If Trump Had Run for President In 1936

Chapter 1 “NOT A SCHMUCK”

By Ernest Kearney – In the midst of the Great Depression, Donald Trump’s pronouncement that he would seek the Republican nomination to run against Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 election stunned many.

He explained to the cluster of reporters he’d gathered to hear his announcement, his main reason for deciding to run,

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government….My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.

The journalists inquire, other than not being a “moron” what it was Trump felt set him apart from the front-runners for the Republican nomination; former President Herbert Hoover and Kansas Governor Alf Landon.

Trump grinned and said, “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

Trump appeared honestly vexed when the correspondents persisted to press him about his qualifications. One reporter had the nerve to ask that if he were actually elected, was he aware that he would be the first president not to have held prior political office or served in the military.

Trump thought it was stupid to think he ought to have been aware of that. He was running for President not history teacher.

Trump fixed his gaze on the reporter, and told him straight out, “With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that ever held this office.

Trump stood at the podium, feeling confident that he had put the loser in his place.

He’ll show them, he told himself, one day he’d be up on Mount Rushmore, right alongside Abe Lincoln and Freddy Roosevelt.

Trump thought his “press conference” was finished, and was looking forward to getting in a couple of rounds of golf. He was noticeably annoyed by all of the reporters continued pestering.

Let me tell you,” he counted off his qualifications for the morons on his fingers.

He had incredible qualifications.

Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.

He was giving them huge qualifications.

I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very intelligent,” he kept counting.

He was really, really good at counting.

Everything I’ve done virtually has been a tremendous success. I’m not a schmuck. Even if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, I won’t lose a penny.

He stole a glance down at his fingers to be sure he hadn’t run out of fingers,

Success does not happen all at once. In life, there is no instant pudding. I have great judgment. I have good judgment. I know what’s going on.

He stopped. He was bored counting. Those were perfect qualifications. Really great. So it annoyed him when a reporter asked if he had more qualified “qualifications.”

He barked at them, “To be blunt people would vote for me. They just would. Why? Maybe because I’m so good looking.

With that he strutted out of the conference room as the reporters stared after him. After he was gone the correspondents exchanged glances then set to frantically scribbling Trump’s remarks down in their pads.

Initially few of them expected Trump to make it to the convention, and most of the country agreed. Trump didn’t seem worth serious attention. Then he started his campaign, and it was as if the whole country woke up one morning to find that a rabid hedgehog wearing a top hat and floral muumuu had taken up homesteading in their boxer shorts.

Serious or not, attention better be paid.

Trump’s malicious and aggressive style offended old campaigners of both parties. He didn’t approached electioneering like a novice candidate should who was about to throw his hat in the ring, but like Lizzie Borden with ax in hand would approach her snoozing father.

Trump commenced attacking his two seasoned opponents with the viciousness of a school of piranha unleashed in a pork barrel.

He started stumping in the Midwest, where the depression had driven nearly every small farmer off their land. He spoke to a somber, bitter crowd gathered at the local high school’s football field to hear him.

Trump took one look at them and knew with whom he was dealing.

These were a bunch of anger people he had before him, and that made him smile.

He’d learned long ago, how easy it was to get anger people to agree with someone. Just hadda know their language.

And Trump spoke fluent “pissed off.”

He stepped out and got their attention –

Our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid.

The eyes of his audience suddenly brightened. Wow, he’d just said what they’d all thought.

In America, establishment politicians have betrayed our workers, they’ve betrayed our borders and, most of all, they’ve betrayed our freedoms.”

Trump paced before the bleachers, from one end to the other, back and forth, making eye contact with everyone in the stands, back and forth –

I’m not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don’t. We are living in a time that’s as evil as any time that there has ever been.”

Heads began nodding –

We have politicians that are grossly incompetent.” More heads were nodding and vigorously. “We have leaders that are incompetent and we have negotiators that are incompetent.

Trump knew what they wanted. They weren’t there to listen to his “programs.” His… “plans.”

They wanted what all losers did. They wanted be in its presence of success.
What mattered to them was seeing the arrogance of success. That “screw you” attitude to the world. He could give them that.

I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far,” he bellowed. “Nobody’s ever been more successful than me. I’m the most successful ever to run.

