(Pictured: on November 20, 1975, Gerald Ford meets a Thanksgiving turkey.)
So now then: barring some sort of drama in the Electoral College, or barring him deciding to say before January 20th, “Screw it, I won, but it’s all yours, Governor Pence, and I’m outta here,” Donald Trump is gonna be president. Recently on Twitter, music writer Stephen Erlewine suggested we try to imagine him pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey, or attending the Kennedy Center Honors, or presiding over the Easter Egg Roll. But it’s farcical to think that this vulgar cartoon of a human being might plausibly perform those very American functions we expect of our presidents. Even Richard Nixon, the most painfully awkward public man of the 20th century, was able to do such things. But Trump? Come on.
It’s also difficult to see Trump as a family man, despite the role his three oldest children played in the campaign. Five kids by three different women does not conjure up images of breakfast around the family table. It’s easier with Nixon. He doted on his daughters, although Mrs. Nixon was sometimes more political prop than partner. (In the White House, he occasionally communicated with her by sending memos via his staff.)
In 1969, songwriter Jeff Barry and singer Andy Kim, contemplating the new family in the White House, wrote and recorded “Tricia Tell Your Daddy,” which imagined a breakfast scene “On a family Sunday morning / When he comes downstairs a-yawning / From his bed.” The song (also recorded by Jay and the Americans) asks the First Daughter to speak to her father about his great responsibility, about peace and poverty, and about love.
Tell him he’s the man, Tricia
The world’s in his hands, Tricia
Tell him that you’re not his only child
He’s everybody’s daddy for a while
“Tricia Tell Your Daddy” isn’t a protest song, exactly. It’s more a plea for understanding and a song of hope.
Forty-eight years later, asking this incoming president for understanding seems like a waste of breath. And while there’s hope among Trump’s constituency, that hope is almost certainly destined to be shattered. He’s not building a Mexican wall, he’s not deporting 11 million Muslims, and he’s not going to throw Hillary in jail. The sad likelihood is that the only people who’ll get exactly they want from a Trump presidency are those who want to gut public institutions and persecute gays and lesbians—and of course the American Nazi Party, the KKK, and other retrograde morons.
One of the more wrongheaded bits of analysis I saw in the wake of the election appeared on the morning after: “Trump’s election is going to be really good for artists.” Somebody even suggested it was the best thing to happen to punk rock in decades. But the future of art is not among the futures many of us are considering right now. It’s a stretch to presume that in a culture as atomized as this one, Trump might have a broad impact on art. While punk bands might be moved to rage, there’s not much evidence to suggest that mainstream musicians will respond to Trumpism in their work. Recently, consultant Fred Jacobs wrote about the general failure of rockers to engage as activists, and it’s no wonder. Everybody remembers what happened to the Dixie Chicks in 2003, and Jacobs reported that in more recent years even a star as big as Bruce Springsteen has been harshly punished by radio audiences for his activism. The most visible rock activist in the 2016 election cycle was probably Ted Nugent, but he had neither radio airplay or record sales to lose. There’s little reason to believe the risk of speaking out will be any less in Trump’s America than it was in Obama’s.
It’s possible, I guess, that I could be totally wrong about this. Maybe art will flower, songs of protest will ring out on the radio, and the next four years will be some kind of new artistic Renaissance. Stuff currently impossible to imagine may actually happen.
Because it already has.
The staff and management of this blog wish you and yours as happy a Thanksgiving as possible under the circumstances.