Trump in Three Monsters

Monsters are a key element of our cultural digestive system. They are abnormalities, and through that abnormality they encapsulate some unpleasant truth. The terror of the Boogeyman is that he was always inside the house, waiting to blow open the door. So it is that we create Boogeymen to substitute whatever punishment- deliberate or subconscious- the parents will enact if the child falls out of line. Sometimes an outrageous monster saunters into reality fully formed. The task then is to name them. Having so sauntered, Donald Trump has been named for many monsters, each providing a lens through which to examine him.

Late in the primaries, Alexander Burns with the New York Times began to compare Trump’s continued candidacy to a sort of zombie attacking the GOP: damaged, but unstoppable. In his Zombie Aspect, Trump springs a demographic trap the Republicans have been sliding into for years, namely the fact that the structure of their primary elections selects for untenable candidates. Like FrankenTrump, Zombie-Trump serves as an undead corpse provoking an existential crisis within the GOP.

Comparisons between Trump and Frankenstein’s monster have been numerous and high profile, including Robert Kagan at Washington Post and David Corn at Mother Jones. Most of these writers invoke the Frankenstein comparison to castigate the mainstream Republican party, whose relationship with Trump can be described as complicated at best. Trump is used as an example of the rot that has lurked in the GOP all this time. Just as Frankenstein’s monster reveals the shortcomings of his creator in gruesome spectacle, so too does Trump represent the logical conclusion of the modern Republican party’s policies of xenophobia, warmongering and predatory capitalism.

One last monstrous point of view on Trump casts him only indirectly, as it lets us see the candidate’s monstrosity through the effect he has on a personal level. Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg described Chris Christie as Trump’s “Renfield,” making Trump Dracula by extension. Renfield is himself a monstrous, but piteous figure. He’s sucked into the Count’s orbit, his latent depravity leveraged to place him in the bigger monster’s service. Likewise, Trump has reduced the once-blustering Jersey Governor to fetching coffee and backing his candidacy. Perhaps Christie will have an intrusion of conscience like Renfield did; perhaps he’ll keep eating Trump’s rats.

Throughout these different versions of the monster Trump, one theme seems clear: in his aberration, Trump reveals the underlying taint of that which he is aberrant from. On a personal level, he forces acquaintances to debase themselves with the sadistic instinct of Dracula. As an “outsider” within the Republican party, he’s the voice of unfiltered racism the establishment thought they had sublimated. Perhaps what’s most haunting about Trump is how perfectly the character of the monster is suited to the medium of democracy. If the monster’s job is to reveal a truth about ourselves, how much more effectively can he work in a system where his approval is atomized and tabulated?