Stephen King: Inexperienced villains like Donald Trump rise ‘first as a joke’

Stephen King Signs Copies Of His Book 'Revival', New York

Stephen King is a politically liberal guy. He’s not “Hollywood” in any sense – he reminds me very much of the sort of a very old-school New England liberal, probably because that’s what he is. King writes columns for various media outlets, and he’s also pretty active on social media, so his views on most subjects are well-known. I really admire King, by the way – I think he’s an American Original, a deep thinker and a fascinating human being. He wrote a piece for the Guardian where he discusses the election, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and how Trump comes across like a fictional villain in one of his books. You should read the full piece here. Some highlights:

He knew Trump would win: I started thinking Donald Trump might win the presidency in September of 2016. By the end of October, I was almost sure. Thus, when the election night upset happened, I was dismayed, but not particularly surprised. I didn’t even think it was much of an upset, in spite of the Huffington Post aggregate poll, which gave Hillary Clinton a 98% chance of winning – an example of wishful thinking if ever there were one.

The lack of strong feelings for Hillary: “Some of my belief arose from the signage I was seeing. I’m from northern New England, and in the run-up to the election I saw hundreds of Trump-Pence signs and bumper stickers, but almost none for Clinton-Kaine. To me this didn’t mean there were no Clinton supporters in the houses I passed or the cars ahead of me on Route 302; what it did seem to mean was that the Clinton supporters weren’t particularly invested. This was not the case with the Trump people, who tended to have billboard-sized signage in their yards and sometimes two stickers on their cars.

Brexit/2016 vibes: “Brexit also troubled me…. there was a vibe in the air during most of 2016, a feeling that people were both frightened of the status quo and sick of it. Voters saw a vast and overloaded apple cart lumbering past them. They wanted to upset the motherf–ker, and would worry about picking up those spilled apples later. Or just leave them to rot.

Trump voters saw him as “the man on horseback.” “I had written about such men before. In The Dead Zone, Greg Stillson is a door-to-door Bible salesman with a gift of gab, a ready wit and the common touch. He is laughed at when he runs for mayor in his small New England town, but he wins. He is laughed at when he runs for the House of Representatives (part of his platform is a promise to rocket America’s trash into outer space), but he wins again. When Johnny Smith, the novel’s precognitive hero, shakes his hand, he realizes that some day Stillson is going to laugh and joke his way into the White House, where he will start world war three. Big Jim Rennie in Under The Dome is cut from the same cloth. He’s a car salesman (selling being a key requirement for the successful politician), who is the head selectman in the small town of Chester’s Mill, when a dome comes down and cuts the community off from the world. He’s a crook, a cozener and a sociopath, the worst possible choice in a time of crisis, but he’s got a folksy, straight-from-the-shoulder delivery that people relate to. The fact that he’s incompetent at best and downright malevolent at worst doesn’t matter.

How sociopaths rise: “Both these stories were written years ago, but Stillson and Rennie bear enough of a resemblance to the current resident of the White House for me to flatter myself I have a country-fair understanding of how such men rise: first as a joke, then as a viable alternative to the status quo, and finally as elected officials who are headstrong, self-centered and inexperienced. Such men do not succeed to high office often, but when they do, the times are always troubled, the candidates in question charismatic, their proposed solutions to complex problems simple, straightforward and impractical. The baggage that should weigh these hucksters down becomes magically light, lifting them over the competition like Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar film Up. Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.

[From The Guardian]

King is sort of talking about what happened through the perspective of character-analysis, treating Trump and the election almost like a writing exercise. So much is happening so fast with the Bigly Administration, it sometimes feels like we need more people like King to take a step back and remind everyone: what has happened and what is happening will be studied and analyzed for years to come. We have witnessed the rise of an incompetent, petty, childish, corrupt, unhinged sociopath to the highest office in the land and we will never be the same.

Photos courtesy of Getty, WENN.

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17 Responses to “Stephen King: Inexperienced villains like Donald Trump rise ‘first as a joke’”

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  1. detritus says:

    I love King.
    He is a brilliant man, and his impressively extensive works cover so many topics, genres and subjects.
    His take on this is spot on, as expected.

    • INeedANap says:

      He has a deep understanding of the human condition that is quite realistic, hence the horror writing. And he’s right — people often confuse confidence for competence. We are terrible witnesses, terrible judges of character, and we are all going to pay the price for that.

  2. Missy says:

    I love this man lol…his books, his opinions…gonna be so sad when he leaves this world

    • susiecue says:

      Me too! I’m just a huge fan of him as a person as well as his work.

    • Yup, Me says:

      Do you know something we don’t know? He’s not a doddering old man on his deathbed, why would your thought go to when he leaves the world? Talk about getting sad in advance, dang.

