Is Trump Running a Red Queen Race?

John Tenniel, "Through the Looking Glass"

John Tenniel, “Through the Looking Glass”

Tuesday

Other than Shakespeare’s plays, to capture contemporary politics I’ve turned most frequently to Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Who else but the foremost nonsense writer of the 19th century could do justice to what the United States has been experiencing in recent years. Now respected political scientist Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View has alerted me to another applicable passage. Donald Trump, he says, is involved in a “Red Queen Race”:

My feeling at this point is that Trump earlier this year was able to escape his Red Queen Race — in which he had to do more and more outrageous things in order to maintain the same (very large) share of media attention. He escaped it because CNN, in particular, decided to milk the Trump Show the way that it milked the missing airplane. As long as that lasted, Trump only had to stay outrageous, not constantly ratchet up. However, it’s harder for the media to ignore long-standing norms of fairness in the general election. Which means the Red Queen Race is back.

 In Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Alice at one point finds herself running alongside the Red Queen. They race along for about ten minutes with the wind whistling in their ears, only to discover that they are still under the same tree. Alice is confused:

Alice looked round her in great surprise. “Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!”

“Of course it is,” said the Queen, “what would you have it?”

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

From attacking Gold Star parents to contending that Russia has not invaded the Ukraine to kicking a baby out of a campaign event, Trump has certainly managed to stay atop the news cycle over the past few days. (I don’t recall hearing anything about Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine recently other than they are out there campaigning somewhere in the Midwest.) If making outrageous statements is a version of keeping pace, it appears that Trump is running twice as fast as anyone ever has, and he is certainly getting somewhere else.

Whether that somewhere else is where he wants to be is another question.

 

Previous posts applying Lewis Carroll posts to U.S. Politics

Lewis Carroll Describes the Caucus Races 

Rubio and Cruz as Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Donald Rumsfeld through the Looking Glass

Scandal? Nothing but a Pack of Cards

Medicare Politics and Gullible Oysters

Romney and Ryan’s Gently Smiling Jaws

The Cheshire Cat and Romney’s Off-Putting Laugh

Mitt Romney and Looking Glass Politics

The Presidential Candidates in Wonderland

Rightwing Rewrites Reality

Tweedledum, Tweedledee, and Medi(s)care

Believing 6 Impossibilities before Breakfast

It’s Been a Mad Tea Party

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  • myrtrat

    After the baby incident, in VA I think, Tim Kaine said that you have to wonder which one was the baby!

  • David Arthur Anderson

    You’re quoting that stooge of low degree? The spawn of the rough beast slouching toward Washington?

  • Robin

    David, When you say “stooge of low degree,” do you have in mind the Oliver Goldsmith poem “An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog,” which has the following stanza:

    And in that town a dog was found,
    As many dogs there be,
    Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,
    And curs of low degree.

    E. J. Dionne of The Washington Post” said not too long ago that “The Second Coming” is this year’s most applicable poem. Here’s one post I wrote about it: http://betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com/trump-as-yeatss-rough-beast/

  • Robin

    Baby jokes are flying wild and free these days, myrtrat. One I liked, given Trump’s strange insecurity about his small hands, is that he was jealous of the baby for having larger hands. Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast said that he thought that “Trump Kicks Baby Out of Rally” could never occur outside of Onion-type parody. Someone else wondered who was next–widows and three-legged puppies?

    Speaking of parody, what strange landscape have we entered when we can’t distinguish between what is real and what is satire?

  • myrtrat

    If only Trump himself were an Onion-type parody! Besides the speed-record breaking flip-flop from understanding to dismissal, I was struck by his ridicule of the mother for taking his first remark seriously. He’s mocking his own supporters for believing him!

  • David Arthur Anderson

    tannis root?

  • Robin

    I really like your point about mocking his supporters for believing him. I can just hear him thinking, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I’ve been reading Melville’s Confidence Man to see if I can get more insight into him. Of course, there are the King and the Duke in Huckleberry Finn, who take positive pleasure in how they take in the saps.

  • Robin

    I really like your point about mocking his supporters for believing him. I can just hear him thinking, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I’ve been reading Melville’s Confidence Man to see if I can get more insight into him. Of course, there are the King and the Duke in Huckleberry Finn, who take positive pleasure in how they take in the saps.

  • David Arthur Anderson

    No to the Goldsmith poem. But thanks for introducing that. Yes about “The Second Coming”. Yeats work is extremely powerful. It was one of the first poems that I never, ever forgot. Along with “Richard Cory” by EAR, “Poetry” by Marianne Moore, and the novel “Ethan Frome”, by EW.
    Someone should write an opera about the 2016 election, as Adams and Goodman did with “Nixon in China”.

  • Robin

    The opera lyrics probably should be penned by someone like Samuel Beckett in the mode of Theater of the Absurd. I finally read Ethan Frome–not what I was expecting from Wharton after having read Age of Innocence. It bummed me out like few works I have read.

  • David Arthur Anderson

    Absurd to be sure. But nowhere else could such a drama unfold. “The Age of Innocence” is mature, as is “House of Mirth”. I had read EF in high school and was horrified that such a cruel fate could beset anyone. A first step to the gradual loss of innocence.


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