There is an episode of Seinfeld in which George, while being dumped, is hit with the “It’s not you, it’s me” breakup line. Forgetting about the rejection, he immediately obsesses over the fact that it was he, George, who came up with the line. He expresses outrage both to the girl and to Jerry, and as always, plays the fool.
I feel his pain.
At the risk of sounding like George Costanza, I will tell you that I came up with the notion that Donald Trump is the “Dumb Person’s Idea of A Smart Person.” I’ve been saying it for twenty years, before it came up on Twitter and, in fact, long before Twitter existed. My wife will vouch for me.
The idea came to me as a reader of Sports Illustrated. Whenever a piece would run on a smarter-than-average jock, a reliable answer to the inevitable question “What do you read?” was “I like the Trump books.” I always found this amusing, as I didn’t think of “the Trump books” as an actual category.
But over the years — out of the mouths of dozens of physically impressive, half-bright men — the idea that Donald Trump is an author to whom one might refer gained currency, and Trump’s ‘literary oeuvre’ was categorized into its own genre. The Romantic Poets, The Russian Novelists, End of Days Fiction, and of course, The Trump Books.
It was a pattern. These guys, and assumedly millions like them, consistently thought Trump was smart. They expounded on it and I extrapolated from it. And it made a certain kind of sense.
These were books, after all, which is a pretty smart category, plainly more exalted than magazines or TV shows. Trump’s books were actually written by other people, but that wasn’t obvious from the glossy cover photos or the gigantic DONALD J. TRUMP on the covers. Trump had ostensibly written these books, which is a smart thing to do. It helped that the books were by turns inane and easy to read. But the most important element in creating the idea that Donald was smart was that these books were about money. Making lots and lots of money.
Trump was rich. He was ostentatiously, famously rich. Everybody wanted to be rich, but not everybody was. The logic flowed easily: being rich meant you were competing well, and outfoxing everyone, and you were therefore smart. Possession of money is the easiest thing to understand. Trump is filthy rich and therefore, must be intelligent.
Regular old smart people might read a book and then decide whether the author seemed smart, based on the writing itself. Was the argument of the book compelling? Did it tell a good story? Was it well researched? Was the author able to get her point across well, maybe even with a flair for the use of the language itself?
Well, for the less bookish, these nuances are tough and in fact unimportant. Plot? Subtext? Whatever. But a rich guy’s book about getting rich, and being rich, and staying rich? The evidence speaks for itself. Rich guy = smart guy = good book = smart guy.
Plus, Trump always said, and has lately made a regular habit of saying, how smart he is. He says it out loud and with great conviction. It seems comical to me, but I guess it is kind of smart, if convincing dumb people that you are smart is the goal. They do seem to believe him.
He is certainly . . . savvy? I’m sure that if he was trying to convince you why the GE gas range in an overpriced Trump Tower condo is actually superior to a Wolf gas range, he could come up with some clever arguments. He would be wrong, but he would be good at deceiving you, which is kind of smart. Certainly, he read the mood of the American electorate much better than anyone else did. While all of the smarties were snorting over the idea that a buffoon like Trump could be taken seriously in politics, he knew that he could be. That was smart.
So a few months ago, I floated Trump is “The Dumb Person’s Idea of A Smart Person” on my Twitter. Mind you, tweeting to my 65 followers is akin to screaming in an empty room. Nonetheless, I had some friends who saw my tweet tell me that they thought it was a funny idea. One of them even said he thought it was the smartest thing he had read about the Trump phenomenon. It was mildly satisfying.
Then, out of nowhere, the idea briefly caught fire. Only for a day or two, and plainly having nothing to do with me, the idea had its moment in the sun. I was outraged! So maddening to watch others capitalize on my original idea. (You know who would have been smart enough to capitalize? Trump. He’s that kind of smart.)
Someone said “Dumb Person’s Idea of A Smart Person” which quickly evolved into “Poor Guy’s Idea of A Rich Guy,” followed by “Weak Man’s Idea of A Strong Man.” It was everywhere! The Twitter pundits batted it around and fleshed it out and everyone had a good time with my goddamned idea.
The conclusions everyone came to about the Trump voters’ benighted admiration were obvious and compelling. Trump was successful and wealthy and went to a fancy school (SMART!). He lived in ornate, gold-covered dwellings, with a super hot wife, and he flew around in a plane with his name on it (RICH!). He bullied and cajoled and had his goons beat on people who questioned him (STRONG!).
It was all true. Trump is the dumbest version of smart, and the most hideous form of rich, and the weakest, most transparently pathetic kind of strong. But in the same way that Scrapple is a meat, and Milli Vanilli was a musical act, and the Cleveland Browns are a football team, Trump is smart and rich and strong.
At least if you are dumb.
Follow Chris Falcinelli on Twitter @chrisfalcinelli.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.