Donald Trump is Biff Tannen. Biff is running for president, and he’s leading in the polls.
You know Biff—the churlish brute from “Back to the Future” whose best known lines are “Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Think, McFly!” and “Hey butthead!”
Regardless of what you think about Trump’s politics, the man is a unique personality that cuts through American culture like a chainsaw—rough, noisy, and with lots of flying pieces.
Lest you dismiss him, Trump also has some incredible assets that propelled him to the top of the polls: name recognition, money, cojones, and most importantly, a seething cynicism and distrust for the government and the media. Of course, Trump gladly takes advantage of the government, of politicians, and of the media—they’re useful tools to him. But he feels himself above them.
And therein lies his fatal attraction: Trump’s insatiable ego and feeling of entitlement feeds his unchecked impulses to attack anyone who dares disagree. The media has bought into this by attacking him, which just throws more hydrazine into his rocket motor.
But do we really want Biff running America? Do we want the velvet-lined, gilded America that Biff Tannen would impose on us? One where everything revolves around Biff.
If you think about it, it’s really not a whole lot different than Obama’s America. Obama looks at the wheels of government with the cynicism of one who stands above it. He shamelessly uses the IRS, the Justice Department and the EPA as his own personal army to punish his enemies and reward his friends.
Would Biff be any different?
Surely, his supporters would say he would be, that he would restore America to greatness through his bullying and the force of his will; that there’d be a groundswell of American pride and patriotism sweeping America to the top of the world.
But there’s a few holes in that balloon so full of hot air. There’s a few assumptions in Trump and his supporter’s starting points that lead us toward a dysfunctional Biffco America instead of a revival of Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”
One assumption inherent in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is that America is not great. Trump contends somehow we’ve lost our greatness because low-paying jobs are being filled by Mexican illegal aliens and American consumers are buying products made in China. Trump would measure America’s greatness by our manufacturing capacity, the number of Americans employed, and our “first place” at the table in economic and military terms.
That’s not what makes America great. In fact, America is not great because of its people at all. The greatness of America transcends its citizens, its money, and its achievements.
Trump, like Biff, confuses the trappings of wealth and comfort with true greatness.
America is great because our country was founded on principles of liberty, natural law, and enlightened government. America is great not because of who we keep out, but precisely because we can absorb people from around the world and remain distinctly exceptional Americans.
America is great because we can, again and again, stand for what’s right, not our own gain. America saved the world because it’s the right thing to do in WWII. (If you don’t believe America saved the world in WWII, go back and study history.) America fought the Chinese and North Koreans in the early 1950’s because it was the right thing to do, not to let South Korea fall into the hands of a communist regime that today starves its own citizens to make more nuclear bombs.
Where Obama’s America is one that bows to foreign leadership and apologizes for the sins of individual Americans in the past without recognizing our inherent attraction to right and good today, Biff’s America would overturn that drive to the unexceptional but replace it with American hegemony. And that would do nothing to make America greater, because America has always been great.
Biff’s America is what the rest of the world sees as the “ugly American”—a Bermuda shorts-wearing, loud buffoon who doles out cash to get his way and believes everything is for sale. Trump is exemplary of that ugly image in the world.
He admittedly buys politicians, owns beauty pageants, and sees illegal immigrants as enemies. He sees the media as something to control—just like Obama does—not as the essential fourth estate protected by the First Amendment.
If Megyn Kelly and Fox News want to ask terrible, leading questions in an attempt to make Trump look bad, it’s their constitutional right, and actually it’s one of the checks and balances of government. It’s a politician’s job to put on big boy pants and answer the question without personally attacking the journalist.
Trump supporters, like Biff’s buddies, have thrown up a wall of manure on Megyn Kelly, highlighted by a 5-year-old interview with Howard Stern in which Kelly talks about her sex life. Who doesn’t talk about sex on Stern’s show? Isn’t that the whole point of his show? How is that relevant to Trump’s remark that Kelly had “blood coming out of her…whatever” on CNN?
It’s not relevant. Kelly wasn’t running for anything when she was on Stern. She wasn’t representing a slogan to make America great again. I wonder how a Biff presidency would treat Angela Merkel if she didn’t agree with him? Would he find some interview with Der Spiegel to justify calling her a whore?
Trump has a history of being a crass, tasteless, ugly American. He’s called women more insulting names than just “fat pig”, “dog”, “slob”, and “disgusting animal.” And he’s proud of it. I won’t quote all his conquest-laden boasts, but click on the link and read them yourself (whole books have been written on this).
A man who made his money on real estate deals, casinos, and bikini-clad women parading as sex objects (he owns two beauty pageants) cannot simultaneously declare his statesmanship as the exemplar of American greatness. America’s greatness is in its goodness. Biff’s America may be financially successful, militarily overwhelming, and first in many areas, but it is not good.
You can tell a man by his enemies, and by his friends also. Not everyone has to agree with conservatives like David Harsanyi at The Federalist, or Jonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson at National Review or [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ], who’ve always seen Trump as a craven megalomaniac.
But Trump attracts a particular crowd who flood the personal, unpublished mailbox of people like Erick Erickson—who has been particularly charitable, even supportive—with hate mail. These people engage in infantile name-calling of the basest sort, and the Trump campaign enables them by giving out personal details or cell phone numbers like Trump did with Graham.
A Biff attracts other Biffs to do his bidding. If this is what we see in a Biff presidential campaign, we can expect no different in a Biff presidency.
Donald Trump is running as Biff for president, and the America he envisions doesn’t look like the great country we have and must restore—it instead looks like Hill Valley’s alternate timeline in 1985.