On May 13 the American news media reported that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had recruited U.S. Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota—a major oil drilling state—to help him draft his energy policy. Cramer has said he does not believe in human-caused climate change and that he therefore opposes efforts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Perhaps partly in response to Trump’s and Cramer’s climate views, surveys now suggest that millions of Americans doubt Donald Trump’s existence. On its face, this belief appears to fly in the face of abundant evidence—including Trump’s image on television and in newspapers, accounts and recordings of his speeches, and large buildings with his name emblazoned on them. Nevertheless, polls show the “Trump doesn’t exist” crowd is growing in numbers and in confidence.
Some Trump deniers appear to have adopted their views for strategic reasons. Mary Hartford of Nashville, Tennessee argues that, “If evidence of climate change can be denied, so can evidence of Trump’s existence. I believe this is a matter of personal choice. I’ve heard that several actual scientists take this view, so it’s fair to say there is no scientific consensus that Trump is a real entity. Until the matter is settled to my satisfaction, the question should be left open.” Hartford insists, “We choose our own reality. Trump has chosen to inhabit a reality in which climate change does not exist. We choose a reality in which Trump does not exist. It’s just as valid.”
Trump has chosen to inhabit a reality in which climate change does not exist. We choose a reality in which Trump does not exist. It’s just as valid.
Others are more genuinely skeptical of Donald Trump’s reality and say that the reputed evidence of his existence is due to a giant conspiracy. Asked why such evidence doesn’t convince him, Ima D. Nyer, a spokesman for the organization #ThereIsNoDonald told this reporter, “All of that material can be and has been doctored. Research has shown that none of those buildings with Trump’s name on them is actually owned by a real person named Donald Trump. And the birth certificate for Trump that’s on record is obviously forged. What else are we to conclude but that it’s all an elaborate hoax? Whether there ever was a person corresponding to the mythical Donald is an open question, but we’re convinced that the candidate going by that name is nothing but a lot of video images of an actor photoshopped over a series of backdrops including rallies, debates, and interviews.”
There may eventually be practical fallout from the “Is Trump Real?” debate. Doubters insist that school children should be taught that Trump’s existence is “controversial,” and that inclusion of the candidate’s name on ballots across the country should be subject to legal challenges.
When asked why anyone would go to the trouble to create such an elaborate fraud, Nyer of #ThereIsNoDonald said, “The punditocracy just loves this illusory figure it has created. Their fictitious Trump has sold more newspapers and has generated more advertising revenue than any other person or event in the past decade. Inventing Donald Trump was the smartest idea they ever had.”
Even some religious groups doubt Trump’s existence. Carl McCarthy of the Southwest Synod of the Evangelical Brotherhood of Seekers says that a kind and loving God would never send someone like Donald Trump into the world to sow so much division and enmity. “Given the choice,” says McCarthy, “I’d prefer to believe that Trump is a figment of humanity’s collective imagination.”
Asked to speculate which (climate change or Trump), if real, would do the greater amount of harm to the Earth and its people, McCarthy chose not to answer the question directly. Instead he replied, “Believing that climate change exists and that Donald Trump also exists is just too much for my fragile psyche. The implications are just too depressing for words. One of them had to go, and I chose the one for which the evidence is flimsier—Trump, obviously.”