From WrestleMania to the White House, is Donald Trump the kayfabe candidate for president?

Good morning Austin:

More than 30 years ago I took my two pre-teen nephews to a professional wrestling event at the Springfield, Massachusetts Civic Center.

WWF @ Springfield, MA – Civic Center – November 12, 1983 (matinee)
Eddie Gilbert defeated Bob Bradley
Pete Doherty defeated Fred Marzino
Chief Jay Strongbow defeated Rene Goulet
The Iron Sheik defeated Swede Hanson
WWF IC Champion Don Muraco defeated Jimmy Snuka via count-out
The Masked Superstar defeated Tony Garea
Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson, and SD Jones defeated WWF Tag Team Champions the Wild Samoans & Ivan Koloff
WWF World Champion Bob Backlund pinned Big John Studd

It was, as I recall, a gray fall day, most memorable because it was my oldest nephew, then 11, who, when Koloff was fighting as part of the tag team in the penultimate match, started the chant “Russia Sucks,” which spread and spread and spread until it filled the Civic Center.

Oreal Perras, from rural Canada, assumed an evil wrestling persona as Ivan Koloff, the Russian Bear

(Oreal Perras, from rural Canada, assumed an evil wrestling persona as Ivan Koloff, the Russian Bear)

It was an odd and heady moment, which left me, as I recall, unsettled, a bit giddy, and, of course, proud of my young nephew’s ability to summon the mob to do his bidding and offer its collective cathartic condemnation of Ivan Koloff, the Russian Bear, who, while his WWE profile still lists him as being from Moscow, Russia, was actually born Oreal Perras in rural Canada, and had first portrayed an Irish rogue wrestler with an eye patch named Red McNulty, before settling on the ultimate villainy of wrestling under the emblem of the hammer and sickle.

Somehow, Ivan Koloff is not in the WWE Hall of Fame.

Unlike Donald Trump, who is.

Here is Trump’s Hall of Fame write-up:

He’s a captivating billionaire who has gone into battle in both the boardroom and the squared circle with equal aggression. He’s a pop culture icon who has seen his self-satisfied smirk on his TV programs, major talk shows and countless magazine covers. Mot of all, he’s an outspoken alpha male who gets his greatest pleasure from uttering the words, “You’re fired.”

And no, we’re not talking about Mr. McMahon.

Donald J. Trump, the most charismatic and famous businessman in America, has been recognized as an innovator in the worlds of real estate and reality television And how would miss him? The Donald’s surname – now synonymous with wealth and power – has been emblazoned in giant gold letters across skyscrapers and high-rises in the biggest cities in the world. But Trump has also been making a consistent on WWE since the days when Andre the Giant was still king.

(Andre the Giant in a scene from Ted Cruz's favorite movie, the Princess Bride)

(Andre the Giant in a scene from Ted Cruz’s favorite movie, The Princess Bride)

The Donald’s Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., hosted both WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V – the only venue to present The Show of Shows two years in a row. Since those unforgettable nights, Trump has remained a familiar face in the front row of WWE events, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the billionaire got in on the action.

In January of that year. The Donald interrupted Mr. McMahon’s “Fan Appreciation Night” on Raw and dropped tens of thousands of dollars from the rafters of the arena onto the WWE fans below.

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Red-faced that a rival would steal the spotlight from him. Mr. McMahon challenged Trump to a “Battle of the Billionaires” at WrestleMania 23 with the stipulation that the loser of the bout would have his head shaved bald.

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A record number of viewers tuned in to watch The Donald back Bobby Lashley to victory over Mr. McMahon’s Umaga and subsequently shave the WWE Chairman’s signature mane in the center of the ring.

Donald Trump shaves Vince McMahon's head

(Donald Trump shaves Vince McMahon’s head.)

The business magnates locked horns again in June 2009 when Trump purchased Monday Night Raw and immediately announced the next week’s show would air commercial-free and that every WWE fan who purchased a ticket would be given a full refund. The trademark Trump PR public relations flourish nearly made Mr. McMahon’s head explode and forced him to buy his show back from The Donald for twice the price.

Since then, the WWE Hall of Fame has focused on his ever-expanding real estate empire and his Emmy-nominated smash series “The Apprentice,” but the WWE Universe is always ready for the only man who can match Mr. McMahon’s bank account – and his grapefruits.

