It seems I touched off a bit of a firestorm over on Facebook with my post about Trump yesterday. I am admittedly optimistic. As one of my friends on FB keeps reminding me: politicians always disappoint. She is cautious about Trump and is not necessarily a supporter.
I am optimistic about Trump, while realizing that he may disappoint. Even Reagan disappointed conservatives. More pointedly, I am optimistic about Trump in what he unleashes as a candidate and eventually president. People who are predisposed to loathe him will not be persuaded. One such person confessed she could not even read the entirety of my first post because I seemed “disconnected from reality.” I don’t take offense. I get it, and I understand why people might have such an opinion. Most of my friends, all of them I respect and still do to this day, feel the same way about Trump. They may be right about him in the end. However, while I believe that they may be ultimately right about the direction of the country, there is no reciprocation that I may be on to something.
Clifford Angel Bates made the best case on Facebook about seeming and being. This idea is shot through in Plato’s Republic, books 1-2. Many people are horrified by what they see and hear with Trump and they are not even bothering to look beyond the mere spectacle of it all.
I have had perfectly reasonable friends label Trump Caesar, Sulla, Marius, Crassus, and innumerable other comparisons to would be tyrants and despots. Each one of those comparisons is not only hysterical, but illogical.
- Has Trump led a military army across the fatherland to defeat another general (Pompey) and then murdered several enemies while chasing the republicans across the Adriatic and murdering their sons and daughters so as to secure his own position? Did I miss his Battle of Philippi and the resounding death of the republic? How about when, after that, he purged the bodies of representation and packed the Senate, and murdering others?
- Does he have a mistress stashed in every corner of the world, including powerful Queens with which he wants to make provinces of the United States?
- Has Trump engaged in multiple purges and murders like Sulla and Marius? Oh that’s right, Trump is responsible for one such purge of over 3,000 souls?
- Or how about this one: Has Trump really tried to buy property, then when rebuffed not bring in his fire department when your property mysteriously goes up in flames unless you agree to sell it to him at a lesser price than before? Crassus? Really?
I don’t see Trump in this light because there absolutely no evidence he has the soul of a tyrant, not, we hasten to point out, has he actually done all the things I listed above—and I merely scratched the surface.
My απολογια of Trump is actually closer to the history of the western world, and human nature, than, say, any of the charges hurled against Trump noted above.
Trump is, if anything, Ciceronian in spirit.
It seems that while everyone is so aghast at the way and manner Trump speaks, they have forgotten Marcus Tullius Cicero laid down the political insult in several orations. One of those, and the most insulting of all are the Philippics. We should only be so lucky that we have an actual person willing to stand up to the would be tyrants of the establishment.
One of my favorite Ciceronian insults is when he would confuse the relationship between his enemy and his wife and allude that relationship was incestuous—as in really a marriage between brother and sister. In the Philippics, we find the public statements that Antony lives the life of a whore, or that his family are a bunch of whores, or that he’s a slave, a coward, a thief, a public drunk, and not least, a murderer for private gain. he charges Antony with screwing anything that moves and then drinking all day and night and then vomiting in the streets, sometimes on other people in a disgusting act of public licentiousness. Oh how I highly recommend the 2nd Philippic in particular! It’s delicious. Here’s a visual representation:
As Helen was to the Trojans, so has that man been to this republic—the cause of war, the cause of mischief, the cause of ruin. The rest of his tribuneship was like the beginning. He did everything which the senate had labored to prevent, as being impossible to be done consistently with the safety of the republic. And see, now, how gratuitously wicked he was in accomplishing his wickedness.
How is it we’ve forgotten ALL of this? How is it we’ve forgotten that politics has a lot of ribald and low language and ever has? The point is this: Cicero was brash because he feared the republic was coming to a close. Not to get into the details of the late Roman republic, but the stakes were high and they had been unravelling for decades. Trump is no less brash, if not as eloquent, for the same reason.
In his excellent intro to The Prince, Leo Paul de Alvarez states, quoting Machiavelli:
Everyone sees what you seem to be, but few touch what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the opinions of the many…
The sense of sight is misleading, for appearances are misleading… But understanding, going beyond the appearances, is obviously necessary for the prince…we must have a way of protecting ourselves against the deceptions of sight. We must first begin to understand in what ways one can be misled and in what ways one can touch and therefore have certain knowledge
We have to look beyond Trump’s words like we have for Cicero. Conservatives, most predisposed to Cicero today, may not have been in that time if “appearances” are taken as the sole intellectual calculation of politics. People say Trump is stupid. That is not even remotely true. He has survived failure, ran a business, was successful in college, and is no dummy especially given he could see the time was right for him to run. The country was ripe for a ciceronian character calling out the cheats and cowards, the thieves and sex addicts (that’s Clinton for those paying attention). Why?
Because he wants to give something back to his country. To be greedy for the country, not for himself (again opposite Clinton), he said. What is before your eyes is a brash self-aggrandizing figure who is merely a reality-tv star. That’s just too flippant, and it ignores the fact that Trump has calculated this. Laced with the profanity and insults, is one goal: America and the recovery of this Founding in some way as far as modernity will permit. Many of his policy positions reflect just that goal.
However, Trump has to persuade. He is not telling us “who we are” like Obama, and Clinton, and Sanders, and Bush, and Bush, and…pick any of them. Cruz, Beck, and countless others sermonize us, tell us what we should believe, and then warn us for our “sins.”
Trump sees the landscape and tries to move us in a direction closer to the Founding by bombastically proclaiming our rulers are stupid and inept. Oh yeah, nearly like Cicero did. the manifestation of this is that Reagan coalition voters are voting again, and new voters are voting for the first time. Turnout is up. Trump is appealing to US by reasoning with us. He does this by always going on the air, and never really turning down an interview—unlike, say, Clinton. Trump is relentless in his desire to convince us we need to act now.
Trump may not be strictly a conservative on all issues, but who cares? Name one since Reagan who has been? Now name one person who will boldly reorder the landscape thus allowing the public to revive the notion of natural rights and consent. Conservatives have been looking for the right person who checks all the boxes like they are almost looking for a messiah. That will never materialize.
What we have here is opportunity in the best possible figure to shake off the near oligarchic tendencies of the elites who have abandoned the country and even fear defending it against our enemies. No party is immune to this patriotic heresy.
The result is, I hope, a recovery of space to deliberate. With PC finally engaged in a battle to oust it, that leaves conservatives the room to move, to debate, and to persuade—if only they will rather than complain.