Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Nude Trump portrait drags campaign, presidency farther down the gutter

A Trump nude: not so yuuuge
A Trump nude: not so yuuuge

There’s political chicanery. And then there’s powerful political art.

There’s the philosophy, as useful in life as it is in a campaign for public office, that if you stoop as low as your contender, you’re no better than he or she is. And then there’s the philosophy that you fight evil with all you’ve got, no matter what.

This, and more, comes to mind when I lay eyes on the presidential campaign’s latest viral sensation: the naked portrait of presidential candidate Donald Trump created by Aussie-born, Los Angeles-based street artist Illma Gore.

If you’re offended by nudity, don’t look. Once you see Gore’s shocking painting, titled Make America Great Again, you can’t undo the damage to your psyche. And in case you didn’t get the message in the swaggering pose oozing bravado, the look in his clenched eyes and the puckered mouth, a brief artist statement explains her choice of small anatomy: “Because no matter what is in your pants, you can still be a big p---k.”

We’ve come quite a long way from the Shepard Fairey portrait of Barack Obama, the candidate in 2008 — Hope stenciled in red, beige and blue — and acquired by the Smithsonian for its National Portrait Gallery. These days the only question left is: How low can the presidential campaign go? There’s no limit. Take a look at this name-calling “Vote Trump” website, created after Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucus: http://bit.ly/1QZ7ehA

You can lay all the nastiness on Trump and his followers. You can say Trump started it when he launched his campaign with slanderous comments about Mexicans and extended his ire to women, Muslims, etc., as his popularity grew with each insult. You can say Cruz deserves it for his own offensive behaviors in Congress.

Gore’s thousands of fans do lay it all on Trump — and praise her painting as art that captures Trump, as Michele Perry of Texas put it, “in the deeper sense of what he is — a misogynist, a racist, a bully, a man who wants to be your God and you’re going along with it.”

She asks: “Do you think he has a reputation worthy of protection?”

No, but maybe the office of the presidency does.

Another fan of Gore’s painting on social media bemoans that he has woken up to messages and comments from “the vile horde that is the Trump collective.” What else could he have possibly been expecting?

This is the world we’ve created — and it’s not all on Trump and his people, as deplorable as they are. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also incites fanatical devotion — and then he’s turned off by the monster he’s created. This week he had to call on his followers to tone down their sexist criticism of Hillary Clinton and the bullying behavior a lot of us had already endured.

How low can this presidential campaign go?

As low as the masses are willing to take it — and as low as the candidates dip to inspire them.

The anti-Cruz website is pure campaign chicanery and Gore’s painting may be art. But both are having the same effect — dragging the office of the presidency a little farther down the gutter.

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