I'll Give Donald Trump A Chance--On One Condition

Dear American right-wingers,

Donald Trump is the president. I won't pretend I'm happy about that, not by a long shot, but it is fact. And there are calls, as usual, to be fair, respect the office of the president, and give him a chance to prove he's not as bad as we think. The usual response from American lefties is "The Republicans greet the election of any Democrat with open hatred and intransigent opposition, so we don't owe this orange fascist a level of respect you clearly think only applies to you." Which is, of course, true, but never mind that. I'm willing to be the bigger man here. That's kind of the point, after all: being a more decent person than you is the basis of my political ideology.

So here's the deal. I will agree to totally give Trump a chance. I'll listen to and consider his policy proposals, let them play out without my personal opposition to see if they work, and give him the benefit of the doubt wherever doubt exists. If it turns out I'm wrong and he's not corrupt and incompetent, I will--cheerfully and with relief--admit it. "Boy," I'll say, "did I ever misread that situation! I was totally off-base, and thank goodness for that! The Trump administration has done much better than I'd expected!" I ask only one condition, to wit:

This is the last one you get.

My entire life, the American right wing, and the Republican party it has developed a complete stranglehold on, has been wildly wrong about everything. Fucking EVERYTHING.

We said Reaganomics would vastly increase wealth disparity. You said it would trickle down. You were wrong.

We said deregulating banks and financial instruments would harm the economy. You said it would help. You were wrong.

We said union-busting would hurt working people. You said it wouldn't. You were wrong.

We said comprehensive sex education produces better results. You said abstinence-only produces better results. You were wrong.

We said government-funded healthcare works better than private insurance at actually giving people healthcare. You said private companies are more efficient. You were wrong.

We said the Bush administration was corrupt and incompetent. You said their policies were sound. You were wrong. (SO wrong.)

We said the Iraq war was based on lies. You said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You were wrong.

We said invading Iraq would destabilize the region and give rise to a new generation of terrorists. You said that just wouldn't happen. You were wrong.

We said Obama was an American citizen with a squeaky-clean record who would win respect across America and around the world. You said he was a communist Muslim from Kenya, on your more polite days. You were wrong.

Those are just a few highlights, mind you. I had to trim this list down a lot just to keep it from being a week-by-week recounting of American political discourse over the past twenty years. The fact is, your ideology is batting zero. Across America, in our fifty laboratories of democracy, states where our ideology predominates consistently rank higher for almost all quality-of-life measures, and states where your ideology predominates are poorer, more ignorant, less healthy, more violent, and dependent on our states for economic survival. We have field-tested your ideology over and over, and it simply does not produce better results in the real world. Your ideas never, ever do what you claim they will. But because it would be rude to point that out, we just keep letting you hit reset, acting every time as though your ideas are new-birthed that morning, and nodding politely as you tell us, yet again, that you've got a really good feeling about this one.

So, if I agree to give Donald Trump a chance, and it turns out you're wrong this time too, then we're done. No more humoring you. No more acting like you have something to contribute just to be polite. No more acting as though your viewpoints are worthy of consideration. No more pretending that you are part of any serious adult conversation about society, policy, or pretty much anything. The Republican party will change its name to the Wrong About Everything party. Right-wing pundits will preface every sentence with, "As someone who's been completely wrong about every issue I've opined on, I think..." Right-wing politicians will either step down in disgrace or completely change their approach to policy, switching to a fact-based form of decision making. All references to your ideology, when taught in history classes as the Goofus to democracy's Gallant, will use the word "discredited", and wherever possible the word "shameful".

That's the deal. I think Trump's administration will be corrupt and incompetent and their policies will fail. You think he'll make America great again. If that's really the bet you want to put your last chip on, then go for it. But in exchange for my giving him a chance, you agree that this is your last chip. If you lose this time, you walk away from the table and never play again.


Oscar Project articles

Wings (1927)

It’s hard to remember now just how amazing airplanes were in the 1920s. Barnstormers used to cruise from one small town to another, charging impressive fees just to show off their miraculous flying machines. That sense of wonder deeply informs Wings, in a way that’s hard to understand from here in the miracle-jaded future. The story of two young pilots and their service in WWI is nothing new even for the time, but the flying shots are spectacular, and in 1927 they might as well have been magic.

The Broadway Melody (1929)

I hated this movie. Hated it. Hated it in a way that started to feel weirdly personal after a while. The title song is repeated every five minutes by someone or other, which would be tolerable if it were a good song, but it’s not. There’s not a single likable character in this movie, which is a serious problem since we’re supposed to find them all charming. It’s about various people trying to achieve true love and showbiz stardom, but I didn’t want anything good to happen to any of them.

