You’ve probably heard about how, in the United Kingdom, a joke got out of hand.
The very prim and proper British Natural Environment Research Council came up with a stunt to get people interested in science, asking them to suggest names for a new, $288 million, state-of-the-art polar research vessel and then to vote on those names.
It worked, and people started talking about names, including BBC radio personality James Hand who quipped that the vessel should be called “Boaty McBoatface.” Cue the laugh track.
Except that the joke caught on, and the name was the top vote-getter.
That’s the way it is with jokes. Sometimes, they get out of hand.
Egregious and embarrassing
And they say conservatives don’t have a sense of humor.
When Trumpy McTrumpface first suggested himself as a presidential nominee, the joke was obvious. In his inaugural campaign speech, McTrumpface made a number of comments that would automatically disqualify any serious presidential candidate.
He has since made this his core strategy — spouting racist comments and xenophobic statements, making fun of one reporter’s disability, suggesting that another was menstruating, lying to suit his whim, bragging about his “hand” size, talking of solving the national debt by “printing more money.” Name-calling, bullying, hate-mongering. Parallels to a certain German statesman who was also seen — initially — as a joke are clear.
So how is it that Trumpy McTrumpface can get away with such egregious, embarrassing behavior?
Because his candidacy a joke.
And the more egregious and embarrassing Trumpy’s behavior is, the funnier it is to his supporters, and the more entertaining it is for them, and the more those supporters feel like they’re playing the greatest practical joke in history on the rest of the nation.
This means that it doesn’t hurt McTrumpface to continuously demonstrate to the public that he is far better suited to engage in a Twitter war with Rosie O’Donnell than he is, say, to negotiate the delicate matters of Middle-East policy or to address the complex issue of income inequality or live with the nuclear launch codes at his fingertips. It actually helps him. Isn’t that hilarious?
McTrumpface’s tax plan was dismissed by William G. Gale of the Brookings Institution as “pie-in-the-sky nonsense.”
The Indianapolis Star’s editorial board warned in March that a McTrumpface presidency would be “a danger to the United States and to the world.”
You should see the look on your face!
The very serious office of President of the United States
Back in the UK, that research council thought better of its stunt and decided that the joke had gone too far. It determined that, no, the new ship won’t be called Boaty McBoatface. Instead, it will bear the name of iconic English naturalist Sir David Attenborough.
Boaty McBoatface won the vote. But it was still a joke.
Here in the US, it’s the same with McTrumpface.
Yes, according to the current polls, it’s possible for Trumpy McTrumpface to win the election for the very serious office of President of the United States of America.
But even if he does win, he’ll still be a joke.
And the joke will be on us.
Alas, since this essay originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on May 24, the Britons turned off the part of their minds that got rid of the silly Boaty McBoatface and turned on the part of their brains that voted to leave the European Union via BrexyMcBrexitface.
Maybe the U.S. will learn a lesson from watching the United Kingdom deal with the consequences of blind stupidity.
Or maybe not.