  3. S says:

    I think King is not only a genius, but insanely prolific. I mean, I’m an ardent reader yet I have to wonder if even his own family can read every article, short story, etc. that he puts out.

    I think someday, probably long after he’s gone, sadly, he’ll get the respect he deserves. Remember that Twain and Dickens, among many others, were dismissed by many as popular schlock in their own times as well.

    • Esmom says:

      He really is mind bogglingly prolific. I wish I had even a teeny tiny fraction of the energy and creativity and intelligence he possesses. My son and I were talking about how he should donate his brain to science!

  4. EM says:

    He is one talented individual even though his writing scares the heck out of me! I just recently began following him on twitter – good sense of humor.

    Agree with everything he said in the article and I also began believing that Trump would win based on signage & “passionate” support.

  5. BrandyAlexander says:

    I’ve been rereading King’s novels lately, and I never finish one without being completely awed by the way he can spin a story, reference old stories with character cameos, and his understanding of pop culture. I think he is a literary genius.

  6. Dorothy#1 says:

    I love him and his books. he is 100% correct and it is scary!!
    Btw I loved the tv adaptation of The DeadZone!!!!

  7. Veronica says:

    The only thing I’d add to his statement is that the people upsetting the apple act are almost always the privileged – the ones who’ve been raised to think they’re owed an apple cart of their own by merit of their existence and are angry when they’re only handed a basket. Those who don’t populate those echelons of social privilege aren’t as easily swayed because they can’t afford to be.

    As for King himself, I didn’t get into his writing until my twenties, and then I fell in love. His books have their up and downs, but they’re almost always worth the read just for his opening notes. His thought on the act of creating are almost as provocative as the writing itself.

  8. Insomniac says:

    I was calling Trump Greg Stillson all during the campaign, but I guess that wasn’t really fair. I forgot Stillson actually had prior political experience.

    We saw King give a talk a couple of years ago and he was a hoot. He’s like your funny, whip-smart, profane uncle who tells great stories. I *think* this was when he was in town to get the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, so he was in especially fine spirits.

  9. sunnydaze says:

    True confession:
    Although I live in NY, a blue state, for some reason my particular town is bizarrely red. I remember I voted for Bernie in the primaries, but when he was out I obviously went for Hillary. I thought many times about putting up signs in our front yard, rocking a bumper sticker, all that jazz. Here’s the cowardly part: I didn’t, and for a pretty crappy reason.

    A lot of our neighbors had signs (HUGE signs, some of them) and were really OTT with their trump support. After seeing how rabid some of his supporters are, and how effing crazy they can be, I didn’t want our house or my car targeted as some others had been. So I’m part of the problem, admittedly, no sarcasm. I truly and honestly did not want to invite confrontation with people who might be unhinged and not willing to engage in civil conversation. When we had a trump rally here it was awful, and it really put me in a position where I didn’t want to advertise my support of Clinton.

    Sorry everyone. :/

    • Betsy says:

      Next time you do better.

      In the mean time you find one of those sites that sprung up (not flippable or indivisible, but similar) and get active.

  10. Bliss 51 says:

    This last presidential election had me very concerned. In my city, unlike previous elections campaign signs were not plentiful but the majority I spotted were Trump/Pence signs while the Clinton/Kane signs I could count on one hand. I was a young woman during the ’72 presidential election, Nixon v. McGovern. Nixon won by a landslide taking 49 states while McGovern took MA, which wasn’t his state (South Dakota). My biggest worry was the polls did not show at any time Clinton outdistancing Trump by large margins. And that Ladies & germs is what kept me up nights, because why the fuck not!? I expect the reason for the lack of signs in my city (so unlike previous elections) was the lack of strong feeling for this presidential election. Decades of talk radio and smear campaigns against H. Clinton took a toll on her campaign. People probably reasoned she’d win and why bother, they didn’t much like Trump and well, Hilary will win right? Certainly that was reflected in the large numbers of the eligible electorate who failed to vote. November 9, 2016 my worst fears came to fruition.

  11. deevia says:

    I’d go as far to say Hillary represents the status quo so her supporters are complacent when it comes to voting. “Oh she will win anyway” is very similar to “Oh when she got in the WH everything would be the usual and nothing in my world might change”. Her candidacy signifies tradition, which unfortunately does not align with a more passionate portion of people looking for “change”. I’m sure she’d be the president in more prosperous time (like the 80s) when the stronger, more loud advocates were people usually with the means to look at building a more rounded world. As it stands right now, the U.S is probably more careful not to follow the downward trajectory of Europe, where many countries already passed the socially conscious issues that Hilary were promoting and still, there is Brexit.

  12. Brittney B says:

    What a brilliant man. Every word was spot-on, and I’ve noticed the same character resemblances in our current “leader”. Of course King got it right… and how scary is that?!