Can an internet troll govern at the national level?

Other than a little sarcasm at Christmas, I haven’t had much to say since shortly after Donald Trump was elected president — in terms of presidential politics, that is. I kind of felt like I had to wait — wait long enough for everyone else to internalize what I saw happening back in the summer and long enough for it to be appropriate to start literarily undermining our new commander-in-chief.

Or Impeachment-in-waiting … Captain Chaos … Demonstration Donald … the Travel Trump Card … Bannon’s Boy … Litigation Leader. I’ve been playing with nicknames while I’ve been waiting. I even thought I had already come up for a tag line for when his term comes to an end:  what a long strange Trump it’s been.

Problem is, it’s already been a long strange Trump, and we’re only two weeks into his administration. Thank goodness marijuana is legal in Maine now. I’m not sure how citizens in the states without legal marijuana are going to get through the next four years.

I’m already treating my Trump fatigue. Or maybe it’s a new kind of PTSD — President Trump Stress Disorder.

Back when I saw this coming, I tried to visualize the idea of a Trump inauguration and early presidency. The first two words I came up with were tacky and chaotic. Check and check. So tacky and chaotic that rumor has it that Kellyanne Conway covered bouncer detail at one inaugural event and broke up a fight by throwing punches.

My kids saw this coming, too, especially my youngest who checks in on Reddit daily. For all the fogeys out there, Reddit is a millennial information sharing hub where just about anything goes. Anything goes except maybe for Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

The Reddit trolls hated her and created meme after meme mocking her. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my favorites were the ones where trolls matched her in different outfits to corresponding fictional characters wearing anywhere near similar garb. Like there was one of Clinton in a red, longer jacket pantsuit waving in a split screen with Po from the Teletubbies waving bye-bye to the baby in the sun.

As is the case with so much millennial humor, it was hilarious — totally inappropriate and wrong, but hilarious. I think the degree of meanness reflected the animus felt by millennials regarding  how the DNC treated Sen. Bernie Sanders, but that’s just a theory.

Even less appropriate, whether espousing his value system or not, the Reddit trolls loved Trump. Loved and exalted him like a champion of their game. His memes celebrated the hilarity of his outrageousness. I don’t know that these memes were intended to propel his candidacy as they circled the internet or whether they were created as apolitical masterpieces of troll-dome.

Either way, I believe their impact on the American psyche as pertaining to voting is something to consider in future elections. As my youngest said after the election, America just elected an internet meme. And he’s not alone in thinking that. 

As easy as it was to see this presidency coming, who could have predicted the entirety of the chaos?

I think part of what’s going wrong is that Trump and Republicans are overplaying their interpretation of the election results. Trump’s sweep of the electoral college was not a mandate regarding his policies and views. It was simply a case of one of the least liked presidential candidates in recorded history beating the other least like candidate.

That’s not a mandate, that’s a cry for help. The Clinton v. Trump match-up will probably go down in history as Exhibit A evidencing the corrupt manifestations of our two party system. Trump’s presidency is the product of an internet age run amok and a corrupt two party system run so amok that it enabled a Trump presidency into existence.

One hopes history will also show changes for the better in election cycles that follow, including the inclusion of potentially viable third party candidates in presidential debates. Given the long strange Trump we’re on, I’m guessing Gary Johnson’s looking better and better to naysayers. 

I’m beginning to think Trump’s plan is to overwhelm us — other elected officials, the judiciary, citizens and the media — with his chaos. If he’s constantly unraveling the fabric of normalcy with sweeps of his pen, the checks and balances won’t be able to keep up. He’ll overload the system.

Already concerns about Trump’s numerous potential conflicts of interests are getting lost under debates about Russian involvement in the election (in serious need of investigation) which are getting lost under concerns about the fallout from executive order after executive order, until the entire world is in disarray over Trump’s edict about refugees and travel restrictions, among too many other things.

Already it’s all too much. I may have seen Trump’s presidency coming, but goodness knows what will happen now that it’s here.


I don’t envy Sen. Susan Collins. Somewhere in her mind, she must be concerned that an apparent internet troll has hijacked her party on the national level. I admire her courage in announcing she won’t be supporting Secretary of Education nominee Betsy Devos for all the reasons she identified in her announcement. 

Collins’ reasoning had to do with Devos’ lack of experience and conviction when it came to public schools and federal education law. These judgments are sound, but there’s more at stake.

Eventually Republicans are going to be forced to let President Trump know that they will not cater to his every whim. So far the Republican members of Congress willing to deliver this message are few and far between. That Collins is willing to do so this early in Trump’s administration shows she’s ready to remind her fellow Republicans what reasonable governance sounds like.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.