not in our stars, but in ourselves
This is it, gang. This is the kind of trenchant insight you’ve all come to expect from me. This is the keen eye for detail, the acute sensitivity to personality, the pitch-perfect ear for policy that will someday, I assume, make me famous. While showering this morning, glowing with the knowledge that Bernie Sanders won decisively in New Hampshire and wincing at the knowledge that Tronald Dump had done the same, I thought about each candidate. I thought about who they really are, and what they really stand for. I tweeted about it.
Since those ideas all richly deserve to be explored in great depth and at great length, here I am – free of the constraints of character limits. Onward!
Bernie Sanders: Clarice Starling
What does a cranky old Jewish man have in common with a plucky young F.B.I. trainee? Plenty! I’ve noticed that much of the narrative surrounding Sanders, up to this point, has centered on his supposed lack of experience, his alleged inability to ensure that any of his revolutionary policies are ever enacted. This is absurd. He has proven – throughout his long and successful career as a politician – that he knows how to accomplish what he wants to accomplish without compromising his ideals. As mayor of Burlington, he turned it from a slightly sleepy, slightly depressed little dot on the Vermont map into a thriving, vibrant, eminently livable city. He did this while sticking to a budget and while enjoying huge (sorry – yuge) popularity numbers. During his career in Washington, too, he’s voted with principle; he’s passed plenty of amendments while serving in the House; and he’s been doing all of this for a very long time. He knows what he’s doing – but he’s discounted because he’s a democratic socialist, he’s old, he’s Jewish, he’s been a relative unknown up to 2015. No one believes that he knows what he’s doing or that he’ll do what he says he wants to do.
Now consider Clarice. She’s smart, driven, brave, capable, and very good at her job (well, in The Silence of the Lambs, good at what will eventually be her job). Everywhere she goes – aside from her interviews with Lecter – she’s discredited and discounted. Part of it is sexism. Part of it is her refusal to make an active investigation about scoring points for herself. Part of it is the ego of everyone at the Academy and within the F.B.I. proper. Despite all this, because of all this, whatever the case may be, she cracks the case. She analyzes the evidence better than anyone else, and stops a monster before he can skin another hump. She’s the hero they all need, but they can’t see it until she’s saved their asses (and nearly lost her own). In conclusion: Bernie and Clarice have much more in common than you might think, and it’s no surprise that I see the best non-Hannibal character in the series as the closest match to Senator Sanders.
Hillary Clinton: Jack Crawford
You know that I’m not exactly Clinton’s biggest fan, but I can be objective, honest I can. It’s disingenuous to try to argue that she’s not the establishment candidate. She is. What’s more, she’s far more familiar with the inner workings of the federal government than anyone else in the race. She’s navigated these minefields before, and she’s built an impressive career for herself. I may disagree with her policies; I may question her sincerity; but I cannot fault her for her extraordinary career as a Washington mover-and-shaker. As First Lady, as Senator, as presidential candidate twice over, and as Secretary of State, she’s built a legacy for herself through sheer intelligence, hard work, and ambition. She may yet win the nomination, and she may yet be president. She wouldn’t be my first choice, but I can say this much: she’d get shit done. Considering how much she’s gotten done without being the actual most powerful person in the world, that much is undeniable.
Therefore, I think she’s most like Jack Crawford. He’s the chief of the Behavioral Sciences unit in the F.B.I.: well established, cunning, calculating, willing to send in the person he thinks best suited to solve the case or catch the killer or whatever he needs done. He’s smart. He’s capable. He is, perhaps, ever so slightly Machiavellian: sending in a trainee to question Hannibal “I’m In Your Head Whether You Like It Or Not” Lecter was maybe not the most ethical thing to do; sending in Will Graham, whom Hannibal had already dispatched with a linoleum knife, to try to use the good doctor’s insight to crack the Red Dragon case was a touch unscrupulous – especially because the end result was Will Graham being sliced to ribbons by the so-called Tooth Fairy and ending as a disfigured drunk down in Florida somewhere. Did it harm Crawford’s career? Nope! He’s been able to keep on keepin’ on, because he knows exactly how to play the game. Good for him. Good for Hillary.
Donald Trump: Mason Verger
Vulgar. Wealthy. Cruel. Obsessive. Keen to prove he’s the smartest and the most important, but incapable of stopping himself from expressing his essential horrible self (“spitters are quitters, and you don’t look like a quitter!” / “they’re rapists, they’re bringing crime…”). The only reason Trump doesn’t have his own pen of specially raised carnivorous boars is that he hasn’t thought of it. Give him time. They’ll be the most beautiful, the most luxurious flesh-eating boars you’ve ever seen.
While I have nothing but distaste for Trump, please note that I am comparing him specifically to Hannibal the TV show’s incarnation of Mason Verger: a sadist and a brute, but not – as he is in the film and the book – a pederast. That’s just about the only nice thing to say about Tronald Dump: he’s probably not a child abuser. (He is just as creepily fixated on his daughter as Mason is on his sister Margot, however.) Beyond that, however: the less said about either, the better.
