Mike Daisey’s The Trump Card

Culture Curmudgeon

Photo courtesy Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

If there’s one takeaway from seeing Mike Daisey’s comedy monologue, “The Trump Card,” ‘The Trump Card‘- it’s the terrifying certainty that Donald Trump will win the White House come November. I’m serious.

Ahmad Coo is a producer and copy editor for the Global Business America show on CCTV America. His analysis represents his views alone.Culture Curmudgeon Ahmad Coo

If you take a look at the latest polls, Trump looks like he’s going to get blown out by Hillary Clinton. Some even say it could be an epic defeat.

Maybe not. If the last few years of living in this country have taught me anything, it’s that anything is possible — even a victory by one of the most polarizing political figures in recent history. The Republicans didn’t see it coming, and so will the rest of the country.

When Mr. Trump takes residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a mere three blocks away from where I live, everyone who laughed at him during the campaign will be on the outside looking in. And at what? The slow, certain disintegration of the political civility that holds this country together.

Every day I see Trump pull at these frayed social threads like a cat unraveling a ball of yarn. Unlike that ball of yarn, the undoing of a 238 year-old social order can’t be undone. I think Trump knows what he’s doing to American society. Whether he intended to make race a centerpiece of this year’s election is unclear, but he’s galvanized a part of society with a revanchist yearning for a lost Golden Age in America. They pine for something that never really existed. Even if these people are truly persuaded that it did, making this country great again appears to be one of the last things on the minds of many Trump supporters. Some want to blow it up, figuratively, that is.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

It’s easy to understand where these politically dispossessed Americans are coming from. I was physically dispossessed a lifetime ago in my home country, the Philippines. I lost pretty much everything I had. In the span of a decade, my family fell from the lower middle class into an underclass of disenfranchised, angry Filipinos. It didn’t help that some of my family’s difficulties were self-inflicted, but our experience was hardly unique. There’s a reason why the Philippines ranks among the world’s biggest exporters of human labor; and no, it’s not because we love being domestic helpers, nannies, nurses, construction workers, and entertainers.

Many Filipinos are convinced the system is rigged and corrupt. For those who’ve lost everything, it’s easy to go from protesting against the government to wishing for the complete destruction of a political system. I’m ashamed to admit that at one point I wanted to see everything fall into the sea because I had nothing to lose. Make someone powerless long enough and you’ll see someone who’s willing to take down the system. That’s what history shows and history is about to repeat itself here, and soon. That’s my premonition. I see a crowd of hate-spewing, high-school educated white males still chanting “Lock her up!” at a Trump inauguration.

Donald Trump is a one-man reality TV show that no NBC Executive could’ve dreamt up. Drawing on Trump’s bottom-feeding blend of demagoguery, narcissism, jingoism and Family Guy sensibilities, Mike Daisey channels a Trump supporter to perfection. He’s not only seen the economic struggles of America’s underprivileged, he and his family lived it. Daisey’s mother is a janitor who lives in a trailer park somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

In one part of his performance, Daisey imagines a scenario in which a Clinton campaigner goes to his mother’s trailer to convince her to vote for the former Secretary of State. The campaigner stresses how crucial Hillary’s victory is for the future Supreme Court. Whoever wins the White House will nominate the next batch of justices. A Clinton victory could cement a liberal agenda for decades to come. At the end of the pitch, the campaigner asks Daisey’s mother if she can count on her support.

Imitating his mother, Daisey responds:

“Count on my support? F___ you! How dare you. How dare you ask for my support! I’ve been living in this trailer park for the better part of 30 years.”

“And every year I make $24,000 at the local grocery store, and I’ve never gotten a raise.”

“It’s been the same every year, same old politicians promising a better life for us and I vote for them, year in, year out AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED! You expect my support? F__ YOU!”

Reading it in print, the exchange doesn’t seem that funny. But seeing Daisey in a live performance, I found myself laughing out loud. Actually everyone was laughing, but it was the type of uncomfortable laughter that comes with gallows humor.

In the last 30 minutes of his performance, my hahas morphed into knots in my stomach because Daisey showed us how close we are to electing someone who could end the world.

He started out by chronicling the evolution of Trumpspeak over the course of his campaign. Regardless of political allegiance, American voters have been captivated by the greatest freak show on earth. In the center ring, a man-child with the emotional development of a 12-year-old, and a vocabulary to match. From criticizing the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who gave his life for his country in Iraq, to hinting that extremist gun-nuts might take their cue from Dirty Harry to prevent a Clinton presidency — anything’s game for the Donald’s projectile rhetoric. He’s taken pole position in a political race to the bottom in a Ferrari without brakes.

Like Daisey, I’m addicted to the headlines made by Trump’s borderline-whacko ramblings. It’s the first thing I look for when I wake up in the morning and just like a junkie, I take a hit, only to feel an addict’s remorse hours later.

I tell myself the crazier Trump gets, the farther away he gets from winning the election. But my logic doesn’t seem to apply to this election cycle — especially when we’re talking about Trump supporters because, as Daisey explains, we miss the point.

Trump has never pretended to be anyone else besides himself — a showman who’s willing to say anything to get the public’s attention. He’s like the walking, talking, unhinged version of the collective id of the United States.

According to Daisey, Trump isn’t really talking to people like myself — a college-educated, middle class person who leans left-of-center. He knows his audience well, and it isn’t us.

Trump is talking to a particular dispossessed American — the high school graduate working a dead-end job, the ditch digger, the bagger at your local grocer, the Detroit auto worker who lost his job 20 years ago and never got another one that paid him nearly as well. These are the people with whom Trump has connected… and they are very, very angry.

Daisey says Trump supporters don’t care if their candidate lies because they think all politicians are liars. For decades they swallowed the lies and kept voting for the same type of politician year in and year out. And every year, they came away with nothing, except a heightened sense of desperation. Faced with this cycle of ever-deepening frustration, it’s no surprise that Trump is still in striking distance of Hillary.

Frankly, I think the Clinton campaign is one WikiLeaks exposé away from blowing up. Even with Trump’s self-destructive Twitter and TV tantrums, 40 percent of the country is still willing to vote for him. Will our better angels win in the end?

To Daisey, though, the train of American democracy is already derailing and heading for a crash.

In the last segment of his impressive one-man show, Daisey wonders aloud to himself whether Trump can actually win in November. To this he laughs, not with hilarity, but with a sarcastic guffaw.

Win? Daisey asks himself and crowd. Trump has already won!

And I realize in that awful moment that Daisey is right. Trump has transformed this country’s political discourse into pure diatribe. Daisey believes there’s someone out there, a political novice, who’s listening, watching ,and taking a demagogue’s notes from Donald Trump’s campaign. That person could be thinking to himself that he can do what Trump is doing, but with the new knowledge of what he can now get away with on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. All he has to do is tap this tsunami of U.S. voter anger and ride the wave all the way to the White House. When that happens, Daisey says, we may finally realize there’s no turning back, that the age of divisive, fear-based politics is here to stay.

“Can Trump win?” Daisey asks the question, again, to no one in particular. The crowd falls silent and sullen. Afraid, maybe? He repeats the question again with more emphasis the second time. It feels like a punch in the gut.

It’s then that I realize what appears to have dawned on everyone else in the crowd — that the cruel joke known as Donald Trump… is on us.

Hail to the Chief.