Discover more from Pudd'nhead's complaints
No superhero safe from Trump PR machine, Underdog to sue to get his meme back...
Look, up in the sky…
Let’s start with the silly part, the part that is too absurd to be overlooked.,
too funny to be made up.
Driving down Route 17 in Myrtle Beach I noticed a billboard with an eight-second delay flashing a poorly digitized likeness of the former president’s head attached to a cartoon superhero’s body. It was a cheapened version of the infamous Times Square board of 2016 vintage in which the superhero looked strong and, well, invincible. That billboard captured the snarky-smart Trump PR campaign as he took on Hillary Clinton, his smarter, more competent, better-experienced arch-
The latest billboard ad litters our highway and for those of us who spent Saturday mornings watching cartoons, the Trump-like figure is flying into the words to a modified version of the Mighty Mouse theme song— dressed as Underdog! Considering the animated super pup, whose alter ego was a timid shoeshine boy, and who fought off bad guys named Riff Raff and Simon Bar Sinister, the billboard is a convoluted dead-ringer for Trump, whose alter ego is far from a crime fighter but whose friends are near relatives to Underdog’s nemeses. Mixing metaphors, the Trump outdoor sign pirates the mighty rodent’s more humble boast to “save “the day.” Never humbled, Undertrump promises “to save the USA!” Begging the question— from what, himself?
The billboard popping up in SC is more sad than snarky-smart. It is also wasteful since there is little danger of Trump losing this primary. He heavily outpolls the two SC candidates, Sen. Tim Scott, and former Trump appointee Nikki Haley. The oversized caped crusader looks rather skinny with the oversized head. While he zips along horizontally the 8-second dwell-time hardly allows passing motorists time to read the copy. The light changed and traffic moved on oblivious to the small waving flag in hand and the obscure “U”— an homage to the pup — on his red jersey. The Trump PR team is obviously laser-focused on the senior vote who remember the animated hero’s catchphrase "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!"
You get the feeling that DC/Marvel has had their IP lawyers in touch to protect their superheroes from this promiscuous meme thief. ln retrospect, the billboard at 35 mph could easily be mistaken for a mattress ad.
As a matter of fact, Trump has been fantasizing about Superman for years. But the DC comics artist and writer actually used Trump as the model for the Man of Steel’s arch-enemy Lex Luthor:
“It was a time when anti-corporate public sentiment against real-life Wall Street villains like Michael Milken and Barry Minkow was on the rise (the film Wall Street, featuring the partly Milken-inspired Gordon Gekko, was released one year later). But unsurprisingly, one wealthy ’80s mogul in particular inspired the new Luthor: “Of course, Donald Trump was our model,” Byrne tells The Daily Beast. (emphasis mine)
It reminds me of the debate rebuff Sen. Lloyd Bentsen laid on Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate. Bentsen was reacting to Quayle’s comparing his experience in Congress to that of Jack Kennedy, The quick retort. “ I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” is an oft-used snappy put-down. What is often overlooked was the exchange that followed:
Quayle: That was really uncalled for, Senator. (Shouts and applause.)
Bentsen: You are the one that was making the comparison, Senator—and I'm one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well-taken. (emphasis mine)
Trump Graduates from the Electoral College
Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton never found a rapier-quick rejoinder to Trump’s blunt and artless debate jabber. Her “deplorables” quip which has proven prescient in the days since was itself deplored— and by many in the media who should have known better. For all the advantages she had, Hillary did not have the requisite Kryptonite that could change the course of history. She also didn’t have the Russian bots or the catchy campaign slogan. Make America Great Again outpolled I’m with Her in too many places to overcome a 3 million vote Clinton national vote lead. Trump ran especially well among whites in general who accounted for 88% of the 2016 Trump vote despite her overall plurality:
Overall, whites with a four-year college degree or more education made up 30% of all validated voters. Among these voters, far more (55%) said they voted for Clinton than for Trump (38%). Among the much larger group of white voters who had not completed college (44% of all voters), Trump won by more than two-to-one (64% to 28%).
