“Thou hast frighted the word out of his right sense, so forcible is thy wit. But I must tell thee plainly” says Benedict, in Much Ado About Nothing. Let me take it up from there: I must tell you plainly that we Americans are in real danger, a danger coming from nothing, from a man whose own nothingness resonates with the nothingness inside way too many Americans at a time when our American arrogance is proving to be mere puffery, hot air… when our “exceptionalism” is turning to recognition that we are nothing more than anyone else.
People who were dismissed as nothing—Hitler, Mussolini—sucked millions into their “nothingness” in the 20th century. Nothing, in other words, can be as great as anything in its destructiveness, and it’s a huge destructive nothing facing us today: Donald Trump.
Writing in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi says we’ve been making a mistake considering Trump a joke, though he’s a nothing with no real experience who inherited a real estate empire no bigger, today (in real terms) than it was when his father died and left control to him—at least, no bigger than if he had simply let it grow with the economy. A man who made his fame pretending to fire people, a man who sucked money from people through gambling, the classic case of giving nothing:
That made Trump’s run funny, campy even, like a naughty piece of pornographic performance art. After all, what’s more obscene than pissing on the presidency? It seemed even more like camp because the whole shtick was fronted by a veteran reality TV star who might even be in on the joke, although of course the concept was funnier if he wasn’t.
Unlike all of the other laughers, I’ve always taken Trump’s candidacy seriously. I know why they don’t: It is going to be next to impossible for Trump to triumph at the convention. His poll numbers won’t get him half of the delegates selected through primaries and the other delegates, those coming through the party itself, will not be backing him—at least, not until they feel they have to.
But Trump doesn’t care. He’s banking on the weight of his nothing to crush the weighty of the political establishment. And they have nothing to fight back with.
Trump, however much he has nothing and seems to have no chance may have enough of nothing, just enough to win. Or, as Bob Dylan says, “Too Much of Nothing” may be enough:
Too much of nothing
Can make a man abuse a king
He can walk the streets and boast like most
But he wouldn’t know a thing
Now, it’s all been done before
It’s all been written in the book
But when there’s too much of nothing
Nobody should look
Thing is, we are looking. We’re awed by the colossal gall of the nothing man who, in the words of the Fugs, spends his time:
even arithmetic nothing
geography, philosophy, history, nothing
Because he is nothing, Trump relies on us to create an image for him, to keep his nothingness from being defined except by us, both supporters and laughers. As long as we talk about him, write about him, he remains, in appearance at least, more than nothing. Trump is, in Wallace Stevens’ words:
…the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
We, watching him, give shape to that nothing, just as we do when we build “The Snow Man.”
If we don’t stop, nothing will stop him, and we will have that melting tower of water, President Trump.
And then nothing.
By Center for Jewish History, NYC [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons