There is no escape from the grotesque waking nightmare that is the 2016 elections. Not even sleep offers refuge.
Some friends of mine have been plagued by dreams of Donald Trump. As the journalistic cliché goes, they . . . are not . . . alone. Guardian columnist George Monbiot recently “dreamt that Hillary Clinton was trying to induce her pet chimpanzee to kill me. What was that about?”
It was about the shackles of capitalism, obviously. The chimpanzee symbolizes the untamed human spirit that neoliberal oligarchs, represented by Clinton, have subjugated. Befriend the ape. Set it free.
They Had a Dream
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich told Facebook pals he “had a terrible dream” about President Trump, claiming he “woke up relieved it hadn’t happened, and more resolute than ever in making sure it doesn’t.” Dreams are so commonplace as rhetorical devices in politics, one must consider the source and question the faithfulness and accuracy of the half-remembered facts. Details lend credibility. I have no doubt Elizabeth Olsen—the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley—did have a “really cool” dream about protesters assailing Trump (“not physically, but verbally”) during a convention speech. “Maybe I prophesied,” Olsen said. Sure, why not?
“America being a godly nation, prophetic political dreams abound.”
America being a godly nation, prophetic political dreams abound. Ben Carson said a friend’s dream led him to endorse Trump after withdrawing from the Republican primary race. I’ll buy that. But I don’t believe the Alex Jones fan who shared his dream of “a giant beautiful wall that employed lots of people to build and guard it, known as the eighth wonder of the world.” This sounds like a speechwriting audition.
I am not sure what to make of the self-proclaimed prophet and fundie blogger Lana Vawser, whose election dream has become a campaign flyer:
I was lifted . . . and I saw the nation as if I was looking at a map. Written across the United States of America was the word “TRUMP” in big letters. . . Suddenly the letters began to rearrange and the word went from “TRUMP” to “TRIUMPH”.
I then heard the Lord speak loudly in my dream “TRUMP SHALL LEAD THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA INTO TRIUMPH!!!”
But what does it mean?
The most interesting dreams are reported without a conscious agenda in a groggy-eyed state of confusion. Social media makes it possible to peer into the dreamworld without formally polling psychiatrists. I searched Twitter and Facebook for the words “had,” “dream” and the names of each major party presidential candidate. (Sorry, Greens, Jill Stein has not penetrated the public mind.) I read thousands of dreams about candidates reported over several months. A selection follows. [Note: I have fixed people’s spelling, etc.]
Some motifs were common. For instance, road trips. Sanders and Clinton moonlight in peoples’ dreams as Uber drivers. Trump often intrudes as a loud, annoying passenger, taking up all the leg room.
Drugs were plentiful. Potsmokers favored Sanders, surprise surprise. Clinton was less 420-friendly. “I was in jail and had weed in my pocket I was trying to hide, and Hillary Clinton was my prison guard,” one young woman recalled. Trump favored blow. A young man envisioned that “Trump went to prison on his first day for selling cocaine in the White House” whereupon “El Chapo killed his ass.”
I had a dream last night that I was subtly but very desperately flirting with Bernie Sanders and at one point I called him dad I h8 myself
— dreemurr (@e_emilyrose) April 13, 2016
Selfies were a fixture. Haircuts (and toupees), too. And, following standard-issue dream logic, the candidates manifested as more familiar authority figures—parents, teachers and coaches.
Students found Sanders stern and crotchety. “He flunked me,” one complained. Another recalled, “I was arguing with him over a grade and he said, ‘If I give you an A will you leave?’” It seems Sanders challenges our low self-expectations as well as our sense of political possibility.
Mother-teacher Clinton, meanwhile, made corruption and nepotism feel personal. “Clinton was the proctor for my theory exam and she took a bribe from a student and I cursed her out.” Another young person dreamed “Clinton was my mom and that she named me Communications Director.” Isn’t that special?
