I happened to see Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane the other night and immediately noticed the parallels between the quintessential American saga about a giant who brings ruin to all and the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump—from the inherited wealth and the creation of an empire to the desire to be seen as the defender of “the workingman” and the retreat to an opulent Florida palace.
Why, I asked myself, had no one else made the connection to Citizen Trump?
Well, as it turns out, they have. Chris Matthews, in a clear attempt to grab some ratings, created a four-part series titled Citizen Trump back in December (here’s the link to part 4).
The connection has also been made by the Daily Beast:
even though a scandal proves Kane’s immediate undoing, the film makes clear that his political aspirations were ill fated from the start. After the returns come in, Kane receives a visit from Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten), his old friend and surrogate conscience. In spite (or perhaps because of) being plastered, Leland cuts to the heart of Kane’s misplaced ambition:
“You talk about the people as though you owned them … As long as I can remember, you’ve talked about giving the people their rights, as if you could make them a present of liberty… When your precious underprivileged really get together… oh, boy. That’s going to add up to something bigger than your privilege, then I don’t know what you’ll do. Sail away to a desert island, probably, and lord it over the monkeys.”
Leland recognizes the absurdity of a man who’s never had to work a day in his life appointing himself the defender of “the workingman.” With all the power at his command, Kane has crafted a compelling narrative, in which the people are victims and he’s their savior. But he can’t save them, because they’re not his to save. Sooner or later, Leland predicts, they’ll figure out they don’t need him. And then they’ll turn on him.
And, I discovered, Citizen Kane is Trump’s favorite movie.
No points for me, then, for originality. But the connection, along with the insights it reveals, stands.