January 2016
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A Very Short Essay About Donald Trump

by Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

Gibbon said that history was the record of human folly and misfortune, and anyone who reads carefully notes that humans make the same mistakes over and over again, world without end, amen. The failed “Strategic Hamlets” program in Viet Nam had been tried by the colonial Spanish administration in Cuba in the 1890’s. Kennedy thought the Bay of Pigs invasion would be greeted by an uprising of thrilled Cuban citizens, but McKinley believed the same about his own Cuban invasion seventy years earlier, and both were wrong, as was George Bush about the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In Hollywood creature movies, the monster always kills the scientist who made him. The Republican party nevertheless creates one monster after another. The invention of Joe McCarthy presages the advent of Ted Cruz. What makes the narrative this time a little different than the usual is that Cruz is the monster who could have been predicted, while Donald Trump is the one not foreseen, the second more powerful monster who breaks the first one like a twig before starting its own rampage.

In 1948, when Thomas Dewey was everyone’s favorite to win the election and Harry Truman unexpectedly triumphed, the Republican Party, floored by its own inability to recapture the White House after four wins by Roosevelt, turned to the last tool in its arsenal, the accusation of Communism. America was financially comfortable in the post-war years, the baby boom was beginning, ex-soldiers were getting educations on the GI bill, marrying and buying their first houses with federal assistance. If you can’t scream about the economy, you yell about loyalty instead. Up til then, the attack had been led by third rate hack politicians, dogs on a secure leash, like Martin Dies and Parnell Thomas of HUAC. Richard Nixon, who would ride the wave created by his prosecution of Alger Hiss to a gangster-Presidency, exemplified the mainstream Republican politician who could exploit anti-Communist hysteria without repudiating his own party. McCarthy was the maverick, the loner, who didn’t care whom he harmed in his alcoholic pursuit of personal power. The Army-McCarthy hearings which put him down represented the party re-asserting control of the Narrative.

When you base your Narrative on trashing government, claiming it is riddled with Communists or Socialists, when you engage in violent rhetoric painting the entire federal structure as an interloper, a conquering foreign army, when you portray the President himself as a dangerous alien, why would you ever expect the common people you persuade to remain loyal to you, a member of that very power-structure? Anyone who breaks down everything in sight, expecting to balance securely on the last remaining granite pedestal, should not be very surprised when a stronger outsider, not part of the usual tired power-gang, rides in on horseback to take it all. We have seen this over and over throughout history: Hitler was the brutal outsider profiting from the hard work the traditional right had already done to smash Weimar; Stalin the Georgian took it all when Lenin faded and died, just as Lenin himself had once pre-empted Kerensky. Prophets don’t usually foretell their own coming: they are almost always shills for someone else. John the Baptist foretold Jesus, not himself. Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz and a hundred others have worked really hard to create the circumstances under which there is a real chance Donald Trump will become our next President.