Add to that becoming the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and that is about the most succinct and telling description of the Trump who has emerged in the last six months, with the important distinction that “Mr. McMahon,” of the exploding head, was in on the gag, and the “exploding talking heads” observing his presidential campaign are not

And let’s just say Jeb! is lucky to have gotten away with his exclamation mark and “signature mane” intact. So far.

By his grapefruits ye shall know him.

Other president have been honored in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, including both George Washington (When he was 18, the big, shy Washington held a “collar and elbow” wrestling championship that was at least county-wide and perhaps colony-wide. At the age of 47, the Continental Army commander had enough skills left to defeat seven consecutive challengers from the Massachusetts Volunteers in one day.”) and Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln, an awesome physical specimen at 6-feet-4, was widely known for his wrestling skills and had only one recorded defeat in a dozen years.”).

But Trump would be the first WWE Hall of Famer to inhabit the White House, though former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, are both WWE Hall of Famers who have proved that an over-the-top pro-wrestling persona can work in politics.

Trump’s pro wrestling Hall of Fame status as well as anything explains the otherwise seemingly inexplicable political spectacle that has been unfolding in the space usually occupied by the quadrennial presidential campaign.

Over the weekend in the Washington Post, Paul Farhi offered WWE videos revealing 6 ways Donald Trump’s wrestling career previewed his campaign.

And in his essay on The World of Wrestling in his 1957 book, Mythologies, the late French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician Roland Gérard Barthes, previewed just why it is that wrestling’s “spectacle of success” might prove apt preparation for someone hoping to sway the masses.

 

mythologies

The virtue of all-in wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess. Here we find a grandiloquence which must have been that of ancient theaters. And in fact wrestling is an open-air spectacle, for what makes the circus or the arena what they are is not the sky (a romantic value suited rather to fashionable occasions), it is the drenching and vertical quality of the flood of light. Even hidden in the most squalid Parisian halls, wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: in both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve.

There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport. Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of Suffering than a performance of the sorrows of Arnolphe or Andromaque.* Of course, there exists a false wrestling, in which the participants unnecessarily go to great lengths to make a show of a fair fight; this is of no interest. True wrestling, wrongly called amateur wrestling, is performed in second-rate halls, where the public spontaneously attunes itself to the spectacular nature of the contest, like the audience at a suburban cinema. Then these same people wax indignant because wrestling is a stage-managed sport (which ought, by the way, to mitigate its ignominy). The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether the contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees.

Roland-Barthes-LeMonde-Hors-Serie

This public knows very well the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence. One can bet on the outcome of a boxing-match: with wrestling, it would make no sense. A boxing- match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time. The spectator is not interested in the rise and fall of fortunes; he expects the transient image of certain passions. Wrestling therefore demands an immediate reading of the juxtaposed meanings, so that there is no need to connect them. The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.

Thus the function of the wrestler is not to win; it is to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him. It is said that judo contains a hidden symbolic aspect; even in the midst of efficiency, its gestures are measured, precise but restricted, drawn accurately but by a stroke without volume. Wrestling, on the contrary, offers excessive gestures, exploited to the limit of their meaning. In judo, a man who is down is hardly down at all, he rolls over, he draws back, he eludes defeat, or, if the latter is obvious, he immediately disappears; in wrestling, a man who is down is exaggeratedly so, and completely fills the eyes of the spectators with the intolerable spectacle of his powerlessness.

In September, Judd Legum, editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress, who served as research director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, wrote that only Barthes could really explain the 2016 campaign:

You won’t find Roland Barthes on the Sunday morning roundtables dissecting the presidential race. Barthes is a French philosopher who died in 1980. But his work may hold the key to understanding Trump’s popularity and his staying power.

Barthes is best known for his work in semiotics, the study of signs and symbols. But he wasn’t limited to lengthy, esoteric treatises. Rather, Barthes published much of his work in short, accessible pieces breaking down elements of popular culture. The New York Times described Barthes as the godfather of the TV recap.

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In the current campaign, Trump is behaving like a professional wrestler while Trump’s opponents are conducting the race like a boxing match. As the rest of the field measures up their next jab, Trump decks them over the head with a metal chair.

