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Did satire stop Trump from winning reelection?

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TPR Brian Kirckpatrick

Even before Donald J. Trump descended the Trump Tower escalator to declare he was running for president, the TV star of Celebrity Apprentice was frequently the butt of jokes.

Even President Barack Obama famously roasted Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner for his birther conspiracy.

According to Republican operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone, the public humiliation of that night is what finally convinced him to run for President. However, Trump denies that.

Nevertheless, Trump did run for the Republican nomination for President and won it and then beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.

All the late-night jokes, internet memes and zany impressions of Trump didn’t stop his rise to the White House. And when he took the oath of office, gained real power over the American people, and lived under the constant scrutiny of the press, the jokes became even more prominent and with more bite.

This may have been cathartic for much of the nation living in a particularly dystopian moment and in shock about Trump and his policies but did the satire of Trump actually penalize him?

It was understood that Trump dreads humiliation and shame and that is why he often attempts to humiliate and shame other people. But did the nightly monologues about Trump’s failings have any real political consequence?

The new book Trump Was a Joke explains why satire is an exceptional foil for absurd political times and why it did a particularly good job of making sense of Trump.

Covering a range of comedic interventions, Trump Was a Joke analyzes why political satire is surprisingly effective at keeping us sane when politics is making us crazy. Its goal is to highlight the unique power of political satire to encourage critical thinking, foster civic action, and further rational debate in moments of political hubris and hysteria.

How effective is political satire as a form of non-violent political protest?

Did political satire during the Trump years take on additional weight since there were elements of Trump that couldn’t be discussed in traditional journalism?

Did a growing number of Americans lose faith in the media to tell them the truth so they turned to later night comics?

What role did satire play in preventing Trump from being reelected?


Sophia McClennen is the author of Trump Was a Joke - How Satire Made Sense of a President Who Didn’t. She is a professor of international affairs and comparative literature and the founding director of Penn State's Center for Global Studies

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*This interview will be recorded on Wednesday March 29.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi