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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/The call to advent: an answer to Chris Cutrone’s “Why not Trump?”

The call to advent: an answer to Chris Cutrone’s “Why not Trump?”

Daniel Lommes

Platypus Review #91 | November 2016

THE SHORT ARTICLE "WHY NOT TRUMP?" by Chris Cutrone in Platypus Review #89[1] is both brilliant and deeply flawed. It is brilliant in its provocative polemic, starting with the title, forcing us to engage with the question in a fresh way. This undeniably is what Cutrone intended, a challenge starting with and finally culminating in "the obvious question that is avoided but must be asked by anyone not too frightened to think." Yes, we must ask the question. Yes, we need to think about it clearly. Cutrone is not just right; he is persuasive.

But he does not stop here, in this, his moment of triumph. Instead, over the course of only six lines, he veers off into very strange territory indeed. Earlier, he finds it "useful to treat all of Trump's claims as true," but in the end this carefully worded methodological caveat is discarded. It is hammered away in a smashing of all caution, in a construction of perfect clarity: No problem is left; There is just "the only answer" to the question that, until this very point, Cutrone had successfully problematized.

On a closer look, there were troubles before. Cutrone clears Trump from accusations of "racism" and "misogyny," takes him at his word that he will be a "boring" president, and questions his narcissism. Yes, the text was written before the debates, before we heard of Alicia Machado and "Access Hollywood," before October, when even the last appearance of politics was swept away in waves and waves of scandal. But even before he announced his run for President, now 15 months in the past, we had more than enough evidence: Trump actually is pandering to racism, and he is a misogynist and a narcissist—he is everything but boring. We need to think beyond scandals, but we do not need to ignore them. Defects in Trump do not excuse Clinton, or vice versa. Scandal-driven partisanship too often selectively blinds otherwise smart people.

Film still from Back to the Future Part II (1989) featuring the entrance of Biff Tannen’s hotel. His character has been compared to Trump.

Film still from Back to the Future Part II (1989) featuring the entrance of Biff Tannen’s hotel. His character has been compared to Trump.

"Why not Trump?" has many answers, but there is an obvious one: She is the lesser of two evils. This is true in many respects: Trump on climate change and the possibility of him misunderstanding nuclear deterrence may threaten our very existence. Yes, Clinton is no champion of environmentalism, but she will implement something resembling the Paris Agreement. Yes, she wants conflict with Russia, but she also knows how a cold war works. Trump empowering radical reactionary forces is a broadly liberal issue, but for some[2] it is much more threatening. Yes, bourgeois morality is not our political goal, but it is a valuable fallback position. Trump's win guaranteeing a conservative Congress and Supreme Court at first seems a minor political point. But combined with an emboldened self-proclaimed "silent majority" of deafeningly loud reactionaries, all major progressive gains of the past, few as they are, could be back on the table.

Yes, it is very possible a Trump win could lead to a populist government "for everyone" (though conditions[3] may apply). But the suggestion that "worse" than the status quo is "beyond any U.S. President's control" is laughable. Yes, it is very possible "everything is open to compromise" for Donald Trump. But this is far from reassuring. Some of those who will sit at Trump's "compromise" table want both monarchy and slavery back. "Everything that Trump calls for exists already"; he will preserve the status quo: a fragile claim in a text predicated on the belief he represents a genuine possibility–perhaps the "last chance"–for change.

It strangely feels like Cutrone wanted to ask, "What speaks for Clinton, except #nevertrump?" The simple answer, from a left perspective, is "virtually nothing." But the more powerful "Why not Trump?" seems to have taken over and derailed the train of thought. If we do not consciously ignore the last six lines, the text comes down to one of two things. Either Cutrone is trying to call us to adventure and ends up at the advent of the saviour. "When Trump lies, still, his lies tell the truth," the braggart speaking in tongues; he is a capitalist celebrity channelling the values of the Left. Or, alternatively, Cutrone quietly deals us a hand of immiseration: With such a divisive President, the Left will finally awaken. But the Left is no ancient beast that slumbers. The Left is a project for the future, one we must build within ourselves, our communities, our political discourses. The forces that do sleep are of a much older sort. There is worse than now, and not all change is good change. These, the simplest lessons one can possibly draw from history, were somehow swallowed by polemics. This is fascinating–but not in a good way.

The perspective change involved in asking myself "Why not Trump?" was both surprising and welcome. Why "virtually the entire mainstream" is opposed to Trump is a very good question. We are in desperate need of a question to explore what the Left can learn from the Trump candidacy, from both its causes and its effects. But "Why not Trump?" is not that question. | P


[1] Available online at <>.

[2] I am not usually seen as "the Other," but the current normalization of racism should scare everyone shitless.

[3] See previous note.