Others in the Republican field are concerned with the rules and constructing a strategy that, under those rules, will lead to the nomination. But Trump isn’t concerned with those things. Instead, Trump is focused on each moment and eliciting the maximum amount of passion in that moment. His supporters love it.

When I went to see Trump at a packed rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas in September, I found a high-spirited crowd who came to be both inspired and entertained.

He delivered a message of greatness — his own and America’s, with the former being a prerequisite for restoring the latter.

“We have a government that’s really messed up because we don’t have a leader at the top,” said Trump, who spoke extemporaneously — in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner — for more than an hour in a festive, convention-like atmosphere.

There is such great energy in this room,” Trump said. “I have tremendous energy, to the point where it’s really ridiculous.”

“If I’m elected,” Trump promised, “you are going to be so proud of your country again.”

The crowd was enthralled throughout, exulting in Trump’s bluster, enjoying his jokes and roaring its approval, especially on the topic of immigration.

This event, and others I have watched on TV since, have been reminiscent of what I witnessed at the Springfield Civic Center more than three decades ago, though now the villains of the piece aren’t Ivan Koloff or the Iron Sheik or the Wild Samoans – but “low-energy Jeb,” Hillary – who takes too long to go to the bathroom (“It’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it.”) – and the reporters who cover him (“I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It’s true.”).

In each case, the cartoonish, pro-wrestling quality of Trump’s charges are hardly a negative. Indeed, the more outsized and outrageous they are, the more satisfying they are to his audience.

From Barthes:

Such a precise finality demands that wrestling should be exactly what the public expects of it. Wrestlers, who are very experienced, know perfectly how to direct the spontaneous episodes of the fight so as to make them conform to the image which the public has of the great legendary themes of its mythology. A wrestler can irritate or disgust, he never disappoints, for he always accomplishes completely, by a progressive solidification of signs, what the public expects of him. In wrestling, nothing exists except in the absolute, there is no symbol, no allusion, everything is presented exhaustively. Leaving nothing in the shade, each action discards all parasitic meanings and ceremonially offers to the public a pure and full signification, rounded like Nature. This grandiloquence is nothing but the popular and age-old image of the perfect intelligibility of reality. What is portrayed by wrestling is therefore an ideal understanding of things; it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations and placed before the panoramic view of a univocal Nature, in which signs at last correspond to causes, without obstacle, without evasion, without contradiction.

And, in the professional wrestling context, Trump is the King of Kayfabe

From Dan O’Sullivan in a 2014 piece in Jacobin magazine, Money in the Bank: The story of pro wrestling in the twentieth century is the story of American capitalism.

Historically, professional wrestling, with its screaming neon lunatics, potbellied big daddies, and tasseled “ring rats,” has been considered too absurd to be taken seriously — deprecated by sportswriters and ignored by politicians, its fans derided as low-class marks.

This — the notion that pro wrestling is a fixed, low-rent travesty, undeserving of serious mainstream scrutiny — is the single greatest angle ever sold by the wrestling industry.

There are competing theories as to the origin of the term “kayfabe,” beyond its provenance in the strange lingo of the carnivals from which American pro wrestling emerged. But as to the meaning, there is no confusion; it is the central axiom of the business. As explained by journalist David “The Masked Man” Shoemaker, kayfabe is “the wrestlers’ adherence to the big lie, the insistence that the unreal is real . . . the abiding dogma of the pro wrestling industry.”

And the flip side of kayfabe is that, in an industry where the unreal is real, where Hulk Hogan is a “real American” fighting for the rights of every man, truth wears a mask.

In July, Lambert Strether of Corrente offered a fuller definition of kayfabe, which he described as “not merely the word of the day, but of the decade.”

In professional wrestling, kayfabe (pronounced /ˈkeɪfeɪb/) is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this “reality” within the realm of the general public. Kayfabe was long held as a closely guarded secret within the professional wrestling industry; however, with the advent of the Internet, it has evolved into an open secret in the industry that is generally only adhered to during shows.

 And, Strether writes, Trump is the Kayfabe Master.
 Alone among the Presidential candidates, Trump has actually performed in kayfabe! 

It’s all here, the bluster, the ridiculous taunts – (at 6:50. “First of all Vince, your grapefruits are no competition for my Trump towers”) and the crowd chanting for Trump, the designated hero, as he insults McMahon, the self-assigned villain (after all, WWE is his show.)