All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

This is the earliest Best Picture winner that doesn’t require any apology or explanation before showing it to contemporary friends. It holds up perfectly, a stark and even angry look at the pointless, brutal cost of war. Its characters join the German army as teenagers full of idealism and hope and all that dulce et decorum est crap, and everything goes downhill for them from there.

Cimarron (1931)

This is one of those movies that has to be taken in context. It traces the history of the development of the American West through the life of one man, from the first Oklahoma Land Rush up through the present day. Thus, the first piece of context that must be taken into account is that “the present day” means “the Hoover administration”.

Grand Hotel (1932)

Watching Grand Hotel, the 5th-ever Best Picture winner, it struck me how rapidly I was seeing the art of filmmaking develop. An audacious plotline-juggling comedy, this movie makes remarkable use of the camera in ways that haven’t shown up in previous films, but will continue showing up in subsequent ones. (Except for the fact that Greta Garbo has a proprietary lighting system that exists only for her character, as though she’s in a whole different movie by herself. That one’s all Garbo.)

Cavalcade (1933)

This was based on a play by Noël Coward, and the nicest thing I can say is that maybe it worked better on stage. On film, it’s a godawful tedious slog through two generations of affluent London life, showing the great upheavals of the 1899-1933 period via a bunch of colorless, unlikable characters who mostly die, but not soon enough to suit me.

It Happened One Night (1934)

This movie feels like the beginning of an era. Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Frank Capra directing, and a romantic-comedy plotline we’re still using today. These are all elements that became dominant over the coming years, but here they all still had that new-star smell. The storyline’s nothing new, your basic fall-in-love-over-an-involuntary-journey bit, but the journey in this case provides a wonderful look at 1930s Americana, all the little motel cabins and logistical weirdness that made up a pre-freeway road trip.

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

A scene I’m 100% sure took place in Irving Thalberg’s office at MGM one day in 1935:

“So, last year Gable took his shirt off in It Happened One Night, and we made… how much money again?”

“All of it, sir. All the money.”

“Oh yeah. That was great. We also won enough Oscars that I had to have my mantelpiece reinforced. Anyway, having said that, what’ve we got this year?”

“We’ve got a picture where Clark Gable is shirtless for literally half the running time.”

“Good start. What’s he wearing the rest of the time?”

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

Do you like long, slow musical numbers that involve almost nothing but looking at showgirls’ legs? No? Well, tough shit, because you’re in for a LOT of them. Get comfy.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

This is what you call surefire Oscar bait: a period biopic that talks about an Important Social Issue. The Life of Emile Zola is a weirdly-paced story with a strange two-part structure. First, we have your conventional biopic. Zola starts out penniless and living in a garret, but perseveres and works hard and finds success with Nana, because it turns out sex sells. He raises a family, yadda yadda yadda, and his career and the film are both slowing down by the halfway mark.

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Of the various films in the genre of “Frank Capra directs Jimmy Stewart and several other stars in a surprisingly funny drama about socioeconomic injustice”, You Can’t Take It With You may be the least of them. Adapted from a George S. Kaufman play, it feels stagebound and claustrophobic, lacking a strong sense of visual expression. The story is just about a rich guy meeting a houseful of Manic Pixie Dream Anarchists, and some of the jokes don’t really work in the 21st century.

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Gone With The Wind is a serious problem for me.

On the one hand, as a movie, it’s pretty good. The cinematography’s great, the actors are gorgeous, the sense of an epic is powerful and heartfelt, and the score is top-notch.

On the other hand, most of that is also true of Triumph of the Will, and it’s hard to escape the comparison.

Rebecca (1940)

In beginning this review, I had to double-check the date. Rebecca was seriously released in 1940? Weird. It feels later than that, like maybe 1950, give or take a couple years. The product of another ten years of the development of film as a storytelling medium, in other words. That may have been what tipped it over to victory; it’s not just emotionally compelling and visually gorgeous, it has a level of nuance and emotion in the structure of every shot and scene that one just doesn’t see in other films from that year.

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: nobody actually thinks this was the best movie made in 1941. Nobody thought it back then either. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Citizen Kane is better than How Green Was My Valley, but that William Randolph Hearst was a vindictive sonofabitch who owned half the newspapers in the country and had Louella Parsons on permanent payroll. It simply wasn’t safe for voting members of the Academy to support Kane, so they went with a safety.

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

This film is part of a brief, awkward period in Oscar history: the two years following Hitler's invasion of Poland and preceding Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. From 1939-41, there was a very strong "America First" movement in the U.S., which opposed America's entry into the war, often because they were outright Nazi sympathizers. This demographic was not well-represented in the film industry, because many of Hollywood's leading figures, like Lubitsch, Wilder, Dietrich, and others, were German by birth.

Casablanca (1943)

Casablanca. What can I, or anyone, write about this movie that hasn't been written a hundred times? That it's awful darn good? It is. You may have heard this is a very good motion picture. I must inform you that you heard correctly. Glad we had this talk.