The Stillson Problem

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I’m about to head out for our summer vacation, then I have a bunch of business travel to get done, which means I won’t be posting as much in the next few weeks (I can hear the cheering from here). I’m hoping that by the time I get back fully in the saddle, the silliness which is the weird political bachelorette contest currently being carried out by the Republican Party will have come closer to some kind of sane conclusion, a conclusion which doesn’t include Donald Trump.

If you are a movie fan, you may have come across the 1983 adaptation by David Cronenberg of the Stephen King classic The Dead Zone (it’s streaming on Netflix). It stars Christopher Walken as a guy who suffers a brain injury and acquires the mysterious power to see glimpses into the future of people he touches. Enter Gregg Stillson: a brash, independently-minded senator (played excellently by Martin Sheen); a self-made man who worships his creator.

Stillson is a populist who believes in straight talk. His catch phrase is “Hot dog, somebody gives a damn.” Stillson draws large crowds of supporters who are fed up and “not going to take it anymore.” At one point, Stillson grabs the hand of our hero in a ‘Grip and Grin’ moment, and Walken sees Stillson as president pressing the big red button which sets off the nuclear exchange to end all humanity. Walken then spends the rest of the movie plotting his preemptive assassination. It’s a decent movie, one which has stayed with me more than most King adaptations.

What is so disturbing is that Trump and Stillson are eerily similar. They are both self-made blowhards who strike a populist note and garner way more political respect than they deserve. It seems there is a certain fragment of the GOP base that is completely OK with supporting a bigoted misogynist with no real answers and only a vague grasp of the issues. It’s horrifying, but not surprising.

By the time the dust has settled, it’s inevitable that the GOP will have coalesced on an “anyone but Trump” ticket — probably featuring two from Kasich, Rubio and Fiorina — and Trump will either go back to his board room and sulk or will run as a third party candidate, much like Ross Perot (remember him?). All Trump will have done is shine a light on the GOP, which will likely remind many minorities and women why they don’t vote GOP. At least that’s my sincere hope. I really don’t think that Trump will prevail, but just for grins, stream The Dead Zone and see how well you sleep after that.

Have a great summer.

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