We’re only a week and some change into Donald Trump in the White House, and already we’ve seen a level of absurdity that only exists in fever dreams and dystopian novels.
As he continues with his stupid ban on refugees and non-Christian immigrants, the idiotic wall, and his moronic dismantling of the Affordable Care Act… one cannot help but question what in the actual hell is going on? What’s going on under his hair plugs that makes any of this crap okay?
The answer is in a classic episode of The Simpsons.
Back in 1996, we were given episode 5F09 — better known as Trash Of The Titans. Besides winning an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, and giving us the iconic song parody of “The Candy Man“, Trash Of The Titans is the explanation for Trump’s maniacal bender into jackassery.
To sum things up, following a protracted feud with his garbage collectors, Homer Simpson decides to run for Sanitation Commissioner of Springfield. He finds himself opposing a beloved civil servant named Ray Patterson (played by Steve Martin), and running on a platform of “Can’t Someone Else Do It?” Homer promises Springfield a cornucopia of outlandish and improbable services the sanitation department will provide, while needlessly mocking the incumbent Patterson. After taking the election, Homer finds himself the head of a bankrupt department, due to his insane spending, and has to sell dumping rights to the city in order to make payroll.
The running theme of Trump’s campaign was, like Homer’s run at Sanitation Commissioner, was the “outlandish promise.” While Homer promised “round-the-clock service” and garbage collectors cleaning your bathroom, Trump promised a $14 billion wall with “Mexico paying for it”, and a “ban on Muslims.” Both candidates’ promises were wildly impractical, yet the voting public seemed to fall for it. Trump cannot possibly think Mexico will kick out $14 billion for a wall any more than Homer thought garbage collectors would peel tissues from bathroom trash cans (another promise he made).
Once Homer was in office as Sanitation Commissioner, an interesting exchange happens between him and daughter Lisa. When she comments how busy Homer was, he replies that “Daddy made a lot of crazy promises” during the campaign. This caricature fits Trump to a “t”. He made so many insane promises, that now he’s stuck having to fulfill them — no matter how stupid they are.
Their campaigns draw similar parallels, as well. One of the more poignant scenes in Trash Of The Titans was the debate between Homer and Patterson. While an exemplary civil servant and well-liked, Patterson came off looking disheveled and confused (a nod to the Kennedy-Nixon debate of 1960). Patterson showed up late (because Homer tampered with his car) and scrambled to keep up with Homer’s nonsense, thus involuntarily playing defense. When he says “I can’t believe what I’m hearing”, Homer replies “Well then you’d better turn up your hearing aid, Pops!” Patterson sharply replies that Homer is older than he is, but is drowned out by the crowd.
This is Trump’s campaign in a nutshell. He spent so much time shouting the illogical, the impossible, and the utterly false, that Hillary Clinton simply had to join in his madness, if not to bring rational thought back to the conversation. Just like “Old Man Patterson”, Clinton ended up playing into the irrational and dangerous trap set by Trump. It didn’t matter to voters that Homer’s promises of “Can’t Someone Else Do It?” were outlandish, at best — it sounded snappy. Trump voters didn’t care that “Lock her up” made no sense or that Russia and Trump tampered with her campaign like Patterson’s car — because it fit the narrative. They were fed conspiracy with a side of lies, and here we are.
Ultimately, Homer’s first foray into politics ended miserably. Making good on his “crazy promises” immediately bankrupted the Springfield Sanitation Department. Having spent the entire year’s budget in just a month, he is faced with a labor strike by unpaid garbage collectors. After solving the shortfall by selling dumping rights to other cities, Springfield demands Homer be removed from office, “horsewhipped”, and Patterson be reinstated. This brings about one of the most iconic Simpsons moments of all time…
Trump has backed the United States into a mess of Springfieldian proportions. We cannot pay for a $14 billion border wall by taxing avocados any more than Homer could pay for 24/7 garbage pickups. We cannot impose unconstitutional faith-based immigration bans based on Skittles metaphors, any more than Homer could blindly write checks to vendors. At some point, Trump will screw up so badly that he will be removed from office. If not for violating the law, or his conflicts of interest… but likely for a sex scandal. (Let’s cut the crap, you know it’ll happen.)
Unfortunately, Trash Of The Titans has an ending that spells out how America will finish the Trump Administration. As Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby evokes the town’s “Plan B” and moves the entire city a few miles down the road to escape garbage volcanoes, Homer shifts from politician to “every man.” With Marge expressing her disbelief at moving the town, Homer replies casually with “eh, what are you gonna do?” and throws his potato chip bag off the flatbed truck carrying the Simpsons home — before jumping to the truck carrying Moe’s Tavern.
It’s this flippant lethargy that will allow Trump to get away with his blitzkrieg of racist stupidity. As millions of women marched in the Women’s March movement, America’s reply was “what’s that going to do?” As people protest the refugee ban at airports, Americans still reply “eh, you can’t change anything like that.” The worst are the people who implore you to “just accept that Trump won.”
Nobody stopped Sanitation Commissioner Homer Simpson from blowing through a $4 million budget in a month with his VIP garbage services, because — meh. Now, we’re faced with a “president” who is systematically dismantling our democracy, replacing it with a white supremacist agenda, and the reply is the same “Meh.”
One can only imagine the moment when Barack Obama gives the identical speech as Patterson, after we demand he be reinstated.
How did Trump get into office? How is he getting away with this stuff? Why does he insist upon it? All of these questions were answered by The Simpsons in 1996. It’s because we think “the garbage man can” and that outlandish promises are plausible simply because a candidate says so. Unfortunately, we cannot move the nation five miles down the road when all of this backfires.
Oh, and U2 was in the episode, too. No relevance to that… it’s just worth mentioning.