Barack Obama and Donald Trump are ‘Great Men’, and That’s The ProblemPosted: September 14, 2015
Let’s start off with some quotes:
“Dear Sir: I am.” – Attributed to G.K. Chesterton, responding to a newspaper’s question, ‘What’s wrong with the world today?‘
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves.” – Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams
“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” – H.L. Mencken
“…Great men are almost always bad men…” – Lord Acton
Donald Trump has, similar to Barack Obama when he was a presidential candidate in 2007, swept a considerable number of people off their feet with his novelty, celebrity, rhetoric, and status of not being part of the political establishment.
Obama the newcomer wrecked the coronation of Hillary Clinton in 2008, and Trump the celebrity is sucking most of the media coverage oxygen out of the room at the expense of most of his Republican rivals (other than Trump, Ben Carson is the only other candidate to have poll numbers in the double digits; all the other Republican presidential candidates currently have poll numbers in the single digits):
While Obama and Trump are quite different from one/another, they have one thing in common: they’re both ‘Great Men.’
Obama had his soaring rhetoric and will have his place in history of being the first black (or African-American, if you prefer) to be elected president. Like him or not, Obama certainly has taken consequential steps on his pronouncement to “…fundamentally transform the United States of America” during his time in office (examples: ObamaCare and Obama’s nuke ‘deal’ with the fanatical death-cult Iranian mullahs). Trump is a flamboyant, WWE®-style trash-talking billionaire entertainer real estate mogul who says what he thinks and says it in a way many in his WWE® blue-collar constituency and others find entertaining, endearing, and attractive.
But ‘Great Men’ are something the Founding Fathers warned us about and they set about designing a form of government that would harness, curtail, diminish, and soften the impact of ‘Great Men’.
People being attracted to and chasing after ‘Great Men’ is nothing new; in fact it’s as old as the heart of humanity itself.
The book of 1 Samuel in the Bible recounts the story of when the Hebrews, dissatisfied with theocracy, their form of government at the time, demanded God’s earthly representative, the prophet Samuel, to appoint a king over them:
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (emphasis added)
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (emphasis added) 1 Samuel 8: 1-9
There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. (emphasis added) 1 Samuel 9: 1-2
The Hebrews were dissatisfied with Samuel and his corrupt sons, so they looked around at their neighbor nations and told themselves, “Why can’t we be more like them?” (perhaps one of the earlier recorded accounts of wanting to keep up with the Jones’?).
And God tells Samuel not to get too hot around the collar about his countrymen’s demand for a king, informing him they’re not giving him the heave-ho, but rather they’re pushing God out of their lives.
So God tells Samuel to solemnly warn the Hebrews of what they’re in for with their demand for an earthly king. God tells them if they go down the road of this earthly king thing, they’re going to get all they demand and they’re going to get it good and hard:
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.
Later we read that the earthly kingship over the Hebrews goes to tall, dark, and handsome Saul, a ‘Great Man’, “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” You can almost hear the people exclaim, “look how rich/tall/well spoken/etc. our new king is…”.
Just as Obama rode a wave of popularity, being called “The One” by Oprah Winfrey and others on the left side of the political spectrum, now Trump has done something similar with those on the right.
Trump has capitalized on the fact that many in the Republican ‘establishment’ appear to be tone-deaf and unresponsive to the base’s wants, needs, and desires (unless it’s election time, then Republican politicians calibrate their rhetoric to court the base to get reelected). In this sense, Trump’s poll numbers are a symptom of establishment Republican’s refusal to engage with its base. It’s been said that Trump’s poll numbers are a rigid and stiff middle finger to the Republican establishment.
But, similar to the Hebrews being dissatisfied with Samuel and his sons and demanding an earthly king for what ailed them, many in the Republican base appear to want to throw out the baby with the bath water in supporting an avaricious, bombastic, egotistical, crude, populist ‘Great Man’ at the expense of conservative principles, philosophy, and approach to government.
The country has had six and a half years of a ‘Great Man’ in the Oval Office. As bad as the Republican establishment has been, the answer is not electing another ‘Great Man’ who is very clever at manipulating his message in order to get votes.
The fundamental bet the Framers made was that the people who consented to being governed would be sober minded, educated, engaged, and vigilant against hucksters, snake-oil salesmen and ‘Great Men’ of all stripes. That the people elected Obama once was bad enough; that they reelected him is not encouraging.
If the people elect a ‘Great Man’ like Donald Trump as president of the United States of America (or for that matter a ‘Great Woman’ like Hillary Clinton), all I can say is get ready, because you’re going to get what you demanded, and you’re going to get it, good and hard.
UPDATE, TUESDAY 9-15-15:
This piece, from the estimable Thomas Sowell, is a must read. Sowell makes the point that the real danger is not the glib egomaniacal politician, it’s the people who would elect such a person.