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McMahon: (at 10:20) Ninety-five percent of all celebrities we polled want me to win and shave your head bald.

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Trump: You know Vince, I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest poll, John Travolta, I see he prefers Trump. I see others prefer Trump. The poll shows 95 percent of the Hollywood celebrities want your head shaved. And we’re gonna do it, Vince.”

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McMahon: You might have some support from this audience, but 95 percent of them are idiots.

Trump: To me, they look like a very smart group of people.

 

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At this point, Stone Cold Steve Austin enters the ring to restore order, and lay down the law to Trump.

Stone Cold Stee Austin, Donald Trump

(Stone Cold Stee Austin, Donald Trump)

Austin to Trump: I think its only fair that you give a man a fair warning so I’m going to break it down for you. In this ring, don’t get under my skin. Don’t rub me the wrong way. Don’t ruffle my feather. Basically, long story short, I’m telling you not to piss me off because if you do piss me off I will whip your ass. Now look at me when I’m talking to you because I’ve done my research.

I don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re worth a billion dollars, two billion dollars, three billion dollars, four billion dollars, five billion dollars, six billion dollars, seven billion dollars, eight billion dollars –  you piss me off, I’ll open up an $8 billion can of whoop-ass and serve it to you, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

(Note to Chris Christie, of all of Trump’s competitors, the one with the most WWE-adaptable personality, if you end up in a New Hampshire smackdown with Trump, don’t forget to bring your, or your super PAC’s $8 billion can of whoop-ass.)

 

Stone Cold Steve Austin and Donald Trump at Battle of the Billionaires

(Stone Cold Steve Austin and Donald Trump at Battle of the Billionaires)

While the Battle of Billionaires was to be fought out by the billionaires’ surrogate wrestlers, this installment closes out, beginning at the 21-minute mark, with push predictably coming to shove and Trump besting  McMahon as the WWE commentators exulted at the scripted unpredictability of it all.

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You better be careful or you’ll get the billionaire bitch slap, Donald.

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Can you believe what we’ve just seen? Donald. Trump, as you just said, has just shoved Vince McMahon on his billionaire butt.

 

Donald Trump pushes Vince McMahon on his "billionaire butt"

 

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I find Trump’s wrestling background reassuring, and I think it helps explain why I don’t find Trump and his candidacy as menacing as I otherwise might. Stripped of this context, Trump would otherwise appear to be a truly dangerous demagogue.

From an excellent New York Times story – 95,000 Words, Many of Them Ominous, From Donald Trump’s Tongue – by Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman:

The dark power of words has become the defining feature of Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House to a degree rarely seen in modern politics, as he forgoes the usual campaign trappings — policy, endorsements, commercials, donations — and instead relies on potent language to connect with, and often stoke, the fears and grievances of Americans.

The New York Times analyzed every public utterance by Mr. Trump over the past week from rallies, speeches, interviews and news conferences to explore the leading candidate’s hold on the Republican electorate for the past five months. The transcriptions yielded 95,000 words and several powerful patterns, demonstrating how Mr. Trump has built one of the most surprising political movements in decades and, historians say, echoing the appeals of some demagogues of the past century.

Mr. Trump’s breezy stage presence makes him all the more effective because he is not as off-putting as those raging men of the past, these experts say.

The most striking hallmark was Mr. Trump’s constant repetition of divisive phrases, harsh words and violent imagery that American presidents rarely use, based on a quantitative comparison of his remarks and the news conferences of recent presidents, Democratic and Republican. He has a particular habit of saying “you” and “we” as he inveighs against a dangerous “them” or unnamed other — usually outsiders like illegal immigrants (“they’re pouring in”), Syrian migrants (“young, strong men”) and Mexicans, but also leaders of both political parties.

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“His entire campaign is run like a demagogue’s — his language of division, his cult of personality, his manner of categorizing and maligning people with a broad brush,” said Jennifer Mercieca, an expert in American political discourse at Texas A&M University. “If you’re an illegal immigrant, you’re a loser. If you’re captured in war, like John McCain, you’re a loser. If you have a disability, you’re a loser. It’s rhetoric like Wallace’s — it’s not a kind or generous rhetoric.”