Marco Rubio: Frederick Chilton
“Wood burns because it has the proper stuff in it; and a man becomes famous because he has the proper stuff in him.” So said Goethe, and so said Hannibal to poor Dr. Chilton. After Robo Rubio was hilariously and devastatingly owned in the last debate, the country seemed to remember that he was that very same rube (-io) who’d offered a sweaty, panicky, thirsty response to Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013. New Hampshire voters stayed away in droves, and now he seems far less likely to be the compromise between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment that the media seemed to think he would be. There’s a political ad – thankfully, one that we New Hampshire neighbors won’t have to see again ever again, I hope – that refers to Rubio’s big endorsement, Rick Santorum, and his inability to name any of Rubio’s accomplishments. I mean, he did manage to walk onstage when he was called, so there’s that – but that’s about it.
Chilton is about as accomplished. He’s known how to game the system, he’s achieved success, but he’s besieged both by delusions of grandeur and by pangs of inadequacy. He’s smug enough to think that he can compete with the likes of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter – just as Rubio is smug enough to think he deserves to be president – but he meets a pretty pathetic end when he fails to see where others’ machinations will lead him. He’s not clever enough to adapt or to consider, for a moment, that someone else might have the upper hand; and so, he goes off on vacation to a tropical country where Hannibal can easily track him down – or keeps repeating the same 100 words or so that he’s managed to memorize, hoping beyond hope to hypnotize the masses into thinking it makes him seem presidential.
Jeb! Bush: Francis Dolarhyde
You’ll notice that I say the beleaguered Bush (Bushleague-ered?) is the Dolarhyde of this outfit – not the Red Dragon. Dolarhyde and the Dragon are the same person, obviously, but I seek to compare Jeb! specifically to poor, miserable Francis. Poor, miserable Francis, whose family didn’t want him. Poor, miserable Francis, who used to wet the bed for fright and then suffer the holy terror of his grandmother threatening to castrate him (no, really, it’s in the book). Poor, miserable Francis, who’s so desperately incapable of sustained human interaction that he hardly understands what’s happening when his co-worker starts chatting with him in a friendly vein. Poor, miserable Francis, who scores a relatively normal and attractive girlfriend who’s way out of his league for about a million reasons. Poor, miserable Francis, who struggles mightily against the violent voice screaming at him from within. Considering how badly Bush has done in this campaign – all that “please clap” and those interviews with his goddamn mother telling the bullies to leave her Jebby alone – it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Dolarhyde, too.
Oh, except for a few things. Dolarhyde selects families at random, kills the family pet a few nights before the full moon, then ambushes said family when the moon is full and they’re asleep: gruesomely slicing and shooting and disfiguring, smashing every mirror and placing the shards over Daddy’s and Mommy’s and the children’s eyes, posing them all to “watch” him while he rapes Mommy’s corpse. Dolarhyde is a tragic figure, ultimately, but he’s also a ruthless serial killer. Jeb!, for his part, exploited a family’s tragedy for political gain. Additionally, he’s the brother of the man who did the most to fuck up this country, and he’s (had no choice but to, maybe) stuck to the party line that his idiot brother “kept America safe.” These sins aren’t as grave as slaughtering an entire family in cold blood, but, well, they’re not great.
Ted Cruz: Buffalo Bill
Cruz is the inverse of Bush: where Bush seems like a sad, broken man who probably would have preferred to be a dentist (he could have called his practice Tooth Fairy Dental) hounded by furious ambition and familial pride, Cruz is a straight-up monster whose “pathology is a thousand times more savage,” as Lecter put it, than that of the average politician. As Jeb Lund put it, “Ted Cruz isn’t crazy – he’s much worse.”
Or, as Benjamin Raspail described his ex-lover to his then-therapist, Dr. Lecter: “He’s not anything, really, just a sort of total lack that he wants to fill, and so angry. You always felt the room was a little emptier when he came in. I mean he killed his grandparents when he was twelve, you’d think a person that volatile would have some presence, wouldn’t you?” You would. You would also think that a man running for president could manage a better-tailored human suit – but alas.
Ben Carson: “Multiple” Miggs
Good old Multiple Miggs. You remember him: when Starling tiptoes down the hall of criminally insane inmates to her first interview with Lecter, he tells her that he can smell her cunt. On her way back, he throws a handful of semen at her. He’s nuts and he’s simple. Lecter manipulates him into swallowing his own tongue.
Miggs would probably also have fucked up something like walking onto a stage, even if he weren’t crazy.
Chris Christie: Freddy Lounds
I was prescient when I made these assignments this morning: this afternoon, Christie announced that he’s suspending his campaign, after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. RIP, Christie. Eternally glued to the flaming wheelchair that is New Jersey – what a pity.
Oh, but don’t feel too bad for him. Christie, like Lounds, is an aggressive vulgarian. Lounds is the sleazy Tattler reporter who tried legitimate journalism, found that it would never grant him the power he wanted, and switched to tabloids. Working in tabloids, he finds that he’s not afforded the respect he thinks he deserves. Christie was a lawyer, I guess, and then he successfully won the race for governor. Not good enough! It doesn’t seem as though he’s ever had a specific set of policy goals for the United States; he just wanted to be president. That’s true of most of these fools, though, so I can’t hold it against him particularly. He was simply more direct about it – like Lounds.
John Kasich: Garrett Jacob Hobbs
Just a simple Midwestern guy who moonlights as the Minnesota Shrike and/or busts unions. He also tried to get Fargo banned from his local Blockbuster. Clearly, he’s an ideas guy.
Not really in it for the long haul, although he doesn’t know that yet.
Carly Fiorina: the census taker, idk