In 'Trump Card,' Mike Daisey explains unlikely, undeniable pull of The Donald

Chicago Tribune

By Chris Jones

How did Donald Trump pull this off? How did Fred Trump's aggressive, narcissistic son — whose business failures are well-documented, whose unhinged nocturnal Twitter explosions imply a cocktail of instability and aggression and who has been caught on tape talking of his predilection for grabbing and forcing himself upon women — assume de facto leadership of the Republican Party and get within an inch of becoming the leader of the free world?

And even if most pundits expect Trump to lose big come November, how do we account for the ongoing likelihood that he nonetheless will win several states and command the allegiance of, say, a quarter of the American electorate? Even after all of this stuff has come out about him?

These are all excellent questions, likely to be the subject of much post-facto hand-wringing in the liberal media. But the sweaty monologist Mike Daisey, with rare and admirable prescience, is trying to answer these questions right now in his superb and remarkably complex new solo show, "The Trump Card," which landed, for one night only, at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago on Saturday. Daisey clearly wrote several new sections in the preceding days, that being a prerequisite of keeping up with the dizzying parade of new Trump revelations.

One is that Trump won out because Trump is a brilliant performer — as a rival practitioner of the gentle art, Daisey offers many plaudits to his fellow artiste. And, Daisey argues, the standard media watchdogs in the political realm are all very bad at reviewing or assessing performers. For that, you need your friendly theater critic, whose beat now is larger than many think and is hereby pressed into political service. So, yes, Daisey is right. Trump is a brilliant performer with particular skills when it comes to improvisation and in taking the emotional temperature of a room and filling its needs.

Furthermore, it is dazzling just how bad so many politicians are at these things at which the Trumpster excels.
Daisey digs into this further by pointing out how Trump was able to dispose of Jeb Bush, a clearly superior candidate when it came to anything to do with governance, merely by tarnishing him with a cutting performance critique — "low energy." Daisey further expands his case by arguing that the crowded field of the Republican primary actually had a great deal in common with reality TV shows of the "Survivor" ilk. Trump, who was experienced in those shows unlike everyone else, thus knew how to bide his time, hide behind Ben Carson for a while, not make his move too early, let others take down each other, and go for the jugular and play to the gallery when he did.

So is that it? No. Elsewhere in a monologue that traced Trump's various rises and falls and that lasted more than two hours and 15 minutes without an intermission, Daisey made several other cases. One is that Roy Cohn, the notoriously mercurial lawyer, was an early Trump coach and offered him an entire playbook for further exploitation. But the most interesting analysis is that liberals make possible Trump's rise all by themselves... 

Read the full review here