“And then there are the winners, most especially himself, with his repeated references to his wealth and success and intelligence,” said Ms. Mercieca, noting a particular remark of Mr. Trump’s on Monday in Macon, Ga. (“When you’re really smart, when you’re really, really smart like I am — it’s true, it’s true, it’s always been true, it’s always been true.”)

“Part of his argument is that if you believe in American exceptionalism, you should vote for me,” Ms. Mercieca said.

Mercieca subsequently posted this piece on The rhetorical brilliance of Trump the demagogue.

Trump possesses an arrogance and volatility that makes most voters recoil. So how has he maintained a grip on a segment of the Republican base that – at least, for now – seems unshakable?

And how has his support persisted, despite the fact that some have called him a demagogue and a fascist, or that political observers have found parallels between him and polarizing figures like George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Father Coughlin – even Hitler?

As a scholar of American political rhetoric, I write about and teach courses on the use and abuse of rhetorical strategy in public discourse. Scrutinizing Trump’s rhetorical skills can partially explain his profound and persistent appeal.

This is truly dangerous territory.

After all, wasn’t Hitler all about telling an aggrieved people that he was going to make Germany great again.

Here is a Freudian analysis from ten years ago in the New York Times – Freud and the Fundamentalist Urge,  by Mark Edmundson, who teaches English at the University of Virginia, and has written about Freud’s last days, which overlapped with Hitler’s rise.

At the center of Freud’s work lies a fundamental perception: human beings are not generally unified creatures. Our psyches are not whole, but divided into parts, and those parts are usually in conflict with one another. The id, or the “it,” is an agent of pure desire: it wants and wants and does not readily take no for an answer. The superego, or over-I, is the internal agent of authority. It often looks harshly upon the id and its manifold wants. The superego, in fact, frequently punishes the self simply for wishing for forbidden things, even if the self does not act on those wishes at all. Then there is the ego, trying to broker between the it and the over-I, and doing so with the greatest of difficulty, in part because both agencies tend to operate outside the circle of the ego’s awareness.

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To Freud, crowds on their own can be dangerous, but they only constitute a long-term brutal threat when a certain sort of figure takes over the superego slot in ways that are both prohibitive and permissive.

As the Nazis arrived in Vienna, many gentile Viennese, who had apparently been tolerant and cosmopolitan people, turned on their Jewish neighbors. They broke into Jewish apartments and stole what they wanted to. They trashed Jewish shops. They made Jews scrub liberal political slogans off the sidewalk, first with brushes and later with their hands. And they did all of this with a sense of righteous conviction — they were operating in accord with the new cultural superego, epitomized by the former corporal and dispatch runner, Adolf Hitler.

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For Freud, we might infer, a healthy body politic is one that allows for a good deal of continuing tension. A healthy polis is one that it doesn’t always feel good to be a part of. There’s too much argument, controversy, difference. But in that difference, annoying and difficult as it may be, lies the community’s well-being. When a relatively free nation is threatened by terrorists with totalitarian goals, as ours is now, there is, of course, an urge to come together and to fight back by any means necessary. But the danger is that in fighting back we will become just as fierce, monolithic and, in the worst sense, as unified as our foes. We will seek our own great man; we will be blind to his foibles; we will stop questioning, stop arguing. When that happens, a war of fundamentalisms has begun, and of that war there can be no victor.

And, from Evan Osnos in the New Yorker in August -The Fearful and the Frustrated: Donald Trump’s nationalist coalition takes shape—for now.

From the pantheon of great demagogues, Trump has plucked some best practices—William Jennings Bryan’s bombast, Huey Long’s wit, Father Charles Coughlin’s mastery of the airwaves—but historians are at pains to find the perfect analogue, because so much of Trump’s recipe is specific to the present. Celebrities had little place in American politics until the 1920 Presidential election, when Al Jolson and other stars from the fledgling film industry endorsed Warren Harding. Two decades ago, Americans were less focussed on paid-for politicians, so Ross Perot, a self-funded billionaire candidate, did not derive the same benefit as Trump from the perception of independence.

