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AmericArrakis: Understanding the shifting sands of US politics with Frank Herbert’s Dune

Marc McEntegart By Marc McEntegart Published on September 6, 2016

With the eyes of the world focused on the coming US presidential election, those of us outside the US are increasingly embarrassed to admit we’re ignorant of even the most basic foundations of the American democratic process. “What is exactly is a caucus?” we ask, shaking. “What is a primary?” we begin to sweat. “What does a SUPERPAC even do?”

While this article won’t tell you what a superdelegate is or why they matter, we can help you to make swift and sweeping decisions about who to support and why. Moreover, we could help you uncover opinions you already hold without knowing it.

We may not understand politics, but we do understand Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic, Dune. So, for those of you who just want to know how the US presidential election is going to affect your trade in spice melange, read on.


Donald Trump: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

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Like Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Donald Trump has amassed a considerable personal fortune (though it remains to be proven that Trump’s personal wealth comes the sale of rare Bjondax whale furs). Like Baron Harkonnen, Baron Donald of House Trump is strange and almost inhuman in aspect, his skin seems to hang from him as though applied to his body in a single uniform sheet, his hair kept aloft by suspensor technology.

Where Trump and Harkonnen are most similar, however, is in their incredible ability to hold a grudge. Baron Harkonnen holds a generations-long grudge against House Atreides for their part in the exile-for-cowardice of a distant ancestor. In a similar fashion, Donald Trump maintains an infamous quarter-century long grudge against Graydon Carter for describing him as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy Magazine.

Like Harkonnen, Trump’s bid for presidency seems based in his hunger for the one type of power he does not currently enjoy. Only time will tell whether or not access to America’s presidency and lucrative spice markets will be enough to satiate that hunger.


Hillary Clinton: Piter De Vries

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While the similarities between Hillary Clinton and Piter De Vries might not seem immediately obvious, things are a little clearer when you consider Ben Shapiro’s description of Clinton as so mechanical that when she speaks “you can almost hear the beeps and boops emanating from her mouth.”

In Dune, the mentats arose in response to the need for “thinking machines” to do massive calculation after the Butlerian Jihad (which introduced the commandment that, “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind”). To make use of their incredible computational prowess, the mentat requires incredible discipline. Now, we’re not suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s increasingly odd public-speaking missteps are a result of speaking while trying to maintain the extreme focus required for her mind to operate as a kind of human computer… but at this point it seems as likely as anything else.

In a world in which people are losing faith in the security and privacy of our computers, it makes perfect sense to elect a mentat candidate to guide us into a presidency free of niggling cybersecurity issues. We also know that Hillary Clinton has approved drone strikes in the middle east, while DeVries approved ornithopter strikes on the Atreides’ Arrakis stronghold.

Obviously, there are those who suggest that the mentats are not the entirely benevolent force they appear to be... but let's face it, we all kind those kinds of conspiracy theorists to be at least a little ridiculous.


The Media: The Sandworms/Makers

So far, much of the attention of the presidential election has been drawn by ever more bombastic media coverage of both candidates. Like the sandworms, the media produces a constant cycle of the most valuable substance in the political universe, the one thing that politicians require above all else: attention.

Like the spice, media attention dramatically extends the lifespan of a politician. Where many had predicted his play for presidential power would be short-lived, Donald Trump’s addiction to the life-extending media coverage has afforded him the time he needed to blossom into an apparently unstoppable political force.

Like the spice melange, media coverage is addictive, and withdrawal typically proves politically fatal.


Barack Obama: Duke Leto Atreides

Now, the astute among you will have noticed that the Baron Harkonnen and Piter De Vries act together in Dune. While Trump and Clinton may seem to be in opposition, they are (like Harkonnen and De Vries) both dedicated to their pursuit of the power held by one man, Barack Obama.

Like Duke Leto Atreides, Obama is a man who seems so genuinely lovely that it’s almost charming just to see him having lasted as long as he has in the cutthroat world of interstellar politics. Unfortunately, his reign is almost ended, and the only question that remains is who will succeed him and the depths of chaos into which we’ll be plunged when he finally falls.

The only hope that remains now is that, when the time comes to inaugurate his successor, Obama can bite down on his implanted false tooth and exhale a cloud of toxic gases, killing himself but ultimately saving AmericArrakis.

Irish writer, editor, and capoeirista. Passionate about folklore, videogames, and communication. Editorial content writer at Bookwitty.