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How “Battlestar Galactica” predicted the 2016 election

Editor’s note: some spoilers for Battlestar Galactica.

There once was a presidential election between a very capable woman and a very narcissistic man.  The woman had been told time and time again that she wasn’t enough, but as her political career grew she had to make hard choices in times of crisis and always tried to do what was best for her people.

Her opponent, on the other hand, had always done just enough to keep himself on everyone’s good side (considering he had inadvertently done some truly awful things).  He had very little political experience, but was very charismatic.  He ran for president for the power and the affirmation that he was liked, and, on some level, to stick it to those who didn’t believe he could achieve the presidency.  The woman was leading in the polls, so the man promised to give the people a new life.  Even he didn’t think it was a good idea, he knew his plan was bad, but he also knew enough people believed in it and he just needed that win. So the man won… and then everything turned to shit.

This was not the story of the Clinton v. Trump election, but rather a fictional one between President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Gaius Baltar (James Callis), from Battlestar Galactica (2003).

Gaius Baltar’s winning platform was to offer a new home on actual land to people who had been living in space for years.  He was lucky in that some form of livable land just happened to present itself at the right time.  It didn’t matter that the planet was just barely habitable and there was an actual ongoing search for a better one, it just mattered that people could start anew off of starships.  It’s kind of like how Trump reached people who felt their futures weren’t looking up, so “Make America Great Again” spoke to them in a similar way. It might not actually be the best plan, but it was more than what the other side seemed to offer.

Once the election was over, Gaius had to follow through on his promise, just like his voters will hold Trump accountable for at least some of the things he said.

A new colony was made, New Caprica, on a cold hard rock, and everyone started to think, “Well this isn’t so bad.”  And then the Cylons came and took over.  The Cylons were created by man as robots with A.I., but then left and developed themselves further such that they would have a living biology; after 100 years of no contact they came back with a vengeance, wiped out 12 planet’s worth of humans and then hunted the ones left in space.  So it’s fair to say that the people did not want anything to do with them.   But the Cylons had a way of getting what they wanted (basically, coercion).

They used Baltar as their talking head.  This created such a bleak life for everyone that there were actual insurgents blowing up Cylons left and right, which led to a police force used to turn human against human and definitively put the humans as second-class to the Cylons.

Eventually the insurgency and military that was left in space were able to rescue the humans from the Cylon forces, but afterwards the dynamic amongst humans were never the same.

Now I’m not here calling Republicans Cylons, clearly they have never perpetrated mass genocide, but now that Trump is President-Elect you can be damn sure that the Cylons, I mean Republicans (especially the horrifying “alt-right”/white supremacist ones in Trump’s cabinet), will be the actual ones taking charge.

Just hearing the talk of a Muslim-registry is already labeling some as second-class, especially when justification lies with Japanese internment camps. Something tells me that won’t be taken lying down.  The Cylons, I mean Republicans, also plan to strip away benefits their supporters rely on, such as public education funding and the Affordable Care Act. It is in the same sense that living on a cold hard rock took away any semblance of an advanced civilization that came with living on starships. That is what many people wanted, but maybe they didn’t realize the impact it would have on them.

The New Capricans were not happy with the life they ended up getting.  They blamed the talking head, Baltar; he let the Cylons in, he let them take control.  And at first he did. His ex-girlfriend/Cylon/angel in his head (status: “It’s Complicated”) was one of the Cylon leaders wanting to integrate with the humans. Sure the humans knew who the actual head honchos were, but that didn’t mean they believed Baltar was innocent after all was said and done.  They put him on trial. Lucky for him there were witnesses to him essentially being a hostage to the Cylons, but they were just barely willing to vouch for him.  Shortly thereafter, a small cult adopted him as their “messiah” where he preached the Cylon religion of there being “One True God” (again, angel in his head), as opposed to the colonial belief in polytheism.

I never thought I would be part of a “President Gaius Baltar” situation, so when it comes to Trump, these next four years will be very telling.  Is he going to speak up when he thinks something is morally wrong?  Will the pressure to please take over?  I personally don’t think he will “Make America Great Again”, simply based his rhetoric and lack of plans.  But, if we come out worse for wear, I am aware that it won’t be all his fault; the Cylons, I mean Republicans, along with all those who voted and supported him will have had a hand in it too.

But also, when it comes to human rights we can’t let the Cylons have all the power. The resistance meant something. It helped save humanity on Battlestar Galactica, so we too must resist what is wrong. I mean we probably shouldn’t blow people up, because there are much easier and legitimate ways in this country to help the repressed and we need to keep reminding ourselves that it is necessary and it is worth it. In the end, though, I don’t think Trump will get off as easy as Gaius Baltar and I don’t know if his ego is ready for that.

By Chelsea Ennen

Chelsea Ennen is a New York City-based writer and recovering academic with an MA in contemporary literature, theory, and culture from King's College London. Her nonfiction writing has been published on The Mary Sue, HelloGiggles and The Female Gaze, and her dissertation on postfeminism versus third wave feminism in contemporary pop culture was accepted for presentation at the 2016 Indiana University of Pennsylvania English Graduate Organization Inter-Disciplinary Conference. She is the fiction editor of the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal and a novelist who would very much like to pet your dog, please.