Welcome to our annual frightfest! Each year we crank up the special effects soundtrack [Cue: rattling chains, unholy moaning, shrieking harpies in the night, and maniacal organ music in a very minor key....] and present our very own scary stories for both sides of the political aisle. This year's presidential campaign is frightening enough, no matter where you sit on the political spectrum, so we had to get rather outlandish for one of these stories. The other one is bone-chilling for a very different reason: because it's so uncomfortably close to actual fears some voters are now having, to some degree or another. Both should be equally spine-tingling, for their respective audiences, though.
A few notes are in order, before we begin this year's horrorshow. First, to all our student readers, the deadline for entering the Museum Of Political Corruption essay contest (answering the question: "What is political corruption and why should we care?") is fast approaching. First prize (I ever-so-humbly mention) includes getting your essay published in this column, so while you're stuffing your face with candy on Sunday, take some time to put your thoughts down and be sure to mail your entry in by Monday's deadline!
The Jack O'Lanterns were kind of hard to carve this year, so please no comments on how lame they came out. Hey, you try to carve Trump's hair or an F.B.I. badge into a pumpkin and see how you do! Heh. Anyway, for the curious, yes, they are real old-school carved Jack O'Lanterns, and not some computer-created art (if they were, they'd doubtlessly look a lot better, right?).
We're going to present the Republican nightmare first this year, for no particular reason (it's far longer than the Democratic one, I should mention), and the more eagle-eyed among you might notice a certain similarity to two Simpsons Hallowe'en stories, to say nothing of Mulder and Scully's appearance (hey, they're back together again, right?). To such criticism we can only reply with Mark Twain's immortal observation: "Immature humorists borrow. Mature humorists steal." Or, if that's too erudite for you, another cartoon's insight might help: South Park's revelation that "The Simpsons have done everything already!" So there.
One final note, our regular "Friday Talking Points" columns will resume next week, same bat time, same bat channel.
Speaking of bats, let's just get on with the spooky Hallowe'en show. Sit back -- on whichever side of the aisle you like -- and be prepared to be scared right down to your rattling bones!
Republican Nightmare -- Hair Today, Goon Tomorrow
President Donald Trump.
[Cue: Shrieking liberals, gibbering GOP bigwigs, and a flood of desperate and miserable emigrants fleeing towards the Canadian border, with hordes of bats flying over their heads....]
Oh, wait, we seem to have gotten things mixed up. That's next year's horrorshow, not this year's! And it really should be a Democratic nightmare anyway, although it'll probably have plenty of bipartisan appeal. In any case, we apologize for the error. Let's just start over, shall we?
Republican Nightmare -- Hair Today, Goon Tomorrow
The backlash over the CNBC debate grows as the Republican candidates all decide to just completely ignore the Republican National Committee altogether and go their separate way on which debates they'll participate in. The R.N.C. caves immediately, and divorces itself completely from the debate process.
But while all the other candidates believe they can work out some sort of arrangement with Rush Limbaugh to host all the remaining debates, Donald Trump -- behind all their backs -- works out a sweet deal with (of all networks) NBC. He announces that the only debates he'll be participating in will be featured as a new reality show, The Presidential Apprentice. The rules for these "debates" will be obliterated and instead The Donald himself will take the boardroom chair and pass judgment on everyone else. All other candidates will be required to perform demeaning acts for the public's amusement (sample: the candidates have to write, produce, direct, film, and edit their own campaign commercial without any input or advice from paid campaign consultants), while Trump denigrates their efforts. At the end of each show, one candidate will hear Trump's classic "You're fired!" and won't be allowed on any of the subsequent shows. At the end of the season, the winner is declared to be the one person whom Trump will deign to run against.
Meanwhile, in an obscure office deep within the bowels of the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, F.B.I. agent Fox Mulder seems obsessed with watching footage of Trump over and over again. Agent Dana Scully seems worried, and asks him why he's so obsessed. "That thing on his head... I know I've seen one of those before somewhere..." Fox mumbles to Scully. "Look at this one clip -- you can actually see the damn thing move on its own!" Scully bends down and disdainfully points out that the clip in question is of Trump exiting his helicopter, so the wind would be a more likely culprit.
Out on the campaign trail, the other Republicans begin by scoffing at Trump's idea, but quickly realize how much the Republican base loves it. Trump's poll numbers shoot up ten points, and (beginning with the candidates on the edge of oblivion anyway) the Republicans start reluctantly announcing they'll agree to the new show's rules, as laid down by Trump. More and more candidates jump on board, until the only holdouts are John Kasich and Jeb Bush. Bush's campaign comes to a disastrous end when Jeb, in the middle of a PBS interview, slumps to the floor and adopts a catatonic fetal crouch, rolling gently back and forth while mumbling: "This can't be happening. Mommy said I was going to win." -- over and over again. Kasich, realizing which way the wind is blowing, hastily drops his objections and joins the cast of The Presidential Apprentice.
All throughout the campaign, and all throughout the show's wildly popular run, Fox Mulder continues to chase the truth -- which, as we all know, is out there. Deep in the borderlands between Mexico and Arizona, he finally realizes what he's up against. Scully gets a frenzied call from Mulder, where he screams: "I should have known it all along -- it's the dreaded toupeecabra!" Mulder's phone immediately goes dead.
