Surviving the Post-Election Dystopias of Clinton and Trump
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For those of us who aren’t usually politically aware, the US election has been a time of bewildering drama and spectacular backlashes. We’ve all had our fun as we watched Donald Trump continue to do all the things we’ve grown to love him for (his tendency to literally tilt at windmills is particularly delicious), but there’s now a genuine threat that he might end up in a position of power. Moreover, while Trump’s buffoonery has been the most obvious target of criticism this election cycle, Hillary Clinton hasn’t done herself any favors.
Indeed, the biggest difficulty facing voters now is that it’s difficult to tell under which leader their lives would be worse. Fortunately, fiction has prepared us for all possible eventualities by providing an endless catalogue of dystopias to choose from. For those of us who would use dystopian novels as survival guides to make it through the dire times ahead of us, the only real question is which book can best guide us through these nightmare futures.
It would be a gross oversimplification to think that any presidency could be boiled down to a single, incredible dystopia. The truth is that there are a number of equally horrifying timelines available to us. For each candidate, we’ve selected a best-fit dystopia, the reality we feel they’re most likely to precipitate, and a few runners-up.
William Golding: Lord of the Flies
Given that Lord of the Flies takes place during an unspecified nuclear war, it seems like the most likely dystopian novel for a Trump presidency to inadvertently wander into. After all, we’ve already heard the first rumblings of Trump’s interest in making use of America’s nuclear arsenal.
Nuclear war aside, Lord of the Flies is the story of a group of school-aged boys shipwrecked without any adult supervision. Trump has already assured us that he’ll have “the best people” and “really smart guys” ensuring that he makes the right decisions, but just what kind of leadership we can expect to see from Trump (if any) remains to be seen.
Will his team of trusted advisors, whose names we may or may not have heard before, descend into barbarism at the first sign of trouble? Will they, in their desperate bid for survival, be forced to forage to feed themselves? How long will it be before one of them is found in conference with the severed head of a pig, seeking its advice on how best to govern America? Of course, this ignores the possibility that the severed pig's head could just be a metaphor. Perhaps Trump himself is the severed pig’s head of American politics.
Most terrifying of all is a manifestation of the conditions of Lord of the Flies. Given the fact that Trump has already proposed the deportation of 11 million people, what will happen if and when that doesn’t improve matters? When shifting those 11 million people out of the country doesn’t work, how long will it be before he deports more? How long will it take before all that remains are Trump and his advisors?
Runners-up for the category of Most Likely Trump-led Dystopias:
David Foster Wallace: Infinite Jest
- While there are plenty of aspects of Infinite Jest that don’t quite ring true with the idea of a Trump-led US, there are other elements that have so much of a Trump feel that they’re hard to ignore. In particular, the idea of “Subsidized Time” as the calendar year is sold off to corporate sponsors (Year of the Whopper, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, etc.) seems like a very Trump maneuvre.
Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash
- With the rise of VR, will we see broad swathes of the population retreat into a digital world better than our physical world? Will America collapse into a series of disconnected “burbclaves,” islands in a lawless wasteland? Is the greatest threat a businessman-turned-demagogue spouting apparently nonsense nam-shubs that reduce people into near-mindless followers?
Cormac McCarthy: The Road
- Like Lord of the Flies, The Road is another novel set in a post-nuclear dystopia. If we’re lucky, we’ll only be reduced to scavenging in the wasteland, hoping not to be picked off by bandits.
By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s presidency stands to usher in a number of possible utopias. Where Trump has been defined by his incredible demagoguery and his willingness to tackle anyone on Twitter, the Clinton campaign seems to have been defined by an endless series of gaffes and outright falsehoods.
As a result, we feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend everyone’s favourite dystopia…
George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Obviously, Nineteen Eighty-Four’s socialism probably won’t carry through under Clinton (we may have needed a Sanders presidency for that), but could a Clinton-led government usher in a Big Brother scenario in which the government is engaged in project of constant surveillance of everything it’s people do, or is that too ridiculous?
The real resonance between Clinton and Nineteen Eight-Four is in their respective attitudes to truth. For the sake of example, here are some facts:
Hillary Clinton was pinned down by sniper fire while visiting Bosnia in 1996
We were never at war with Eurasia
Clinton "never received nor sent any material that was marked classified"
Clinton will totally release those infamous transcripts any day now
In politics as in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the so-called “truth” must sometimes be “rectified” to ensure that it is consistent with the existing state and views of Big Brother. It may be that Clinton’s periodic exercises in freestyle narrative reconstruction are not, as some have suggested, an indication that she is unfit to lead, but instead an indication of the range of her power; even truth itself falls under her dominion. Perhaps she is already the president of truth.
“...if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”
Only time will tell on this one, but the smart money is on Clinton establishing a Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue for the Newspeakers among you) in the first six months of her presidency.
Runners-up for the category of Most Likely Clinton-led Dystopias:
Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
- Clinton’s increasingly robotic responses to questions help to cement the impression that she is an early Nexus-series replicant, incapable of successfully navigating the strictures of the Voight-Kampff test or political interview. Could a Blade Runner be trusted to apprehend and neutralize a presidential replicant?
Robert Sheckley: Watchbird
- Sheckley’s Watchird is a short story about the dangers of a society using drones to dispense justice, which feels more and more prescient with every passing year. Knowing that Clinton has approved drone strikes from her phone, one has to wonder whether a Clinton presidency could usher us into the dystopian world of Watchbird?
Ray Bradubury: Fahrenheit 451
- Given Clinton's uncomfortable relationship with the truth, the best thing possible for her would be to rule a world that had no records to check. Obviously, the notion of outlawing books (or at least, books alone) is patently ridiculous. Instead, the "firemen" of Clinton 451 would also need to be dedicated to "burning" digital books and records. It would be a difficult campaign, but if successful the truth would be left more malleable than ever before.