Many chose Halloween 2018 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of one of world’s great monster stories. Among other things, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has become a go-to classic in political discussions, especially when it comes to Donald Trump. Commentators point out that, when you bend your ethical principles and flirt with bigotry and racism, you create a monster that you cannot control.
The parallel with the book doesn’t entirely work. First of all, in the book the creature is not a monster, at least initially. Instead (unlike Trump) it is sensitive and very intelligent. It even becomes attuned to political injustice from an account it overhears of European Islamophobia.
The stories line up again, however, in the behavior of the scientist, who thinks he can avoid responsibility for what he has unleashed. Like Larry McMurtry’s Jake Spoon, whom I recently compared to the GOP, Dr. Frankenstein thinks that if he closes his eyes and keeps a low profile, everything will resolve itself on its own:
I threw the door forcibly open, as children are accustomed to do when they expect a specter to stand in waiting for them on the other side; but nothing appeared. I stepped fearfully in: the apartment was empty, and my bedroom was also freed from its hideous guest. I could hardly believe that so great a good fortune could have befallen me, but when I became assured that my enemy had indeed fled, I clapped my hands for joy and ran down to Clerval.
Of course, the creature still exists and, although initially good, it turns murderous because of Frankenstein’s abandonment and society’s rejection.
At that point, however, the novel and the GOP again part company. Dr. Frankenstein refuses to have anything to do with the creature, destroying the bride he has created for it. After it murders his fiancé in revenge, the scientist spends the rest of his life trying to destroy it.
The GOP, by contrast, has chosen to become the monstrous bride and is enabling Trump’s mayhem. All over the country, Republican candidates and rightwing media are using Trump’s playbook, especially in promoting hysteria over Honduran refugees. Michael Tomasky of Daily Beast observes in his column today that
the 2018 midterm campaigns are the most dishonest and racist in modern American history on the Republican side. The racism now on public display from Republicans is raw sewage—fundamentally built around the idea of scaring the bejeezus out of white people about a whole host of things. And it’s also the most dishonest because Trump and Republican candidates for Congress are lying more rancidly about health care than I’ve ever seen either party lie about a single issue in the last 40 years.
Wesleyan Media Projects affirms Tomasky’s assessment, noting that 17% of GOP ads deal with immigration. Unable to run on its health care or tax cut policies, the party has chosen instead to imitate the president.
People often mistakenly call the monster “Frankenstein,” but in today’s politics, creator and monster have become one and the same.
Further note: Former Republican Max Boot calls out some of the Republicans seeking to imitate Trump’s monstrosity in today’s column:
Most of all, I’m sick and tired of Republicans who feel that Trump’s blatant bigotry gives them license to do the same — with Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.) denouncing his opponent as an “Indo-American carpetbagger,” Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis warning voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his African American opponent, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) labeling his “Palestinian Mexican” opponent a “security risk” who is “working to infiltrate Congress,” and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) accusing his opponent, who is of Indian Tibetan heritage, of “selling out Americans” because he once worked at a law firm that settled terrorism-related cases against Libya.
Boot’s version of Dr. Frankenstein chasing the monster is voting blue:
If you’re sick and tired, too, here is what you can do. Vote for Democrats on Tuesday. For every office. Regardless of who they are. And I say that as a former Republican. Some Republicans in suburban districts may claim they aren’t for Trump. Don’t believe them. Whatever their private qualms, no Republicans have consistently held Trump to account. They are too scared that doing so will hurt their chances of reelection. If you’re as sick and tired as I am of being sick and tired about what’s going on, vote against all Republicans. Every single one. That’s the only message they will understand.