In this election, ‘You have to fight, but you also have to know when to get out’ | Helen Ubiñas
Don Lessem has spent the last four years parading around a "Dumping Trump" robot chastising the president. What's his plan for after the election?
You get all kinds when you talk to people about Donald Trump.
In the last four years, I’ve talked to those who loved him, those who hated him … and that one guy in Delaware County who spent $25,000 to create a 16-foot-tall animatronic POTUS tweeting on a golden toilet. (Bonus: It also let out farting noises and recordings of some of Trump’s provocative sound bites, including “No collusion,” “You are fake news,” and “I’m a very stable genius.”)
Like I said, all kinds.
I thought about all of them as I drove in and around Philadelphia on Election Day — but I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the dinosaur expert and son of a Holocaust survivor who was so alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric and tactics that he used his skills and connections to create a “Dumping Trump.”
A shameless and creative Trump critic, Don Lessem got the idea after he went to the factory in China — and, no, the irony wasn’t lost on him — that makes his giant robot dinosaurs and saw that the workers there made all kinds of frightening things.
His thought: Why not make the thing that frightens — or should — every American?
When I caught up with Lessem at his home in Media on Tuesday, the man who served as an adviser on Jurassic Park and a bunch of dinosaur exhibitions and theme parks around the world was taking a short break between stops.
In the last few weeks, he’d been on a grueling trip — 3,000 miles to be exact — hitting Trump and Biden rallies in key East Coast states with “Trump” in the back of his truck.
And it had already been a long Election Day of visiting polling sites around Delaware County before he was headed to Philly.
We last talked in 2019, the night before the robot’s debut at an anti-Trump protest in London. Since then, Lessem’s done some tweaking to reflect our new pandemic reality, adding a scythe and a soundtrack that shouts out, “It’s all a hoax,” while playing Chopin’s funeral march. The robot, now about 10 feet tall without a stand, was riding around in the back of his truck, his Trump Death Mobile, with a sign that says, “Vote for Me … And Die!”
If gestures were polls, things are looking like a landslide loss for Trump. Lessem’s informal tally of reactions to the robot include 10 middle fingers, 248 waves, 114 thumbs up, and two fist bumps.
If Trump loses, Lessem said, he’s thinking of setting up a pop-up Trump crime museum with help from a guy in New York who created an inflatable “Trump Rat” and maybe the people behind the infamous “Trump Baby Blimp” that flew over London in 2018.
But not before he takes animatronic Trump for a final whirl while playing “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”
I laughed, but it also reminded me of something that I’d been thinking about: How even if the witch, or Trump, in this case, is voted out, there are others to blame for the crisis we’re in — the flying monkeys, if you will, who cosigned or coddled or cowered to Trump, including journalists who’ve discovered more synonyms for the words liar and racist than any thesaurus, and politicians who at best have been publicly silent but privately disgusted by Trump’s behavior.
Whispering the truth is just as bad as shouting the lies.
It comes at a cost.
“I think it would be not only depressing but immoral to live in this country under that person,” Lessem said. “You have to fight, but you also have to know when to get out, and in my background, my mom running away from the Holocaust, there is a time that you go.”
Whenever Trump finally leaves the White House, we can’t let that happen.