Judith Donath
Aug 26, 2017 · 4 min read

It’s the trailing end of the tumultuous, divisive summer of 2017. And while there are current hit songs that reflect, at least by title, the season’s mood (Summer Bummer, Bad Liar), it’s an old shock rock anthem — Alice Cooper’s School’s Out — that epitomizes the season as Trump threatens and swaggers through his nepotistic presidency.

No more pencils No more books No more teacher’s dirty looks

School’s out for summer School’s out forever

While freedom is one of Trump’s rallying themes, it’s not freedom in the political sense: he’s certainly no friend to free speech and a free press. Rather, it’s the anarchic freedom of smashing norms and breaking rules.

Reason and logic can be constraining and tedious. You have to follow one step after another, you can’t make wild leaps of faith, you have to tie up loose ends, account for everything.

Trump is unconstrained. The rules do not apply to him. Just because he said something yesterday doesn’t stop him from saying the opposite today if he feels like it. “The electoral college is a disaster for democracy!” becomes “The electoral college is actually genius”. So freeing! Not only does he say (or tweet) whatever comes to mind, he is spared the effort of thinking about his past claims. Or of worry about future consequences.

Well we got no class And we got no principals And we got no innocence We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

Trump’s thinking is not deep, he does not do analytical. He barely reads. He’s reflexively, emotionally responsive. Like a small child — before the child has internalized rules of behavior, before he has learned to think about the scenarios that could play out as a result of his actions. Trump acts impulsively, and has had the money, the position, and the chutzpah to leave the tedious task of cleaning up the mess he makes to other (often poorer) people.

To the population of voters who are simultaneously conservative and rebellious, this unbridled, bull-in-the-china-shop willfulness is a big part of Trump’s appeal. They long for the past, not only for the heyday of christian white men, when nativity scenes twinkled unchallenged in shopping malls, but for the heroically unregulated past, when kids biked happily unhelmeted; when bags of peanuts, hot drink containers and washing machines were not deemed to be dangerous items requiring warning labels; when there was no political correctness, no nanny-state taking the Devil Dogs out of the lunchbox. When cars were drag racing machines you rebuild for greatest speed, noise and power, not silent emasculated computers-on-wheels touted for energy savings and emissions control.

They had 8 long years of schoolteacher-ish Obama.

And now, Trump’s presidency is a wildly careening joyride in a stolen car, radio turned all the way up, throwing empty bottles out the window.

But even in a mythical past, such joyrides often did not end well. The flashing lights in the rear-view mirror, the siren you finally hear over the blasting music, a night — at least — in jail. If, that is, you didn’t kill yourselves crashing into a tree at 100 mph.

But this presidency is the wildest joyride ever, because it’s THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES driving. And it turns out there is no one to stop him.

Teachers? Principals? Taunt them all you want now, watch them scold and wring their hands and threaten … what? detention? fuck you. Schools out.

No more pencils no more books No more teacher’s dirty looks Out for summer Out till fall We might not come back at all

In this high-school White House, Democrats and anyone else calling for censure or impeachment morph into every resented parent-calling, F-in-conduct-giving teacher. The ones who who implore Trump to be nice, who ask that we all just get along? They’re the derided impotent ones who stood wringing their hands and nearly bursting into tears as chaos erupted in the classes they were unable to control.

And if you are still trying to understand the election, who is Hillary Clinton but the teacher’s pet — most detested of all — sitting in the front of the classroom, arm eagerly waving, bursting with all the right answers.

Without recognizing Trump’s appeal as delinquent-in-chief it is impossible to understand why his supporters don’t blink when he does something bad — when he’s shown on tape bragging about groping women, when he doesn’t do his foreign policy homework, when he refuses to show his undoubtedly damning tax returns. He is their man not in spite of this misconduct, but because of it.

School’s out for summer School’s out forever School’s been blown to pieces

Judith Donath

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Given how profitable it can be to lie, how does honesty exist? Author of The Social Machine (MIT: June 2014) http://vivatropolis.com/