A room full of people wearing button-up shirts and underwear stood silently in a cluster. They hovered near a bright television screen like moths. No one smiled or danced. The party was nothing like the wild party scene in Risky Business, which was the theme of the occasion.
Donald Trump was winning the presidential race.
People began to weep and panic about the impending doom they felt would soon swallow the nation. Others stood frozen with a mixture of fear and anticipation on their faces. The vibes were bad and people began feeling cagey. They grabbed their jackets and scurried off to the bars, but they could not escape the inevitable.
The night Donald Trump was elected the bar was filled with tears and wails. After the announcement the bar was empty in less than an hour. Most people stormed off with one burning question: how could this have happened?
I’ve grappled with this question myself since that fateful day. It truly baffles me how someone so openly racist, sexist and disrespectful could become Commander-in-Chief. He somehow secured the presidency by acting the exact opposite way a politician should.
Then a Netflix documentary called “Get Me Roger Stone” shed some light on the sham that is American politics. It follows Roger Stone, the infamous political advisor who most recently served as a political advisor on the 2016 presidential campaign for Donald Trump.
Roger Stone has worked for 40 years as a political advisor, perfecting his brutal smear-tactics that became commonplace in modern politics. His lobbying firm Black, Manafort and Stone advised leaders ranging from American politicians to foreign dictators. They mapped out his malicious strategy with his infamous “Stone’s Rules,” a guidebook to dirty politics.
Stone’s Rule: Past is a f——- prologue.
Trump first met Stone in 1988 through his attorney Roy Cohn, infamous for his contribution to the communist witch-hunts of the 1950s.
“I was like a jockey looking for a horse,” Stone said. “And [Trump’s] a prime piece of political horse flesh in my view.”
While at first glance Trump’s obnoxious and brash nature makes him an unlikely candidate for politics, Stone recognized the way the media portrayed him: powerful, successful, decisive and most importantly, entertaining.
“He looks presidential,” Stone said. “Do you think voters, non-sophisticates, make a difference between entertainment and politics? Politics is show business for ugly people.”
Stone’s Rule: The only worse thing in politics than being wrong is being boring.
Stone considers politics and performance art to be equal. Trump played the provocateur. His inaccurate claims and shocking insults kept his name in newspaper headlines and sparked heated debates all over television. You could not escape news about Trump. The more he was publicized in the media, the more he became legitimized as a candidate.
According to CNN, 80 million viewers tuned in to watch Hillary Clinton and Trump clash on September 26, 2016. It was the most watched debate in American history. The debates seemed to stir more controversy and augment the rivalry than inform the public. Stone specializes in finding incriminating or embarrassing information about opponents to tarnish their credibility, a tactic he picked up working for Richard Nixon in the ‘70s.
Trump targeted a specific demographic consisting of hardcore conservatives and government skeptics. They may not represent the majority of Americans, but their vote counts. He portrayed himself as a hard-working businessman who would save the working class from the corrupt and archaic present political system. Trump actively criticizes political action committees (PAC) while receiving guidance from Stone, the man who founded the first PAC. Despite this blatant hypocrisy, millions of voters treat Trump’s words like gospel.
Stone’s Rule: Hate is a stronger motivator than love.
The key to Trump’s victory was his ability to widen the divide between conservatives and liberals in America. He fostered hatred on both sides of the political spectrum, pitting Americans against each other. He created an “us versus them” environment where there should be unity.
Soon people began associating major news outlets with political parties. Conservative Trump supporters tend to watch Fox News and liberal Clinton supporters watch CNN. This split began after Trump began openly criticizing reputable sources like the New York Times and Washington Post. His “fake news” campaign left the country confused and distrustful of every news source.
Like a schoolyard bully, Trump fed on the reactions of his critics and used them to rally his supporters, bolstering their loyalty and feuling hatred towards liberals. On the other hand, Trump critics are generally assume Trump supporters are backwards and ignorant. We rest at a conversational stalemate, where opposing sides are unable to let go of their grudges towards the other and compromise.
I am not surprised that crooked men like Stone and Trump used sleazy tactics to secure the presidency. I am more shocked that the American people allowed themselves to be fooled so easily.
It’s easy to get caught in the spectacle that is a presidential race. People like Roger Stone create chaos and controversy to sway public opinion and win elections.
We cannot allow ourselves to fixate on our differences, but rather on improving communication and appreciating different viewpoints. It may seem like America is doomed but keep in mind that, as a nation, we are infants compared to other nations. It will take time, trial and error to resolve our conflicts.
It is important to remember the immense power the citizens of our country ultimately hold. Divided we are weak, but united we are strong.