By now, if you’re like me, you are beginning to realize there is something deeply wrong with the Donald Trump campaign and a good many of its supporters. For some, it is misguided devotion to a single issue. For others, it is confusion as to what “conservatism” actually is. For the rest, it is a level of insanity that has driven a voting bloc mad.
If you’re not a nerd like I am, you may not be aware of a Batman story called The Killing Joke. In this controversial story, The Joker shoots Barbara Gordon through the spine, paralyzing her, takes tons of photos of her, and then sends her father, Commissioner Gordon, through an amusement park ride filled with those pictures, trying to drive him insane.
One of the things the book is most known for, however, are The Joker’s speeches on sanity and insanity. They are legendary in the comic book community because they are so powerfully written, make us consider not just the characters in the story, but the idea of insanity itself so much more than we used to. And these speeches apply to Donald Trump.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! You’ve read about it in the papers,” The Joker begins one speech, reminding us of the media coverage Trump has been given these last several months. “Now witness, before your very eyes, that most rare and tragic of nature’s mistakes! I give you: the average man. Physically unremarkable, it instead possesses a deformed set of values.” Harsh, but fair. The Trump supporters are ordinary citizens, whose values have become corrupted and hijacked by a madman seeking the highest office in the nation.
Later in his speech to Gordon, The Joker explains the problem with rationality. “Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes,” he says, adding with a chuckle, “Like children I suppose.” He continues with “But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon.” Consider Donald Trump walking back from, flip-flopping on, or straight-up denying past statements he’s made. And consider how his fans react when you bring up these past statements: With just as insane denials or excuses!
On memories, he continues with, “If we can’t face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren’t contractually tied down to rationality! There is no sanity clause!” And that is the very reason why the Trump candidacy is so scary: because it appears as though all of this madness around us was voluntary. It’s as though people looked around at the state of the country and decided to dive into the madness that is Donald Trump’s campaign headfirst.
That is what we are fighting against, ultimately. We’re fighting against a segment of the population that has decided that fire and anarchy within the Republican Party and within the entire political process is exactly what this country needs. To paraphrase another iteration of The Joker, to Trump’s supporters this country needs an enema. They have just chosen one of fire. They have voluntarily joined in on the madness because it is much better than the reality.
And, what is the reality? The reality is that issues like re-directing the party, fixing the country’s immigration issues, and putting a stop to executive overreach take more than a single election cycle. They take years to build toward. They are not something that can be fixed in a single election. We’ve tried, of course, in 2010 and 2014, thinking that winning one or both houses in Congress would be enough to move the Republican Party to action.
It wasn’t, and in the back of our minds, we more or less figured that out early. But, we didn’t keep fighting. We moved on to the next election where we could make a difference: the 2016 race. We threw up a slate of great candidates. We even praised at one time the appearance of Donald Trump, who would bring character and media attention to a field of awesome politicians. Then, the madness happened.
And, instead of recognizing the madness, we were silent, figuring the rules of politics would eliminate him early. But, rules don’t apply to madness. We know this now. The Killing Joke has been told to us, and we’re looking at the victim of its punchline: the Republican Party.