Predictably, Trump taught gym and Spanish—no comment on his fluency. Harrowingly, dreamers often discovered he had seduced their own mothers. “Trump was my stepdad and he was trying to get my vote by buying me tickets to EdgeFest” (an outdoor music festival), one dreamer reported.
Candidate sex dreams recur like herpes.
“I kissed Bernie Sanders and sat on his lap like he was Santa,” one woman wrote. Said another, disgusted: “I was subtly but very desperately flirting with Bernie Sanders and at one point I called him dad.”
“Candidate sex dreams recur like herpes.”
Yet there is another, more dreaded incubus. “Trump was (ineptly) trying [to] flirt with me. ‘Small fingers and soft lips,’ he boasted,” one woman recalled, adding, “so grossed out.” Others supplied the girlfriend experience: “We went for ice cream and rock climbing and his wife told me to get away while I had the chance.” Those who climbed Trump’s mini-tower were often . . . pleased. “He is a very gentle lover,” one claimed. Another: “It was excellent. I AM SO CONFUSED. Why is my best dream lay an angry orange oompa loompa?!” I suggest cold showers.
I only found one wet dream involving Hillary Clinton and it might’ve been a joke. I suspect people are having such dreams, without admitting it. Clinton does, however, feature as a dream-gynecologist. One patient recalled that “Bill was in the room for the pap test. They were divorced. Nice people.”
All candidates engaged in violence. One man was stopped by “a semi-truck with a Bernie Sanders logo . . . The passenger said ‘bye-bye’ and sliced my throat.” When will he rein in his supporters? Another dreamer saw Clinton “swingin’ at him with a cast-iron pan ’cause he was brown.” Trump’s violent assaults are by turns sexual, sadistic, and senseless. A typical dream: “Trump killed my fucking cousin.” Or, “tried to kill me by pushing me over the bow of a ship.” Or, “tried to murder me in a haunted elevator.” Clearly, this last nightmare represents a sense of helplessness over world events.
i had a dream hillary clinton was my gyno and bill was in the room for the pap test. they were divorced. nice people. 10/10 would recommend
— Marissa Miller (@Marissa__Miller) May 7, 2016
As with violence, so it is with abduction: all the candidates are guilty—but Trump is the worst. When not forcibly impregnating his female captives, dream-Trump is imprisoning children like some wicked fairy-tale aristo. To wit: “My sister and I got locked in the Trump mansion while trying to rescue a little boy that he kidnapped.” Never go in the creepy mansion! A young writer dreamed he was “liberating vaults of abducted brains from Trump Tower and then base-jumping to safety.” Stolen brains would explain recent poll results.
Nearly as often as the candidates reveal their inner barbarism, they show up to hang out and deliver warm fuzzies.
One “#ImWithHer” dreamer reported, typically, “we had matching jackets and became friends.”
The dream-candidate from Vermont comes off as a mellow Beatnik granduncle, visiting art museums and bowling alleys. “I went on a coffee date with Bernie Sanders and he got hot chocolate so he wouldn’t be up late,” one dreamer said. He always picks up the check, too.
But even such pleasant, friendly visitations can be disturbing, especially for those whose unconscious selves discover that Trump is “actually a really smart, thoughtful guy.” This usually occurs after some time drinking beer and playing video games or golf. “He visited my house and he was surprised to see that ‘Mozlums’ aren’t that bad,” one shocked woman recalled. A man said, “Trump showed up to a party I was at and brought me nachos and I was like ‘OK we cool.’” Variations of this dream feature chalupas and taco bowls.
Less frequently, multiple candidates appear together. One dreamer found himself “eating Mexican food with Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders read us a Robert Frost poem.” Another recalled, “Hillary Clinton was trying to eat me and then Bernie Sanders saved me with a golf club.”
Some dreams foresee various general election scenarios, including a tie “eventually leading to civil war,” according to one. Is this so implausible?
