The more I have been watching of this year’s campaign for the White House, the more I find myself trying to think of what it reminds me of. It has come to me: Mel Brooks’ hilarious farce, The Producers. If you’ve seen either the original movie version or the stage adaptation or the remake, you know what I mean. For those who have not – watch it and then you’ll see what I mean.
The plot pairs up a nervous but creative accountant, Leo Bloom, with a defunct, corrupt producer of Broadway flops, Max Bialystok. In going over Bialystok’s books Bloom muses that it would be possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit. Flop artist Bialystok sits bolt upright – this is his area of expertise! It would involve getting a lot of investment in a show that flops. If the show flops they make tons of money. If it goes over, however, and makes money they must pay off all the backers, which would have to account for 200% of the profit. So the show NEEDS to flop. Bialystok, confident of his powers of persuasion, gears up to woo rich old ladies.
First order of business is to find the worst play in the world, the worst director in the world, and the worst actors in the world. They find a script written by a displaced Nazi who has never lost his admiration for Hitler, Franz Liebkind – Springtime for Hitler: a “musical romp through the Third Reich with Eva and Adolf.” The piece de resistance is the title song – a production number. This does the trick and they buy the rights. Surely everyone will hate this! They have a surefire flop, with a demented playwright, the most disreputable director available, and a tasteless array of song and dance bits guaranteed to have the audience walk out within seconds of the overture.
The tragic irony for these creative geniuses comes when just as the audience is getting dangerously angry, someone finds it funny. It is taken as a gigantic farce; it becomes an instant sensation, bringing about complete ruin to the producers who have sold 1000% of the show to investors, and now are faced with having to pay them.
I cannot help but think of The Producers when I read every new item day after day after day from the Trump campaign. At some point we have to quit thinking this is on the level, don’t we? Trump is playing Bialystok (or maybe Bialystok is just the hand of fate). Perhaps Trump was just doing his impression of Archie Bunker and it just took off to his surprise. Maybe Alt-Right icon Ann Coulter is the playwright, Franz Liebkind.
We can speculate on who the creative minds are who thought this up. Maybe George Soros? Maybe Hillary Clinton? And we have the unexpectedly infatuated audience. We are left stunned, wondering what universe we woke up in.
When Trump goes out the morning after his grand finale acceptance speech at the GOP Convention to announce that he is embarking on a project to fund super PACs to defeat the two candidates which represented the two main branches or factions of the GOP, (oh, and by the way, what about that picture of Rafael Cruz with Lee Harvey Oswald?); when he takes every possible opportunity to create a diversion just when Hillary has left herself open to attack; when he suggests that perhaps (wink, wink) the “2nd Amendment people” could “take care of” Hillary or her judicial nominees; when he refers to “all twelve articles of the Constitution”; when he does a complete about-face on his main issue of immigration; when he suggests that his hero Vladimir Putin “find Hillary’s emails”; when he can’t see why we don’t nuke ISIS; when he hires a guy deeply implicated in Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal (and Christie’s fall guy) as a prime adviser (and perhaps recycled scapegoat?); when he ejects a woman with her baby from one of his rowdy rallies; when he is now touting campaign merch items – the “LGBTQ” tee shirt – what else are we to think? Actually, those who have darkly suggested that Trump is our “Hitler” are off a bit – Trump is really more like the Springtime for Hitler, Hitler. Trump probably has no idea who the real Hitler was.
The amazing thing is the “backers” – these “producers” – have definitely sold more than 100% of this show. We have Bill Bennett, the guru of high morals with dozens of books counseling young and old about maintaining their honor and ethics now lecturing everyone who isn’t on the team for suffering from “moral superiority.” We have nationally known TV preachers who would leave the sellers of indulgences, who offended Martin Luther in their dust, now touting Trump. We have Jeff Sessions, the ultimate hard-liner on immigration throwing his cloak over the puddle for Trump to cover his now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t deportation scheme. Then there’s Chris Christie, known as the local town bully, meekly following ten paces behind his liege and, on orders, dutifully referring to him as “Mr. Trump.” Show hosts and TV hosts – who have billed themselves as the beacons of conservatism – alternately fawn over him and make excuses for him. And then there is the sad case of poor besotted Ann Coulter who went so far as to title her current masterpiece In Trump We Trust, who, like Liebkind, just had the rug pulled out from under her size nines, her head clunking on the floor with his latest twisty turn.
Someone somewhere is laughing. We might as well laugh along with them – it won’t be for long.
And as this playful romp goes on and on I can’t help stealing a line from Brooks’ famous send-up, Robin Hood – Men in Tights: “LEAVE US ALONE, MEL BROOKS!”