Trump knew he was like a dope dealer. Only the drug he peddled was “winning.”

I say, not in a braggadocios way, I’ve made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all around the world.

He kept letting them taste it, that’s how he’d hooked them.
He knew when the time was right for the next step.
He wasn’t going to just go bad mouthing his opponents. That’s no good. You had to be smart about it.

Trump made a couple of passing references to Hoover. He acted all reluctant,

Be perfectly honest.” Like he didn’t want to bear the burden – “A lot of people tell me“ But it was like his duty – “it might not be true, could be. It’s terrible if it is“ They had to be told what he knew about Hoover – “He’s got a pathological temper. That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that … as an example: child molesting. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that.

Trump let that sink into them for a minute. “You have to remain cool under fire and let criticism roll off you,” he pointed out at his audience, jabbing his finger for emphasis. “Good leaders handle conflict easily and bad ones are eaten up by it.

Some seated in the front rows noticed that his hands seemed smallish.
One woman thought they were pretty, like butterflies.

Trump’s voice grew louder, “I have a winning temperament. I know how to win.
Applause from the stands, they hung on his every word now –

He played his “rage card” for the crowd:

Our country’s really in bad, big trouble. We have a lot of trouble. A lot of problems…. It’s going to get worse in our country and we better start fighting a lot tougher than we’re fighting right now…. Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what America could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.

Trump pounded words at them— “They don’t respect us – Laughing at us

He extended his arms towards the stands, as if he wanted to take everyone seated there into an embrace, “If I’m president we will win on everything we do!
People began to mutter approvingly under their breath, and Trump knew he’d won them over.

I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again. We will make America strong again.

People were shouting.

Trump could feel the stirring in the gym, a distinct variety of agitation that he was very familiar with after years of maneuvering potential investors. It was easy to draw into one of his ventures, those who were hesitant from some recent failure or bankruptcy. All he had to do was cloak the undertaking in the grandest terms. Those who doubted themselves were always seeking to camouflage their shortcomings under a great undertaking.

We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again, greater than ever before.

The people were on their feet shouting, and they were happy.

Donald Trump was going to make them great.

Afterwards at every whistle-stop and rally, Trump repeated that performance. He twisted facts like salt water taffy; he mocked his critics, described all that was wrong with America loudly, and then boasted even louder only he could fix it.

He campaigned the most in the poorer states; those hardest hit by the economic collapse.

Speech after speech little changed, except for the size of his audience.

There were those who listened to him on the radio or read his speeches in their local newspapers that couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. Sure these were hard times, but what did he mean by he was “going to make America great again? America is great.

Many were puzzled by the zealousness of Trump’s supporters, but they didn’t understand what Trump did. That believing in a “great cause” can save one from facing the truth that they’ve lost the belief in themselves.

What Trump’s disciples craved was to hear the echoing of their own anger, their own hatred smothering the rest of the world.

Trump gave them that.

His words degraded the world that had degraded them.

A certain hatred, fear or anger was required to amplify Trump’s words, without which one was deaf to his message. And because it’s easy to ignore what we find ridiculous to us, many ignored Trump.

One person who couldn’t was Herbert Hoover.

Still bitter over losing his bid for re-election in 1932, Hoover felt he was unjustly blamed for the Depression and desperately wanted to win back the White House from Roosevelt to prove he could fix it.

The majority of Americans had either never known or had forgotten Hoover’s career before the presidency.

He had shown himself a “fixer.”

The Great War had brought about a catastrophe food crisis in Europe and famine threatened 400 million lives. Hoover, organized a relief program, crossed the Atlantic 40 times to meet with the combatants, and for three years worked 18-hour days arranging the distribution of millions of tons of food. His efforts saved millions of Finns, Poles, Russians even Germans from certain starvation.

Hoover was listening to Trump, over the radio, determined to endure whatever slander the candidate might throw his way. But then Trump did the unexpected; he turned his attacks on Mrs. Hoover:

Lou Hoover was a remarkable woman who spoke several languages; Mandarin and Latin among them. She had designed the presidential retreat that would one day be known as Camp David. Hoover struggled to maintain his composure—

Look at that face,” apparently he held up a photo of Mrs. Hoover to his followers.