The Oedipal is the Political
Common themes emerge, too, in the more idiosyncratic candidate dreams.
For example, Clinton is as ostracized in the dream world as she is successful in real life. She appears with striking regularity as both the target and perpetrator of abuse.
Dreamers find themselves straining to appease her. “I told her I’d vote for her but I was lying,” for instance. Or: “Joe Biden introduced me to Hillary Clinton and was like ‘I know you don’t like her, but it’s still good to meet her.’” Note the passive-aggressive conclusion to this dreamer’s dysfunctional roommate situation with the candidate: “She told me it ‘wasn’t going to work out’ because I kept telling her how stupid she was.” Some feel guilty. “I made Hillary Clinton cry and I said ‘it’s okay you’re a nice person, just an incredibly shit politician,” one wrote. Another “apologized for my friends’ mean tweets about her” over a conciliatory crossword puzzle.
Dream-Clinton also can be unsparing in her disapproval. A dream-employee of the newly inaugurated first woman president “asked her if she would abolish super-delegates and she yelled at me.” It’s worse for young women. To one, Clinton said “being feminine was a sin, and I was so pissed off I nearly decked her.” To another, Clinton “insulted my interior decorating and I cried.” Elsewhere, with galling chutzpah, Clinton “broke into my house and called me an uneducated millennial.” Which nicely captures the social media experience for first-time voters.
“Dream-Clinton can be unsparing in her disapproval.”
Many dreamers suspect Clinton harbors “extraterrestrial” origins or mind-control powers. One spotted Clinton “laughing evilly then us[ing] her very long tongue to touch something on her phone screen.” Another accused her of “starting an Illuminati militia in the Arctic Circle.”
I expected more suckling, but found Clinton’s nurturing side reserved for endangered species. She “showed up at my middle school with a baby bison,” one dreamer wrote. Another found Clinton in Thailand, where she “let me hold her baby elephant.” Is this Clinton deified as Earth Mother, or demoted to zookeeper?
With Sanders, it’s different. He shows up as the sort of everyday hero who might be featured on Good Morning America, always just in time.
“I lost my passport and Bernie Sanders found it!” one dreamer gushed. “This girl stole my ring but then Senator Sanders showed up,” a young woman said. “He made her give it back.” The septuagenarian socialist is also a showboat. In one dream, he “successfully landed three consecutive back flips down a flight of stairs.” Young Bernie took another dreamer “in a stunt plane over some pumpkin fields.” Swoon!
Yet dream-Sanders is singularly aloof. Sanders “called me a rude individual with no morals,” one dreamer said. Another claimed the Senator “kicked me and then, when I confronted him about it, wouldn’t apologize.” He doesn’t even take compliments well. “I told Bernie Sanders he did a ‘really good job’ after the debates and he scoffed at me.”
The most remarkable thing about Sanders dreams was their pedestrian quality. They really are a snooze. For example: “Bernie Sanders was in Toronto talking to the youth and had this big party filled with activities and seminars.” This so-called party sounds as fun as algebra homework. Contrary to their reputation, the Sandernistas might benefit from doing more drugs.
Had a terrifying dream that Donald Trump tried to murder me in a haunted elevator. How’s you week going so far?
— Carly Kenoyer (@CarlyK95) May 16, 2016
Only one candidate persistently causes people to wake up sobbing. This candidate has infiltrated the collective unconscious through his massive “earned media” advantage. And although pundits are only just coming to grips with the prospect of a Trump presidency, the American psyche has already foreseen the multifarious disasters it will bring. My personal favorite: “Trump became president and tweeted out the nuclear launch codes.” Again, is this so implausible?
Apocalypse is a fixture of the Trump Wins Nightmare. Subtle it ain’t, but neither is the inspiration. The Nightmare is a logical extrapolation of Republican campaign rhetoric, as in this dream: “Trump placed a giant dome over the U.S. and then bombed every other continent.” Others see past World War III to the fallout: “Trump had giant, mutant, worms attack the city and then blamed the Russians.” Finally, there are those who see how it all ends, in a Great Flood: “I had a dream that Donald Trump murdered his wife and blamed it on a Mexican and then the whole world was flooded.”
