What Donald Trump could've learned from The Little Rascals

Over a year into his presidential run, it has become hard to imagine the days when Donald Trump was anything but a fear-mongering, economically illiterate populist destroying the Republican Party in his kamikaze bid for the White House. So I was taken aback when I saw The Donald’s cameo in the 1994 version of The Little Rascals upon watching it with my nephew this past weekend.

Waldo, you’re the best son money can buy,” he tells his on-screen rich and snobby son, upon his reveal as the rich and snobby dad.

It was funny. It was playful. I had forgotten that Trump used to make cameos in such movies as this, Home Alone 2, or even Zoolander. His relationship with (at least) the general public was once comfortably relegated to the status of a very rich man who enjoys being perceived as rich by others, and who will go as far as to cooperate with a movie production to add humor to a story, even if it is done in a moderately self-deprecating light. America liked this Donald Trump. He was our very own real-life Scrooge McDuck/Carter Pewterschmidt; he was good for laughs, but he was little more than a character to most people.

We now know that these actions were not taken in good spirits as much as they were part of his efforts to make the Trump brand synonymous with wealth and success in the minds of the voting American public. But Trump’s image became something that he himself fell in love with to the point of believing it was all he needed in order to be victorious in a presidential election. (What is more disturbing is the idea that he believes this image is all he may need in order to be a successful president.) He has not only retained his crass, domineering image but has let it shape his policies as an extension of his personality. Trump has painted the country – and, indeed, the world – as a disaster, and declared himself “the only one who can fix it.” It’s a role he plays because it brought him success in life, and he believes it will bring him success at winning the presidency.

But the results are just as disastrous as if Ronald Reagan had thought staying in character as a monkey-owning professor in Bedtime for Bonzo would have brought him success in the presidency. Trump believes in his ability to produce wealth, and his ability to centrally plan. For as much as people seem to love the idea that “the country should be run like a business,” – and what better than a great businessman to accomplish just that – I would hate to see what would happen if (in the presence of a predictably cowardly congress) Trump’s agenda suddenly had de facto control over America’s purse; he no longer has to risk his own money for what he believes are good investments, but that of the taxpayers. In fact, just recently he gave us a glimpse of how he would act when, in an interview with CNBC, he declared that the road to economic recovery would require more borrowing and spending, leading us further into debt. This attitude toward spending, and his overall contempt for the free market, is troubling.

But perhaps more troubling is that the answer was always right under his nose, and he failed to see it. It is perhaps understandable if a busy businessman does not have the time to read an economics textbook, especially one as busy as Trump. What is not understandable is Trump’s inability to see and learn from this pure genius depiction of the power of the free market from his fellow castmates in The Little Rascals:

Buckwheat and Porky: free market visionaries.