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No, David Lynch Didn’t Actually Praise Trump

Donald Trump tweeted a Lynch quote allegedly praising him as "one of the greatest presidents in history." It's more complicated than that.
Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage; Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Welcome to Evesplaining, politics writer Eve Peyser's column about why everyone else is wrong and she's right.

If you need any more proof that subtlety is dead, Donald Trump tweeted a Breitbart article headlined, "Director David Lynch: Trump ‘Could Go Down as One of the Greatest Presidents in History'" on Monday evening. Later that night, the president also boasted about Lynch's apparent support of him at a rally in South Carolina. So did Lynch actually praise Trump? No.


The Breitbart story aggregated a recent Guardian profile of the iconic director, which touched upon his unconventional political views. Lynch voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the general election. “I am not really a political person, but I really like the freedom to do what you want to do,” he told the Guardian.

He noted that Trump "could go down as one of the greatest presidents in history," but only because he's revealed the utter idiocy of the American political system. "No one is able to counter this guy in an intelligent way… Our so-called leaders can’t take the country forward, can’t get anything done. Like children, they are. Trump has shown all this," Lynch said. That is more a condemnation of politics writ large than a complimentary statement about the president.

(Update: Lynch clarified his remarks in a Facebook post on Tuesday, telling Trump, "You are causing suffering and division," but also adding, "It’s not too late to turn the ship around. Point our ship toward a bright future for all. You can unite the country. Your soul will sing.")

While I wouldn't phrase it like that—that statement practically begged for the Breitbart treatment—Lynch is on point. For all the chatter about Trump being a uniquely evil political force, his presidency seems like a logical conclusion of a political system that is fundamentally broken. Trump's greatest achievement (perhaps his only one) is his how he's revealed the fragility and corruption of the establishment. American democracy has been in trouble for a long time, and was ripe for a demagogue to take over. Trump has made that abundantly clear.

But the whole incident reveals more about Trump and the right than it does about Lynch. The president has spent the majority of his adult life seeking approval from the New York and Hollywood media elite. As Jeet Heer wrote in the New Republic, Trump's fixation on Lynch's so-called approval demonstrates "how hungry the Republican right is for acceptance by Hollywood. They are so famished for celebrity praise that they’ll even take it in the form of very ironic and slippery statement from a film director who loves to cultivate an air of mystery."

Lynch's work is steeped in dream logic that is just as elusive and weird as it is cogent. It invites analysis and second guessing. In that sense he seems like an artifact from an earlier age—with Trump, everything is painfully obvious.

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