The World Turned Upside Down


The British army’s fife and drum corps famously played this tune as it was giving up its weapons following the surrender at Yorktown.

The sentiment seems very apropos during this strange presidential campaign in which Donald Trump sits atop the Republican primary polls because of, and not in spite of, his utter disregard for all of the supposedly inviolable, unwritten rules of presidential politics.

Trump has been called an American Mussolini, and the comparison would almost certainly be even more common than it has been, except for Trump’s very weirdly styled and almost as weirdly colored hair. Surprisingly, I have not heard anyone ask Trump about this fairly common historical comparison, but if I were Trump, I would be eager to discourage it for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that Mussolini’s corpse ended up hanging upside down from a from a lamppost in Milan. (One cannot help but wonder what Trump’s hair would look like with gravity pulling it the other way, rather than holding it tenuously to his skull, but let’s put the comparison to Mussolini aside and simply imagine Trump using an inversion table. No need to be nasty.)

In case you need more evidence that many fundamental truths about life in America seem to have suddenly turned upside down, consider this chart:

2015-2016 MLB Free-Agent Spending

Yes, spring training and a new major league baseball season are almost upon us, and the New York Yankees, who have for forty years been notorious for profligate spending on free-agents, some of whom have earned their lucrative contracts but many of whom have not, are almost at the very bottom of the list for spending on free agents during the 2015-2016 off-season. (To have spent less, the Yankees would literally have had to spend nothing.)

To add a note of irony to this lengthening catalog of unexpected circumstances, I would point out that George Steinbrenner, whose willingness to spend like a drunken sailor on shore leave almost single-handedly accelerated the growth in free-agent contracts, was, like Trump, a bombastically controversial figure whose public persona seemed purposely scaled to the intense media glare and blare of New York City.

To my knowledge, Steinbrenner never publicly considered entering politics. It is possible, however, that one of the more notorious early incidents of his career may have discouraged him: “In 1974, Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Nixon’s re-election campaign, and to a felony charge of obstruction of justice. He was personally fined $15,000 and his company was assessed an additional $20,000. On November 27 of that year, MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him for two years, but later commuted it to fifteen months. Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner in January 1989, one of the final acts of his presidency” (Wikipedia entry on Steinbrenner).

Moreover, unlike Trump, who has gone from one project and industry to another and has been a boom-or-bust figure whose bankruptcies have been as spectacular as his spending has been ostentatious, Steinbrenner stayed with the Yankees for 37 years, turning an $8.8 million investment in a once great but then floundering team, located in a once great but then floundering metropolis, into the world’s most valuable sports franchise that is now worth $2.5 billion.

So, even though both men are associated with the revival of New York City out of its sudden decline in the 1970s, I cannot help but wonder if Steinbrenner and Trump would each be flattered by or appalled by the comparison.

And I cannot help but be amused by the realization that if I had the option of voting for Trump or for Steinbrenner for president, I would probably vote for Steinbrenner simply because he seems, now, the more sane choice.

Even deceased.

Yes, in some circumstances, even a dead candidate seems preferable:



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