And of course I mean….
The Donald. Many of us would characterize him as a demigod, referring to the derogatory definition that elevates an individual to an impressive or important status for self aggrandizement. In the political sense, a demigod is someone who challenges the system of government but in a way that puts them at the helm of a gathering citizenry. While possibly a good way to keep government in check – think Bernie Sanders – when taken to an extreme and the citizenry becomes a violent enforcer not so good – think Adolf Hitler.
No matter where on the political spectrum they fall, none of my friends disagree about Trump. We find him outrageous, uncultured, ill tempered and self promoting. And those are just the good things. So I got to thinking, how unique or unusual is he in American politics, or world politics?
I don’t really know but hope someone does
There are a few politicians who have appeared during my lifetime, or a bit before it so their legends are well known to me, that want to make me believe Trump is just another one of them. Think of Huey Long, Sen. Joe McCarthy, George Wallace. They all played to populist fears and gained more than just a following, like demigods do.
I leap to the conclusion that these guys, along with Trump, are admired by groups of people who are not that distinguished from one another over across the decades. They are people who feel threatened that their way of life is being taken away and want to blame the government run by “others” for “others.” If contemporary polls, and my ad hoc experiences, are correct, they are also predominately male with little or no higher education. They feel, or at least exhibit, that they have little or no control over their lives, and they naturally look for an outspoken, muscular-sounding, I-ll-fix-the-problem leader. Never mind that these leaders don’t articulate what the REAL problems are nor offer any viable solutions to them. All they have to do is rant.
Does history bear me out on this?
I hope so. While Long ran Louisiana like it was his own fiefdom, as did Wallace in Alabama, neither man was a successful presidential candidate. It was sad that both were targets of assignation though; no one deserves that fate. McCarthy died in office after a vitriolic career of not just looking under every rock for a Communist but for homosexuals as well. All of these, including Trump, were vilified while running and/or in power by a great many.
What does not make me qualified to rely on history is my lack of really understanding it. What are the real messages, if any, and how would we learn about them? If history is repeating itself, why and how can we recognize it and avoid the wrong outcomes again?
May politicians learn from history: what works and why. Maybe they recognize as well that most people don’t learn from it at all, and they are doomed to repeat it. They rest of us are doomed to watch them do it.