It’s not difficult to link the premiere of “Captain America: Civil War,” the new movie in which superheroes Captain America and Iron Man lead opposing factions — much like Batman vs. Superman a short while ago — with the electoral campaign in the United States. This is because the confrontation between the "two wings" of the United States — the cosmopolitan, internationalist and liberal, and the nationalist, ultraconservative and xenophobic — will from now on surely demonstrate unprecedented levels of animosity. Donald Trump, the candidate, represents a cultural civil war torn from the pages of comic books in a media landscape of which he himself is every inch a product.
But those who have long studied the interconnections and parallels between fiction and reality, literature and politics, can call upon other literary counterfactuals to examine the phenomenon that is Trump: this grotesque character who appears to have stepped out of fiction — and in part he has — but who also represents an important but hidden part of the American psyche.
Such a parallel occurs in “The Plot Against America,” the 2004 novel by Philip Roth, which suggests an alternate history, in which hero-aviator Charles Lindbergh, a media star in his own time, is the Republican Party’s candidate for the White House. Lindbergh, a Germanophile, defeats Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt in the presidential election of 1940. This result, which could indeed have happened, asks the question: What might have occurred if the U.S. had elected an anti-Semitic, Nazi-sympathizing president? Might an upstart politician have arrived today at the White House and with his program, his declarations and his alliances, unleashed a climate of persecution against a minority group? Back then, it would have been the Jewish and Japanese; today, the Muslims and Hispanics. Could a politician come to power today who, like Trump, has promised to deport 11 million residents according to their cultural or ethnic origin, or to prohibit entrance into the country of those who follow a particular religion?
Timothy Garton Ash in a recent, colorful tirade coined a name for the monster that has emerged from the guts of the so-called “Western world”; a horrendous amalgamation of Putin, Trump and Le Pen: Putrumpen.