For sure, Clinton and the Democratic strategist overestimated the number of us in swing states who actually were with Hillary and the surprisingly uneven race differential in all states.
A Better Deal
For all of us here who read tea leaves and wring our hands worrying about Donald Trump, the reality is that in a red-state bastion that will vote for him regardless, this is not 2016, and the political climate is probably worse for him than 2020. Hair afire is not our best look and is probably less effective than rolling up our sleeves and getting out the vote.
This isn’t to say Trump is through and that we needn’t worry about the divisions he created in his wake. But the handwringing and worry beads should be put away for us to concentrate on the work. Trump wants us to be waiting for bad things to happen. Bad things are good for him. Instead, current events in more than a few courtrooms across the country suggest justice may finally catch up to the cult leader who aspired to be king. Our tack should be clear, and bold, and address the elephant in the room. The votes Trump needs to win belong to folks who feel as we do. They reside outside his base and belong to women, minorities, the gay community, and those whites who live in suburbs and call themselves independent voters. The issues favor Democrats unless we screw that up by focusing on the phantom issues proposed by Republican imposters whose leader is facing prison.
We should ignore the talk about Joe’s age and what’s in his garage, and Hunter’s laptop— and focus on the stark comparisons between our guy and that guy. Let’s not forget that the Vice President despite her bad press is more than competent and would compare favorably with anyone who would attach themselves to Trump. Here on Earth 1, Trump is no Superman— and in the party he leads, no Underdog. Making America better includes saving it from the self-created disasters authored by him when he occupied The Oval. Making America better, becoming more inclusive, and eliminating the impediments our founders tucked into their brilliant-but-flawed document are far more worthy goals— talking points that appeal to a broader America
No, Joe Biden in a Halloween costume wouldn’t make a great billboard and Democrats aren’t all perfect. But we offer a better option. We should move on from “Build Back Better” and show voters “A Better America” with better ideas. Rep. Elijah Cummings embodied that spirit in Congress before he passed on. In one of his final speeches less than 8 months before he died, Cummings spoke of angels and of being better. His words should inspire us as we go through this rough patch. Invoking everyone present to action. He quoted himself speaking to the previous POTUS in words that the current one may find useful in forging his own message in 2024:
“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing? …
The one meeting I had with President Trump, I said to him ‘the greatest gift that you and I, Mr. President, can give to our children, is making sure we give them a democracy that is intact. A … democracy better than the one we came upon. “
The Essence of their Immorality
And so, in 2023 what will we do to build a better Democracy? Having endured an appeal to our baser instincts during the previous administration any improvement would be welcome. The guileless MAGA vision appealed to an America that existed for some but not others. A vision that was exclusionary and mean-spirited. Any return to that America invokes the residue of our past sins of slavery and white privilege. That America denies the reality of an increasingly diverse nation that had been slowly evolving toward full equality— freedom from prejudice, freedom from the ravages of poverty, and freedom from the delusion of past greatness that for far too many never existed. A Better America as the Democratic campaign frame is an acknowledgment of our growth as a nation that would provide a semantic platform for all Democrats to run on. It would take its place in the progression of freedoms from Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal to FDR's New Deal, from Truman’s Fair Deal, to now an even better deal for all Americans. Pointing out our failures, and correcting them, only enhances America’s claim to greatness. It is an admission that we can still do better— be greater.
Finally, we should all admit we can’t rely on comic book superheroes to save us from ourselves. In Donald Trump’s case, with or without the cape, it appears he can hardly save himself, let alone our nation. Instead, fantasy or otherworldly interventions are mere distractions from the efforts of many who for too long have asked that we live up to the promise of our own better angels. Hull House Founder and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Jane Addams, spoke to the evil of those who can ignore the clarity of our founding creed— that we are all created as equals:
“The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself.”
― Jane Addams
The current Republican Party has carved out an exception for their followers who reserve for themselves rights and immunities they would deny the rest of us. Only fools or knaves renege on a promise they have made to themselves.