Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaking at a "Chase the Vote" rally at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona.
Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaking at a "Chase the Vote" rally at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

I’d like to address mounting dread over Trump’s possible return to office. It doesn’t haunt Americans alone. Part of Trump Derangement Syndrome is trying not to think about it but that’s also deranged.

I’ll do this via a recent New York Times interview with Ohio senator J.D. Vance. He wrote Hillbilly Elegy (2016), an impressively empathic look less at Trump than those who voted for him in that election. Vance said they weren’t all right-wing yahoos and even right-wing yahoos can have legitimate beefs.

Trump’s call to make America great again spurned the neoliberal globalization that let corporations ship jobs to low-wage nations, leaving states like Ohio with abandoned factories and gasping, once vital, communities. The bosses roamed the world looking for deals while former union workers became Walmart greeters. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama embraced that makeover. So did Republicans but Trump disowned them and transformed the party.

Trump’s declaration of America First rejected sanctimonious crusades like invading Iraq, which unleashed forces like ISIS and chaotic migrations to Europe — and eventually the U.S. — causing downward pressure on wages and the rise of anti-immigrant racist demagogues like Trump.

In fact, Vance says the kind of Democrat he can identify with is Bernie Sanders, who counters Trumpism with left populism, an option Dems rejected.

So the trouble with Trump isn’t mainly his ideas, which are often plausible; it’s more that he doesn’t intend to do anything with them except get elected and then tender benefits, like his tax cut, to other rich folk. Biden has done far more to restore the U.S.’s industrial base but won’t admit it’s party heresy.

The other problem with Trump is he’s verifiably insane. You can verify that with a recent post that includes, “It is a Total and Complete American Tragedy that the Crooked Joe Biden Department of Injustice is so desperate to jail Steve Bannon, and every other Republican, for that matter, for not SUBMITTING to the Unselect Committee of Political Thugs, made up of all Democrats, and two CRAZED FORMER REPUBLICAN LUNATICS, Cryin’ Adam Kinzinger, and Liz ‘Out of Her Mind’ Cheney.” This is full-on Nero-Caligula. It’s clear he’d readily scorch the planet (by way of nukes or warming) in a rush of rage and grandiosity.

Vance is Trump without the crazy but he’s caught the White House bug and is angling to be Trump’s veep. For that, he must buy some of the crazy like a stolen 2020 election, on which he sounds unconvinced. He’s easily the smartest contender so Trump surely won’t choose him. I wouldn’t vote for the guy but with him on the inside I’d sleep better. Not blissfully, better.

Say hey

Willie Mays has died at 93. I count it an unmerited blessing that I saw him play when I was very small in his first season with the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York. The biggest thing for me was the basket catch. He didn’t invent it but made it his. It was cool but I doubt he did it for that, he just liked it. It was more fun — and intimate the way he sort of looked it almost into his pants pocket — than the overhead catch. It made sense, since you never lost sight of the ball, but it’s interesting no one else took it up fully. You see it only occasionally. That’s like a show of respect for what he alone did so artfully.

I also saw DiMaggio, the other greatest centre fielder that year, the only one when they both played — but on TV. Till then I’d known him only as a mythical figure in my baseball books, like Ruth or Gehrig. One day as I watched a game on the neighbour’s black and white set, he loped into view from the top of the screen to gather in a fly ball. It was like seeing Moses descend with the tablets. It’s the only thing TV still does better than other media: live sports. When you watch games online, they’re like second-rate TV.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.


Rick Salutin

Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright and critic. He is a strong advocate of left wing causes and writes a regular column in the Toronto Star.