The Truth Behind The Simpsons Trump Prediction

My claim to fame, if I have one, is that I wrote the episode of The Simpsons that predicted the Trump presidency. That’s at least true enough to not be untrue, but at the same time, a bit of elaboration could make it true-er. And explain how it relates to Bailiwik.

First, there’s the matter of the show’s writing process and the idea of authorship. All of the episodes are written collaboratively, so to give anyone credit as author is not really accurate. On the other hand, generally one person pitches the idea and takes the lead in developing it and writes the first draft. That person has as much or more claim to authorship as anyone, and since we all play this leading role on occasion, and because you really do feel a certain ownership of the script despite everyone else getting involved and wrecking it – or, worse, making it better – giving this writer credit as author seems to capture as much of the truth than any other practical approach.

The Trump "prediction" was included in an episode called "Bart to the Future," which was itself a shameless rip-off of Gregg Daniel’s classic "Lisa’s Wedding," which established that Lisa would one day be president. My episode was about grown-up Bart redeeming himself after a misspent life by saving Lisa and the country. We needed the country to be in a crisis so profound that only Bart could save her. That raised the question of her predecessor. Who would leave the country in such bad shape that not even President Lisa Simpson could fix it?

Another writer pitched Johnny Depp, and that seemed to be on the verge of going into the final draft, but it didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t see a reason why the American people would vote for him, even a satirical one. Why would anyone vote for Johnny Depp? What's in it for us?

I thought the American people – you know, us – were more likely to vote for someone completely uninhibited by any scruple or restraint in promising us everything we ever wanted. Someone like Donald Trump.

That’s in the American grain. We've been falling for the same kind of sky's-the-limit, get-rich-quick con-job for 200 years. It works, and it's going to keep working. It wasn't a prediction, it was an observation. 

The fact that it "came true" doesn't mean I or we can see the future, but it does make me think that maybe my observations about us as a country aren't completely off-base. (But then again I missed Trump darkness, so maybe I'm not so perceptive after all.)

I think the work of a writer and that of a company founder are more closely related than one might think. The key to both is seeing things that others feel, that they'll recognize when you respond to them, but which they haven't quite put their finger on.

That’s what I’ve tried to do at The Simpsons and at The Office – and what I hope we're doing through Bailiwik. In my writing, I have looked to my own confusion and delusions and trusted that these would resonate with others. Bailiwik is a response to my own sense of isolation, social disconnection – dare I say loneliness – which I also saw reflected back to me in the people I met while traveling the country for USA today. It struck me that we were all feeling that we were all suffering from an unmet need for basic human solidarity and connection –and that very universality of this need also pointed to a solution: connecting to the people around us.

That's the idea anyway. But as we say at The Simpsons, "It's just a pitch!"