The Presidential Apprentice becomes the breakout television hit of the season. The epic "mud-wrestling" episode gets NBC's highest ratings ever (not counting Super Bowls). State after state begins voting overwhelmingly for Trump in their primaries, as all other candidates fade. In the final episode, Trump reveals what everybody had guessed all along, that Ben Carson would be the only candidate allowed to run against him. Carson, however, is no match for Trump's popularity. Trump easily walks away with the nomination and the Republican National Convention is "totally classy... and huge," with gold-colored wallpaper in every room.
Mulder finally stumbles into Scully's house, late at night and overly-disheveled. "Where have you been?" Scully yells at him, "We've been searching for you for months!" Mulder collapses through sheer exhaustion, and after 18 hours of sleep, a shower, and a big cup of coffee, sits down to tell his tale. "It's a vampiric entity -- almost certainly alien in origin -- which sucks all cognitive ability out of a person's brain, leaving only what Freud called the id." Scully, of course, is skeptical.
"Here, take a look at these old photos of Trump," Mulder says, opening a laptop. "These earlier ones, his hair looks.... well, like hair. But at some point, you can see that not only has his hairstyle radically changed, but his skin appears a downright unworldly color."
"That's just a fake tan, everybody knows that," Scully protests.
"No, it isn't. It's a direct result of this creature sending its roots directly into Trump's brain. A chemical reaction takes place which radically changes the levels of beta carotene in his blood. That's why he looks like a pumpkin, all of a sudden." Scully considers the idea, and shrugs. "OK, maybe that's possible."
"I'm telling you, Scully, the man who could be the next president of the United States is actually controlled by an alien overlord. What everyone thinks is his hair is actually the entity in charge of what Trump says and does. The history and myths of this alien influence on human history are long and overwhelming. It is called by many names in many cultures, but the Franco-Mexicans out on the border have the best name for it: the toupeecabra. The hairy, brain-sucking monster stories we all heard as kids were actually true! Don't believe me? Watch this one key piece of footage -- footage that three men died to get to me, out in the desert."
The footage, when slowed down, clearly shows that thing on Trump's head waking up. Glowing red eyes appear deep within the folds of "hair" and blink malevolently several times. At one point the entire thing looks like it's about to eat Trump's head whole.
"My God," Scully responds, shocked.
"Yeah, and unfortunately the Department of Homeland Security is also infiltrated by these beings. I've been on the run for months, and I've got to go now. The next time you see me will be to stop this travesty from happening."
"What are you going to do?" Scully asks, alarmed. "Better if you don't know, Dana," Mulder says, slipping out the doggie-door into the night.
Months pass, and much to Scully's (and a lot of folks') dismay, Trump crushes Hillary Clinton in the general election. After Clinton refused to perform on The Presidential Apprentice -- General Election!, Trump's new idea for a summer show, he instead airs it with Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and a long list of Democratic D-listers such as Harold Ford and (live via prison hookup) Rod Blagojevich. The ratings aren't as good as the Republican show, but it still guarantees Trump a landslide victory.
Scully, watching Trump being inaugurated on television, is horrified to see Mulder slowly make his way towards the podium, in full F.B.I. gear, indistinguishable from the many other federal agents on the security detail. Right when Trump gets to the line in his speech: "As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling," Mulder lifts his gun and chaos immediately ensues. The camera is knocked out of alignment and points at the ground. Shots ring out.
Fade to black. Roll The X-Files credits, to the familiar but creepy "like that Hallowe'en movie soundtrack" music (or, for our British readers, "like the classic Doctor Who theme music..."). Tune in next year to find out what happened!
Democratic Nightmare -- Too Close For Comfort?
Hillary Clinton continues to dominate the polling, even while Bernie Sanders continues to dominate the campaign trail. Team Clinton has learned from her past mistakes, and this time around her campaign does not ignore caucus states (and, to be honest, every state after Super Tuesday). Her ground game is superb, and she wraps up the nomination fairly easily. Sanders only winds up winning New Hampshire, his home state of Vermont, and Oregon. Hillary triumphantly becomes the Democratic nominee next summer, at the convention.
However, the October Surprise this election cycle is a death-blow to her chances. The F.B.I. (the non-X-Files part of the agency, of course) appears at Hillary's door with an arrest warrant. Hillary is taken into custody and charged with not only having classified information on an unsecured server, but also running several "Nigerian prince" scams, hosting the website "Pantsuit Porn" (with truly and legally obscene matter a-plenty), and aiding and abetting the North Korean hack of Sony Pictures.
Immediately, the only image the voters see of Hillary Clinton is her mugshot. The media quickly track down all the victims of the Nigerian prince scam, several of whom are old ladies who lost their entire retirement funds. Interviews with these victims are soon put on seven-second delays, because of the amount of vicious profanity directed at Clinton. Hollywood, because of the Sony link, turns anti-Clinton in a heartbeat.
With less than a month to go before the election, the Democrats are stymied by state election laws. Clinton cannot even drop out, at this point, because the ballots have been printed and are already going out to early voters. Bernie Sanders begs the Democratic Party to put him on the ballot instead, but there's nothing that can be legally done because the election is so close.
Donald Trump wins the election in the biggest landslide since George Washington. Canada opens its borders to Democratic refugees, who pour in by the millions. Universities across the land become ghost towns. At some point, so many people have left that President Trump decides to construct a wall on our northern border, just to keep people in.
Have a happy Hallowe'en everyone!
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