Trump’s signature lines—“The American dream is dead” and “We don’t have victories anymore”—constitute a bitter mantra in tune with a moment when the share of Americans who tell Gallup pollsters that there is “plenty of opportunity” has dropped to an unprecedented fifty-two per cent; when trust in government has reached its lowest level on record, and Americans’ approval of both major parties has sunk, for the first time, below forty per cent. Matthew Heimbach, who is twenty-four, and a prominent white-nationalist activist in Cincinnati, told me that Trump has energized disaffected young men like him. “He is bringing people back out of their slumber,” he said.

Self-conscious white nationalists are not sufficiently numerous to be the core of Trump’s support. But they are probably the least likely of Trump’s following to be in on the kayfabe.

When I interviewed Jared Taylor – whose American Renaissance is a prime white nationalist site – in June he was lamenting the incalculable damage that Dylann Roof’s alleged murders in Charleston, S.C., had done to what he calls the “race realist” movement.

But two months later, Taylor was writing that “Donald Trump may be the last hope for a president who would be good for white people.”

In a fundraising note to supporters, Taylor wrote:

Something has changed.

The rise of Donald Trump and the flood of migrants into Europe have resulted in unprecedented interest in American Renaissance.

Never before have our online videos been so popular, or shared so widely.

The last time I wrote to you, our videos had been viewed 342,000 times over the previous year. I thought that was promising, but in just the last six months, they’ve been watched another 640,000 times — nearly quadruple the previous rate!

One of our videos on Donald Trump has had over 87,000 views. Our video on the “refugee” invasion of Europe has had 230,000 views — and the numbers keep rising.

I used to be excited when a video got 25,000 views in a year.

Thanks to these videos, more and more white Americans — especially young people — are learning about American Renaissance and what we represent.

This is not going to end well for someone.

I was impressed a third of a century ago at the Springfield Civic Center that a child could corral a crowd into a buoyant chant of animus toward America’s international enemy as embodied by a pro wrestler, even if that wrestler was merely playing a role. But “Koloff,” per the interview below, under the rules of kayfabe, had to play his role 24/7, even though it led to abuse being heaped on him and his family in their private life.

Trump is navigating very complicated territory here and, as his success to date attests, he has done it with considerable aplomb. His distinct advantage over this opponents is that none of them can comfortably slip into a cape and tights to enter the ring with him, while he can weave in and out of his wrestling persona as circumstances demand.

For Trump’s rivals, it is like trying to run against Stephen Colbert and not knowing whether to treat him as himself or as his character.

Trump is cool with being in on the kayfabe – the exaggerated performance art of his campaign – but he never wants to be the mark.

So, for example, when Sacha Baron Cohen – who, as Borat and Ali G,  has made a career out of luring real people into hilarious but often excruciatingly uncomfortable encounters with his mock characters – had Trump as a guest on Da Ali G Show, and tried to talk Trump into investing in a glove he had invented to catch melting ice cream from cones, Trump was quickly out of there.

 

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Interestingly, the one figure who seems so far to have managed to avoid the wrath of Trump, has been Ted Cruz. To be sure, it has a lot to do with Cruz’s assiduous determination to be Trump’s tag team partner and not his rival.

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But I suspect that Trump’s failure to really go after Cruz – after a tentative swat at him as “a bit of a maniac” – is that there is something of the true believer in Cruz that unsettles Trump.

I turn here to Key and Peele and a 2012 bit they did in which ultimate fighters Derek Johnson and Paulo Odbelis promote their upcoming match.

Johnson: As far as I’m concerned, this Saturday night, there’s not even going to be a fight. I’m going to mercy kill the old man.

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Odbelis: God chose me for this fight. God is the teacher, Derek is the student. And I am God’s instrument. When I squeeze your lungs Derek, and you beg me for life, then your heart will open up  to the Lord.

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Johnson: I’m going to knock him out round one, bitch. But wait. What did he say again? He said, God chose him? That doesn’t even make sense really. 

Odbelis: When you eat through plastic tube when you’re paralyzed from neck down, then your family will gather around your hospital bed to see the new Derek.

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Johnson: OK. He know we just talking here. We just getting people interested in the fight. Because I’m sorry, is this &$%! crazy?

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Odbelis: God’s lessons are so beautiful.

Johnson: God’s lessons are so beautiful? I’m sorry. Who put this fight together?

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Johnson: If y’all got an actual crazy person for me to fight, well, that’s not fair to me … or him.

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