IF A MAN Booker award-winning novel was found to have lifted numerous passages from the book that had won the previous year, imagine the frenzy in the world of literature. Or if the Oscar for Best Film was found to have dialogues from the movie that won the year before. Usually such stealing does not happen because of two reasons—integrity and intelligence. Most people know that to plagiarise is unethical, but to do it in a manner that you are 110 per cent certain of getting caught is taking stupidity to another level. Writers are, however, held to a higher standard than potential first ladies of the United States. Melania Trump has just been caught with her speech at the Republican Convention having borrowed heavily from Michelle Obama’s address at the Democratic Convention in 2008, but she will remain unaffected.
The speech was part of the formal crowning of her husband Donald Trump as his party’s nominee for the US presidential election, and it is a befitting symbol of the standards that await the world should he become president. There is a category of politicians whose reputation hinges on their character and so fall nastily when there is a flaw found in them. But there is also another breed of politicians, who carefully project themselves as the lowest common denominator, and so no matter what they say or do, they are impervious to disgrace because nothing really was expected of them in the first place.
A year ago, a journalist friend from San Francisco told me that it was their tragedy that they again had to choose between a Bush and a Clinton in this election. At the time, Jeb Bush had all the money and establishment behind him and Trump was a joke, a side show for entertainment. For half of America, it is inexplicable now that Trump could have become the nominee by corrupting Republican ethos into a racist, sexist, scary shadow of itself, by appealing to the worst in people; helping them identify imaginary enemies—Mexicans, Muslims—as answers to insecurities.
Even now, many still think that someone like Trump can’t become US president. That it is easy to hijack a party but a country is made up of a more sensible majority. That might again be delusional, because the fundamental strength of those who have no faith in anything except themselves is to adapt. You can bet that Trump in the coming campaign will be a nicer toned-down version appealing to voters in the middle and if a sufficiently large skeleton pops out of the Clinton cupboard, then he will be in the White House.
A Trump presidency will be a self- serving one, but that is something that Americans will have to live with. For Indians, what it promises is relentless entertainment, of the kind you saw with the plagiarised speech. It will be the moment that reality television takes over the headquarters of the world.