Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Adolf Drumpf

So the takeaway from John Oliver's less-than-48-hours old yet already celebrated takedown of Donald Trump is his proposal to revert Trump to his ancestral surname of Drumpf, on the grounds that while "Trump" is a great name for a magnate, you couldn't take seriously one named Drumpf.

This may seem a strange topic to invoke Godwin's Law on, but the campaign to rebrand Trump as Drumpf reminds me of the movement to mock Adolf Hitler by claiming that his surname was really Schicklgruber. Same reasoning: "Heil Hitler!" - whatever else it invokes - sounds really snappy, but who could shout "Heil Schicklgruber"?

At least Oliver makes no claim that Trump's name is "really" Drumpf. He was born Trump; the name was anglicized long before he was born; and the equivalent is true of Hitler. (Hitler's father was born the illegitimate son of a woman named Schicklgruber, and was adopted as a child by his stepfather, a man named Hiedler who might also have been his biological father, though nobody knows for sure; and later, still long before Adolf was born, he legally took on the variant spelling Hitler.) But the "Schicklgruber" campaign was murkier on whether it was claiming that was Hitler's "real" name, and the same may become true here if it becomes a meme.

But I hope we can distinguish between properly mocking Trump and claiming that he's somehow cheating by going under a pseudonym. Similar cases based on origin and ancestry could be made that John Major's surname was "really" Ball and that Tony Blair's was "really" Parsons or possibly Lynton, but, beyond publicizing these interesting facts about their backgrounds, nobody ever attempted the rebranding, because those names aren't funny. (Though I dunno - "Ball" - but the problem was that John Major's public image was that of a man who didn't have any balls.) Gerald Ford was actually born with the surname King, until in childhood he was adopted by his stepfather, but beyond providing a great trivia question ("What President was born a King?"), nobody attempted to fix that on him either - again, it wouldn't be comical.

However, I agree with the Rude Pundit: none of Oliver's takedown, substantive or mockery, will make any difference. Trump will win big tonight and use that fact to wash this attack off his back like a duck, assuming anybody even asks him about it.

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