I have no idea who the president is, but it’s definitely not Donald Trump

(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

By Sophie Allen

A few months ago, “The Daily Show” had a recurring segment asking, “Who is the real president?” Their roundup included influential conservatives in and out of the White House. Since President Donald Trump has proven time and time again that he is easily played – it is clear from his conduct and his statements that Trump does not know what he’s doing as president – anyone from Satan to Vladimir Putin could be featured on the list. Given his ignorance, a president who has little-to-no understanding of how government works must be influenced by a more knowledgeable party, if for no other purpose than to simply fill in the gaps in his awareness.

The problem with a discussion of who is really running the Executive branch is that it changes too often for anyone to know for sure. For a while, Steve Bannon was regarded as the mastermind of the Trump campaign and administration. He even helped engineer the infamous Muslim ban, which prohibited travelers from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Since his firing in August, it would appear as though he left the position open to newcomers.

Now that Bannon is out, I’m reluctant to think about who the new “real president” is, despite the opinion that chief of staff John Kelly is calling some of the shots, or that he contributed to the government shutdown.

It’s terrifying enough to imagine  Donald “My button is bigger than yours” Trump running the country, let alone some smoke-and-mirrors puppeteer masterminding the whole operation without any of us knowing for sure who they are. It is immaterial whether the people whispering in the president’s ear are Russian or American; what matters most is that Trump is playable; more than that, he is actively being played by an ever-changing cast of characters. The Trump White House seems to have installed a revolving door, and it’s making many in the country – myself included – feel kind of nauseous.

That said, it is not necessarily meaningful that someone else may be pulling the strings when Trump’s tweets could be read as a declaration of war. It’s tempting to ignore the drama of the White House if there’s a constant threat of nuclear annihilation because no one is monitoring the president’s Twitter. Never before has an executive official been accused of requiring a babysitter, so how can the man who allegedly belongs in day care be an effective Commander in Chief?

It could be a waste of time to wonder who has the most jurisdiction over this borderline authoritarian regime. Everyone involved is complicit, and while that may not be reassuring, it does mean that this administration is too big to not fail. Already, we’ve seen Bannon’s fall from grace and indictments of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Now, the Russia investigation is shifting its focus onto Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, dubious real-estate mogul, silent boy wonder.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter who holds the official title of president, especially not in the wake of a government shutdown for which both parties are openly blaming each other – in particular, a political climate where senators and the president insult each other on Twitter. It doesn’t matter who’s calling the shots in the Oval Office when outside, citizens can turn the tide for good. The 2018 election isn’t far away and right now, with Republicans controlling the legislative branch during a tumultuous and disappointing time for their constituents, more people than ever might be motivated to vote and change the make-up of the House of Representatives and Senate. In November, and in all upcoming special elections, every vote counts.

Sophie Allen is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]