I mean she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?

It was the crowd’s laughter that proved the last straw, and Hoover, known for his explosive temperament, exploded. Calling an editor he knew at the New York Times, Hoover gave full-vent to his fury.

When reported in the newspaper, in the minds of many it validated Trump’s observation about Hoover’s “pathological temper.” It also triggered memories of something. “Child molesters?

Now Democrats might easily support a feeble-minded congressman provided he refrained from drooling in public; and Republicans could happily vote for an incumbent with necrophiliac leanings – provided he was a good Baptist. But the constituents of both parties drew the line at cranky pedophiles.

Hoover ended his campaign, and he and his wife left the country.

Trump’s malice now turned towards Alf Landon. If his allegation against Hoover was absurd, the accusation he leveled at the Kansas lawmaker wore floppy shoes and a big red nose.

He started off by hurling insults at Landon’s wife, “Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely.

In several interviews, he started out slowly “I’ve been hearing –” followed by “A lot of people are saying –.” Then in an off-handed fashion mentioned, in passing, having seen Landon’s father in an old daguerreotype – came the kicker – “having breakfast” with “crazy” John Wilkes Booth.

After which, it was time to dropped the big one – “What I’ve heard – lot of people are saying” and he implicated Landon’s father was involved in the assassination of Abe Lincoln.

I don’t know if it’s true, could be –

Reporters badgered him, who had he “heard,” “saying” and “where was this daguerreotype?”

Trump plowed over their questions with his best display of indignation, “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it…. shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” he fumed, “It’s horrible – unbelievable – incredible – hugely bad.

Hearing this, most Americans were dubious at best, but to Trump’s “base” it was gospel. Landon was dumbfounded by their gullibility, showing that it’s anything but simple to understand the simple.

Trump knew they’d lap up whatever he told them. When you convince folks they’re holding the “truth” it’s amazing what else they’ll fall for.

Trump knew if he accused an opponent of climbing to the top of the Empire State Building with Faye Wray in his grip, that his people would scramble off to find Curtiss Helldivers to shoot him down.

Landon he dismissed as “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.

To the horror of the GOP old guard and the consternation of most of the country, Trump captured the Republican nomination.

The country’s radios tuned in for Trump’s acceptance speech from Cleveland’s Public Auditorium.

I’ve been winning all of my life,”

— You could even hear the smirk on his face oozing from the console of the Crosley Radio. —

My whole life is about winning. I always win. I win at golf. I’m a club champion many times at different clubs. I win at golf.

The convention hall of the Auditorium roared with cheers and applause.

I can sink the three footer on the 18th hole when others can’t.

The cheering and clapping thundered in approval.

My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose.

The ovation of the delegates in Ohio boomed out from the speakers of Rhythm Queens, Philcos, and Zenith Stratospheres.

Trump knew the dance. Having first taken them high, drop them low —
Sadly,” Trump lamented to the delegates, “the American dream is dead.

Then lift them back up —

But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.

Thunderous applause rose into earsplitting rumbling. Trump shouted out, barely audible amid the ecstatic tumultuous chaos he had unleashed —
I am the only one who can make America truly great again!

Pandemonium erupted in the Cleveland’s Public Auditorium. Like there’s madness there.

In living rooms across the nation, average citizens sat silently listening as the thick wireless wave of wildness poured from their Rhythm Queens or Philcos or Zenith and wrapped them in the strange howling that barely sounded human.

Some felt a rippling of uneasiness, but couldn’t have said why. It was uncertainty. The nation had never experienced the rumbling of a “mass movement” before. Their anxiety arose from a historical awareness that was not dependent on being aware of history. It lodged in the collective of the species. The ‘no matter their goal of doctrine that all mass movements begun with enthusiasm ended in fanaticism; begun in optimism ended with intolerance‘.

And they tried — hard as they were able ,as they sat around their radios,hard as they were able — to imagine how it was possible for them not to have noticed when it was that America stop being great.


“If Trump had run for President in 1936
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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

Latest comment
  • Proof positive that Trump’s presidency is a parody when his REAL-LIFE quotes fit so well into a parody. Sweet reading, Ernest!


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