The 2016 election season—which has stretched, improbably, from midsummer 2015 until today, and may well continue in spirit for weeks to come—has proven particularly divisive, and authors are not exempt from its influence. A number of writers from across the political aisle, country, and globe have weighed in publicly on the ongoing battle between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
During an election in which the Republican candidate has explicitly attacked journalists and freedom of speech, many writers, who rely on the First Amendment to be able to publish their opinions freely, have been vocal about their disdain for Trump. But the literary word has taken issue with more than just the candidate's comments about free speech.
The anti-Trump sentiment expressed by writers has ranged from pieces like poet Eileen Myles' critique of the phrase "locker room talk" and its use in defending Trump's comments about women, to the open letter to the American people about the Republican nominee that was signed by hundreds of writers including Jennifer Egan, Junot Díaz, and Stephen King. (That letter does have its detractors, however; author Daniel José Older has spoken out against it.)
In the Nation, Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me, compared the possibility of a Trump presidency to the George W. Bush years in terms of global destructiveness. Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has vowed to shred his green card and leave the country should Trump become elected. J.K. Rowling has compared the Republican candidate to her villainous Voldemort. In the New York Times opinion section, Yiyun Li expressed her concern that a Trump presidency would "go on poisoning American democracy" while further complicating the relationship between America and China.
Children's and YA authors have been active in the election cycle as well. YA phenomenon John Green has been calling undecided voters in an effort to get them out to the polls, ideally to vote against Donald Trump. Maureen Johnson has launched her own political podcast, Says Who. And an activist group of more than 75 authors—including Jay Asher, Nicola Yoon, Andrew Smith, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Melissa de la Cruz, and Tim Federle—called YA for Hillary has been working to bring lovers of YA literature together to use the hashtag #YA4Hillary on their social media platforms. “The stories we work on reach millions of readers and change lives," the group wrote in a letter. "Let’s use that power to support Hillary.”
Many writers have, of course, taken to social media to voice their opinions. In late October, Salman Rushdie implored his country to move past the Clinton email scandal and focus on more important issues.
Similarly, journalist Jeff Sharlet asked those who consider themselves "very critical of Clinton's corporate centrism, cronyism, elitism, and militarism" to "consider voting for her anyway," arguing that a Clinton landslide would be a resounding condemnation of "Trumpism."
On Twitter, Stephen King—who has said he's "terrified" of a Trump presidency—compared the candidate to the H.P. Lovecraft creature, Cthulhu.
Breaking News: Reliable sources reveal that Donald Trump is actually Cthulu. The absurd hairdo isn't absurd at all. It hides the tentacles.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 12, 2016
During the second presidential debate, Alexander Chee expressed frustration with the moderators, who he argued were "making excuses" for the Republican candidate and "lowering expectations" for him as well.
Real interesting which pundits are giving Trump's white male fragility performance a win tonight.— Alexander Chee (@alexanderchee) October 10, 2016
Harlan Coben took to Twitter during the third debate, comparing Trump's knowledge of the ongoing Syrian conflict to that of a fifth-grader.
On Aleppo he sounds like a fifth grader giving a book report on a book he never read. #debatenight— Harlan Coben (@HarlanCoben) October 20, 2016
Of course not all writers are against Trump. The candidate received a surprising endorsement from the Hegelian Marxist philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, who has called a potential Trump presidency "less dangerous" than an America led by Hillary Clinton.
Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek says he would opt for Donald Trump as the apparently less dangerous choice in the US election. pic.twitter.com/3kuC1Ytf2j— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) November 3, 2016
A group calling itself Scholars and Writers of America has also endorsed the Republican candidate. As reported by Politico, the group is comprised largely of conservative authors and academics, although other signatories of the announced endorsement include noted Trump political allies such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.
Indeed, those writers who do endorse the Republican candidate tend to have a longtime allegiance to the right—although, as PW previously reported, Trump has proved particularly vexing for the Christian right. Regardless, many right-wing pundits and authors, including Dinesh D'Souza, the late Phyllis Schlafly, and Ann Coulter (author of a book entitled, aptly, In Trump We Trust)—support the candidate.
Others, including Fox News host and bestselling author Bill O'Reilly, have hesitated in to back the polarizing nominee. O'Reilly, unlike his network colleague Sean Hannity, has shown a willingness to grill Trump in televised interviews, even as he maintains his distaste for Clinton.
And some conservative writers and journalists, including RedState.com's Erick Erickson, Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, the Atlantic's David Frum, and the New York Times's Ross Douthat, have come forward opposing the candidate. Most recently—and perhaps most surprisingly—conservative radio/TV host Glenn Beck called Trump "unhinged" and added that he considers himself a supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.