birmingham, Alabama, by a political journalist friend of mine far better versed than I in these matters, and he asked me to define my reaction to Trump at the rally. I told him that I have had female friends who have entered marriages and that I have watched them become imprisoned by monster husbands who I feel probably abuse them in every aspect of their lives, and that watching Trump in action was like watching a bullying monster who had somehow managed to bewitch his audience like a wife who couldn't escape a bad marriage. And that I found it utterly grotesque.
My journalist friend told me that, whilst my marriage analogy had merit, it missed the key point: yes, the wife had been disenfranchised and bullied, but she didn't want to escape as she loved her husband more than life itself. But why, I asked. Because he gives these people what they want and have been denied. They hate abortion, but have been told by the intellectuals in Washington that they shouldn't. They hate gay marriage, but again have been told by the intellectuals in Washington that they shouldn't. They still want America to run the world... ditto.
Trump is no Republican, nor he is a Democrat – he's a populist, a man who understands the people and will say whatever he thinks they want him to say. Just as the British who voted for Brexit feel that their wishes have been denied, so America is wild with excitement that they have found someone who will forgive them for being what they are.
That's what the people at the rally felt. They felt he loved them so much that he wants to explode. What you have to understand is that, in spite of all his seeming idiocy, he is in touch with much of America. They don't care what his policies are, they just believe he will look after them. He will be re-elected, because, well because he is a genius. He tells them the story they want to hear.
I said I know, and nearly wept. God bless America.