There are many people who object to Donald Trump’s repeated invocation of “WITCH HUNT” when he feels particularly exasperated by the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s ties to the Russian government. (This has happened over 110 times since May of 2017.) These critics include political opponents, who argue that it’s not a “witch hunt” in the popular sense (i.e., a vindictive attempt to pin blame on innocent parties) if investigators have actually found evidence of wrong-doing. Feminists don’t like the characterization since it co-opts the reconstructed narrative that posits witches as the scapegoated victims of a corrupt patriarchy. Historians are prickly over his specific claim that he’s the target of “the greatest Witch Hunt in American History,” as, well, no one has died because of this one. And self-proclaimed actual witches would just as soon not be associated with this administration, thank you very much.
Most people assume that Trump’s fixation on the term has to do with his towering sense of victimhood, and his desire to portray the Russia investigators as fabulists, inventing instances of congress with the Devil since Congress probably won’t impeach him. I have a different theory as to why Trump screams “witch hunt” over and over: I think Donald Trump might be a witch. Sorry, actual witches.
I’ll address the sticking point many of you might have: Weren’t most witches women? Technically, yes, most were, but it’s 2018, not 1618! Witchery is a beautiful mosaic of identities. Let’s not let outdated gender norms get in the way, especially in light of pretty damning evidence:
• Trump has weird late-night habits: He’s known to be tweeting (indeed, tweeting, “WITCH HUNT”!) in the wee hours of the morning, and once confessed that he’s “a guy who lies awake at night and plots.” Reportedly, he also spends some of his night calling around to friends (familiars?) in an attempt to divine his own future. Is this the erstwhile leader of the free world behaving like a gossip-crazed tween or is it.... a witches’ sabbat!?
• Trump recoils from modern science: I mean, how much detail do I need to go into here? A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that hundreds of scientists across dozens of agencies have had "the work they do or the words they use censored, and some say they are being hounded out of government service, in what could be considered a hunt by witches.
• Trump claims to have super-human — or at least inhuman — physical powers: Was he rejecting science or just being honest about his own anatomy when described a body being "like a battery, with a finite amount of energy”? He also frequently brags about how little sleep he needs, implying some other energy source?
• Trump claims to be in touch with a supernatural source of wisdom: How else to interpret his boast, “my gut tells more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me” except as some kind of abdominal Ouija board?
• Trump believes that other people have magical powers: This column has previously covered how he seems to think the F-35 stealth fighter is actually invisible.
• Trump is famously averse to dogs: “Dog” is his go-to insult, and the Trumps are the first First Family to have no pets. Some have theorized that his distaste for dogs stems from Trump’s germophobia, but according to folklore, dogs are also keenly aware of the supernatural. Could his antipathy to dogs just be covering the fact that dogs don’t like to be around him?
• Trump's practice of Christianity seems awfully pagan (no offense to pagans!), if not an outright rejection of Christianity: He mostly talks about religion in terms of ritual — once describing Holy Communion as “when I drink my little win and have my little cracker,” and though he claims to have been “sent Bibles by a lot of people,” he is curiously reluctant to actually be in the same room with them: “We keep them at a certain place,” he said in the same interview, “A very nice place.” Yet the Bibles hold some kind of talismanic magic for him! Take this description of how he quarantines them: "There’s no way I would ever throw anything, to do anything negative to a Bible, so what we do is we keep all of the Bibles," he said. "I would have a fear of doing something other than very positive, so actually I store them and keep them and sometimes give them away to other people."
He is also pretty obviously unfamiliar with the content of the book.
• Remember how during the eclipse he looked straight at the sun? Pretty weird!
• There is literally no other explanation for how Trump became president.
I kid. Trump became president by manipulating centuries-old racial resentments and by dent of a system of apportioning power to less populous states dating back almost as far. These are ancient magicks of a sort, it’s true, but they are less mysterious if also more frightening to comprehend than an explanation that involves Russian bots and “humint.” Or, rather, any Russian influence in the election can only be understood as sorcery upon those same half-buried yet undead truths: the alienation that people of color feel from our system of government, and the way that our election process privileges those who already have power.
Trump is just as willing to see his ascendance as a product of occult forces and not the Electoral College. He continues to marvel at it at almost every opportunity, but it’s not just ego that makes him mythologize his accomplishments, it’s ignorance. He doesn’t realize just how deeply embedded in history he is.
Modern historians of witch hunts get frustrated with ahistorical schemes that pit brave, rational proto-feminists against superstitious patriarchy. Witch hunters and witch skeptics weren’t in disagreement about the existence of witches, they point out, they just disagreed about the role of the accused in a universe in which witchcraft existed: “whether or not witches were victims of diabolical illusions...or willing participants in a real, diabolical conspiracy.”
Which sounds more like Trump to you?