Gertrude Stein Could Be Trump’s Friend

03/27/2017 11:27 am ET Updated Mar 27, 2017
From L-R: Gertrude Stein, Donald Trump, and Alice B. Toklas
From L-R: Gertrude Stein, Donald Trump, and Alice B. Toklas

President Donald Trump doesn’t have a new health care law, he doesn’t read books, and he doesn’t have friends. “I have no friends, as far I’m concerned,” Trump once said.

But I have found Trump a friend. Her name is Gertrude Stein. She’s the queer literary icon. Even though she has been dead since 1946, if she were alive today, her and Trump would probably get along together. They have much in common.

Unique Genius

In the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, assuming the voice of her life-partner, Toklas, says, “I must say that only three times in my life have I met a genius. The three geniuses of whom I wish to speak are Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and Alfred Whitehead.”

Later on in Autobiography, Stein/Toklas realizes that Stein is “the only one” in English literature.

Trump doesn’t pretend to be one of his girlfriends when he calls himself a genius. He does it as himself. “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know!” goes one of his tweets.

Also, in Trump’s own area, politics, he believed he was the only one too. At the Republican National Convention, Trump declared, “No one knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

Fame

According to Stein scholar Janet Malcolm, Stein wrote the relatively readable Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas to “achieve the vulgar celebrity she craved.” For Malcolm, Stein “decided to (so to speak) prostitute herself.”

Prostituting oneself is something Trump has done a ton. In exchange for a fee, Trump has licensed his name to water, steak, wine, a mortgage company, a modeling agency, and even something called the Trump Network. Here, customers paid $69.95 a month to receive vitamins based on the results of a urine test (the first test cost $139.95 and additional tests cost $99.95).

The Opposite of Goody Two Shoes

Before she became a famous writer, Stein studied psychology at Radcliffe. But Stein cared little for school. When Stein didn’t study for an examination in William James’ philosophy class, Stein turned in her examination paper with the following note: “Dear Professor James, I am so sorry but really I do not feel a bit like an examination paper in philosophy today.”

Trump cares so little about learning he created a school, Trump University, where instead of learning, people gave him money to take classes and workshops that taught them zero.

Girl Trouble

Stein and Toklas didn’t have a tranquil relationship. When Toklas read Stein’s novel that was inspired by an affair she had with a woman named May Bookstaver, Toklas forced Stein to destroy the letters that inspired the novel.

In his memoir, a Movable Feast, Hemingway is supposedly shocked when he hears Toklas speaking to Stein “as I had never heard one person speak to another; never, anywhere, ever.”

Trump’s relationship with women is so bad that around half a million women came to Washington to protest him the day after his inauguration.

Nazi? No Problem!

Stein and Toklas were both Jewish. But they could stay in Vichy France during World War 2 without being harmed because they were friends with Bernard Fay. Fay was a Nazi collaborator and an advisor to Vichy’s Nazi-allied leader Marshal Petain. Fay kept Stein and Toklas away from concentration camps and other miseries. As Fay wrote, “My two friends lived a peaceful life. They didn’t lack coal.”

Later, when Fay was arrested for collaborating with Nazis, Toklas sold some of Stein’s paintings to help finance his jailbreak.

Trump is amicable to Nazism too. Although, these Nazis don’t think of themselves as Nazis. For alt-right leader Richard Spencer, a Nazi is a “historical term” that is “not going to resonate today.” But Spencer still got the participants at a November alt-right conference to hail Trump.

Equality

Stein couldn’t do anything for herself and constantly needed people to do things, like change a flat tire, for her. She says that people inevitably did these things for for her due to her deep sense of “equality.” For Stein, “one person was a good as another.”

Trump thinks that almost anyone can do anything for him too. That’s why a brain surgeon is the head of Housing and Urban Development, someone who wanted to abolish the Energy Department is the Energy Secretary, and someone who didn’t want to give everyone healthcare was supposed to fulfill Trump’s promise to give everyone healthcare.

Language

In her work, Stein did not feel like she had to use a lot of different words. Nor did she feel like she had to use words that would impress people, like “patriarchy.”

Here are two lines from Stein’s Tender Buttons: “Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton. / Little sales of leather and such beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful.”

Trump, too, likes to repeat words and seems to take a ton of caution before letting new words into his vocabulary. Some of the words Trump holds dearest appear to be: fake, bad, very, disaster, really, big, Russia, help.

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