Donald Trump is Zaphod Beeblebrox
In news that will surprise no one who knows me, I was once a geeky kid who enjoyed science fiction and off-beat humor. Like so many youngsters of that sort, Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was one of my favorite books, combining as it did off-beat humor and science fiction.
Little did I suspect that Douglas Adams was preparing me for the Trump Administration.
Those of you familiar with the Hitchhiker’s books will recall Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Imperial Galactic Government and introduced as an “adventurer, ex-hippie, good-timer, (crook? quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch.”
I don’t think Donald Trump was ever a hippie, and he is a peculiar type of adventurer, but otherwise he seems to be a dead ringer for Zaphod — aside from lacking a third arm and a second head, of course.
Just as Zaphod was spectacularly qualified for Galactic President in the Hitchhiker’s novels not despite his flaws but because of them, Donald Trump is the perfect President for Republicans in the House and Senate not despite his awfulness but because of it. As explained in a footnote regarding the office of Galactic President:
The President in particular is very much a figurehead . . . the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.
Zaphod excelled at distracting the citizens of the Galaxy from the issues that truly mattered. When we meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, he is using the office of President to steal the most valuable spaceship in the galaxy, the Heart of Gold. At least Donald Trump has no apparent interest in stealing NASA’s spaceships.
Republicans in the U.S. Congress are busy kicking poor families off of health insurance to give tax cuts to billionaires, but Donald Trump is distracting us with tweets about how he didn’t actually record conversations with his former FBI Director.
Republicans in Congress are working to make it impossible for health insurance to cover women’s reproductive health needs, but Donald Trump’s White House is maybe ending on-camera press briefings, or maybe swapping Press Secretaries, or just generally captivating the White House Press Corps with pointless changes that mean nothing to typical voters.
Republicans in Congress are “saving” the Koch brothers from children with congenital heart problems (like my nephew) by capping lifetime health insurance benefits, but Donald Trump is holding campaign rallies in Iowa to “propose” legislation that passed Congress two decades ago.
Every single day, Donald Trump does something flamboyantly despicable. Most of his deeds hurt people, but they are limited in time and scope — travel bans get blocked by the courts and border walls (solar or otherwise) never really get built.
At the same time, every day the Republicans in Congress do something quietly evil. Kids lose health care to cut taxes on billionaires. Big banks are de-regulated so that Wall Street can take advantage of ordinary Americans.
Every day, the flamboyantly despicable gets covered on television, written about in newspapers, and derided on social media. Every day while we are distracted by what Zaphod — I mean, Donald Trump — does, Republicans steal another piece of the American system that protects ordinary people. Today it’s Medicaid. Tomorrow it will be Medicare. Next comes Social Security.
Donald Trump’s greatest power has nothing to do with what he does that we see; his greatest power is what he keeps us from seeing.