To avowed supporters, the candidate manifests in more mundane contexts—sometimes in their home bathroom, reading Bible verses, or symbolically in the form of a bulldozer. Hail the destroyer!
As might be expected, the Nightmare features terrifying scenes of persecution straight out of a Holocaust documentary. I’ll list some of these to give the flavor:
• Trump told his supporters to picket non-supporters’ houses.
• Trump won the presidency and claimed that all who did not vote for him should be arrested.
• Trump started poisoning the food supply of minority people to “make American great again.”
• Trump was a full-blown Nazi and there were thousands of people in front of him in full white knight gear.
• Trump created a Hunger Games/Purge for white people versus anyone not white and “I had to join a resistance.”
• Children [were] playing and then men came out with machine guns and told them they couldn’t have fun.
• “I managed to escape one of Donald Trump’s concentration camps.”
These dreams convey the visceral horrors of rising fascism better than any pompous Andrew Sullivan essay could.
Another thing about Trump; he’s the only dream-candidate who is consistently cruel to animals. One vigilant citizen caught him “out in the parking lot killing a bald eagle.” A second saw him “killing little puppies,” and a third, “throwing kittens off of a bridge.” Kittens!
For all this raw terror, there is a countercurrent of resistance in the psychic stream.
“Trump was about to become president,” one young woman dreamed, “but I controlled an army of ducks and that was the only way to stop him apparently?” That makes perfect sense, ducks being nature’s equivalent to the Marine Corps, at home in the air, on land, and at sea.
Dreams defy censorship. They relish in the impermissible and shout the unspeakable. You won’t hear this on television, but it’s true: a lot of people are having dreams in which Trump is assassinated, often by their own hands, and frequently as an act of personal vengeance. At the end of these dreams, people celebrate. This never happens with Sanders or Clinton.
The prototypical assassination dream reads as follows: “I fought a load of Trump’s henchmen in New York and then I killed him after he kidnapped my dog.”
had a dream, that i formed this squad of other mermaids (i’m a mermaid in this dream btw obvs) and we hunted down and killed donald trump
— Molly Thompson (@molly_georginaa) May 13, 2016
The method of murder varies from the gruesome—“crucified with a nail gun”—to the familiar sniper’s bullet. Some engage in complex subterfuge: “I was given the Zika virus and had to make out with Donald Trump so I could kill him with it.” Others enlist mythical creatures: “I formed this squad of other mermaids (I’m a mermaid in this dream btw obvs) and we hunted down and killed Donald Trump.”
Let us tut-tut the savagery of the id, and contemplate the terrible American legacy of political assassinations.
Now, isn’t it strange no one thought of a guillotine?
Do all these twilight visions amount to anything? I say yes. This election is not a contest of reasoned arguments and policy papers. It is a battle for the psyche. People trust their dreams—certainly more than they trust the news. For this reason, I am vaguely troubled by the numbers of those who outwardly oppose Trump but who vote for him in their dreams. Whatever peculiar psychodramas may be at work, there is clearly something enchanting about the guy.
Consider, at last, the story of Trump’s token Hispanic female follower, Myriam Witcher—a familiar face to cable news viewers, described as a “Ricky-Martin-Hating Latina Birther.” On CNN, Witcher explained that a dream drew her to the campaign:
Three nights before he came to Las Vegas, I told my husband, ‘Oh, Trump! In my dreams! I saw him. I had the opportunity to give [him] a hug!’ I had my Facebook page, and I wrote so many times, ‘Mr. Trump, I am a Hispanic person, and I hope I have the opportunity to give a hug to you.’
Then it all came true.
Probably nothing to worry about, though. Just dreams.