GREAT MINDS PONDER DONALD TRUMP.
Sometimes, people who write this stuff are tenured professors, celebrated essayists, syndicated columnists, and erstwhile counselors to Vice Presidents.
And sometimes, people who write this stuff are . . . well . . . the two of us. To wit:
Victor Davis Hanson, October 25, 2015, “Is Trump Our Napoleon?”:
Comparing great things to smaller ones, is Donald Trump, in spirit, becoming our version of Napoleon Bonaparte?
For a decade and a half Napoleon wrecked Europe. He hijacked the platitudes of the French Revolution to mask his own dictatorship at home and imperialism abroad. Yet today, two centuries after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he remains an icon for many in, and a few outside, France. Why? How could geniuses like the novelists Victor Hugo and Stendhal acknowledge Napoleon’s pathologies and the damage that he did to the early 19th century European world, and yet enthuse that he made the French feel both politically and morally “great”? Most French even today believe that he did.
Of course, for a while at least, Napoleon really did “make France great again,” at least in terms of territory and power. At its pinnacle between 1806-11, Imperial France ruled the continent in a way not seen again until the Third Reich’s briefer rule between 1940 and 1942 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Volga River. . . .
But what unites both Trumps are his messianic and unifying visions of making America “great” again — a 19th century notion of glory and honor that so far seems to appeal to lots of voters in a way that it supposedly should not. . . .
Napoleon’s genius in transmogrifying himself from an obscure lowly artillery officer to emperor of Europe was due to a similar intuition that in demoralized France, worn out from both revolutionary fervor and Bourbon reaction, he alone could offer something similar and yet different from both these despised opportunistic factions. Napoleon would reluctantly employ authoritarianism but put it in service to the proverbial people rather than the aristocratic landed class and ossified clergy. He could cut through bureaucracy and corruption in the fashion that he had sent a “whiff of grapeshot” though mobs of rioters.
The Political Forum, September 1, 2015, “Donald Trump and His Magnificent White Horse.”:
If one must pursue the somewhat silly task of finding a highly notable historic character with whom to compare our own Donald Trump, we would choose Napoleon Bonaparte. Not, we should say, in his role as a military leader, but as a political phenomenon, as a reaction to the pathologies of his age. . . .
For starters, as any schoolboy knows, Donald Trump, like Napoleon, is defined principally by his ambition and his unencumbered quest for power and glory. David Jordan wrote this about the “le petit caporal” in Napoleon and the Revolution: “For all his enemies, his ambition was untampered by devotion to some higher cause. He was unconstrained by God, civilization, or historical habit.”
Trump is not shy about his accomplishments or his vast wealth. Indeed, he makes a ridiculous production of both. One could visit a handful of the largest and wealthiest cities in the country and have pictures taken next to gigantic buildings, colosseums, and various other sites bearing and blaring his name to the adoring millions. MY building. MY apartments. MY casinos. Look at them at behold my magnificence. And then let me tell you about my magnificence. Over and over and over . . . and over . . . Jordan says this of Napoleon: He “transformed himself into a king of the old race who attributed everything to himself . . . his egotism was ferocious.”
More to the point, Trump like Napoleon, is a creature of his times, a man shaped by the slow but unambiguous corruption of the American dream and the American people’s concomitant declining respect for the institutions of the republic. If Trump had not existed, he would have to have been invented. Likewise Napoleon, about whom Jordan writes: “Napoleon was a child of the Revolution, his career is unimaginable without the greatest upheaval of the age. . . His deeds could be driven or inspired by no honorable motives. Only the raw emotional force of egomania unbound could explain the man.”
And here we come to the crux of the comparison. Napoleon was the eminently predictable end state of the French Revolution, the strongman whose presence was both facilitated and necessitated by the horror, corruption, chaos, and bloodlust of that event. Overwhelmed by the Revolution, French society simply could not manage its affairs and, in the end, needed a “popular general” to right the proverbial ship. The incomparable Edmund Burke put it this way as a watched from afar as French society began to descend into chaos:
In the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full of faction, until some popular general, who understands the art of conciliating the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account. There is no other way of securing military obedience in this state of things. But the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master; the master (that is little) of your king, the master of your Assembly, the master of your whole republic.
Great minds think alike?