Cultural Discourse looks at a broad range of cultural issues.
29th January 2016

On the Ominous Significance of Donald Trump



On the Ominous Significance of Donald Trump

An Essay by John David Ebert

Donald Trump, as everyone knows, is ahead in all the national polls. He will most likely get the GOP nomination, but I think it also likely that his opponent will be Hillary Clinton and that he will be elected president by a landslide. Hillary is cool and calculating and she appeals to the intellect, but there is something cold-bloodedly reptilian about her, and the aura of deceit and dishonesty hangs over her head like a cloud. Trump, on the other hand, is winning because he appeals to deeper, darker gut-level emotions that stir anger and resentment against what he calls “the Establishment” in Washington. He presents himself as an outsider–just as Reagan did–a businessman who doesn’t even like to be called a “politician,” a word he uses with evident disgust.

Trump boycotted the Fox News sponsored GOP debate last night when a press release put out by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes offended him with its sarcastic comment that “the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Trump unfairly if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace his Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.” Trump regarded these comments as insulting to his dignity and responded by holding his own rival event last night, a rally for Veterans, which he scheduled to take place five or so miles away in Iowa at almost exactly the same time as the final GOP debate before Monday’s Caucus. During the rally, which was televised on CNN, Trump boasted that he raised five million dollars within 24 hours for the Veterans (one million of which he claims to have donated himself). All well and good.

However. There is something sinister about Trump, something that chills the blood and does not bode well for the future of American politics, since I believe that he will indeed be elected the next US president. Trump is a figure straight out of the days of ancient Rome, and particularly those troubled days of the first century BC when its Republic was being torn to pieces by Civil Wars.

He reminds me, in particular, of the sort of privately wealthy men who formed the First Triumvirate, and who were so wealthy that each could afford to pay for his own private army, an army be it said whose loyalty was not given to Rome but to the highest bidder.

Crassus, for instance, who is the figure who perhaps most resembles him–and whose portrait bust even bears a certain similarity to him–made his fortunes (and they were, like Trump’s huge) off of real estate, especially buying huge latifundia that enslaved people to work the fields in mass agribusiness-like agglomerations that kept the grain flowing into Rome. This was one reason why Crassus was so anxious about putting down the Spartacus slave revolt, for Spartacus himself was killed by the legions employed by Crassus in 71 BC (although Pompey, on his way back from his conquest of Spain, claims to have finished off the revolt and was given honors in Rome for doing so when he returned, much to the chagrin of Crasssus).

But when Crassus announced that he was going to clean up the Parthian menace in the Middle East–sound familiar?–his campaign ended in disaster at the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC), where his son Publius was caught and beheaded and when the Romans saw the Parthians marching toward them with Publius’s head on the end of a spear, Crassus was shocked and dismayed. But the beheading of Crassus himself soon followed and nearly 20,000 Roman troops were massacred while 10,000 more were taken prisoner.

This event destabilized the First Triumvirate, especially since Pompey’s wife Julia–Julius Caesar’s only daughter–had died the year before. Caesar was away on campaign in Gaul, where he made his fortunes capturing slaves and sending them back to Rome to be sold on the market. Rumors circulated that Pompey would have to be made full dictator of Rome in order to keep the peace, but when Pompey heard that Caesar had turned around and marched his troops headed back to Rome, he instead ordered the city to be evacuated and fled with his privately paid legions across to Greece. There had been a law passed as a result of the Civil War between Marius and Sulla–under the latter of whom Pompey rose to fame as a great general–that a general could not enter the city with his troops, but when Caesar daringly broke the law and crossed the Rubicon, all bets were off (Sulla, incidentally, had been the first to declare himself permanent dictator as the result of proclaiming a permanent state of emergency in Rome).

At the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, Caesar, who was outnumbered two to one, was victorious over Pompey, who fled with his family to Egypt, and when he stepped off the boat one of Pompey’s own centurions immediately cut off his head and saved it for Caesar, who followed and was now sole dictator of the Roman Empire. (His murder in 44 BC was executed by Brutus, who had fought with Pompey at Pharsalus, and Cassius who had fought with Crassus at Carrhae).

I could go ¬†on, but I think you get the picture. Donald Trump is a privately wealthy man like Pompey or Caesar or Crassus–he is completely funding his own campaign–and the Veteran rally last night has the feel about it–at least to me, anyway–of laying the groundwork for appealing to soldiers who might, one fine day, become his own private army whose loyalty is given to him¬†rather than the United States of America. After all, he has already shown that he cares nothing for political protocol in skipping the GOP debate: he simply went around it, doing as he pleased, but this may set an ominous precedent for future legalities he may simply decide to step around while in office. Trump, his career has made clear, always finds a way to get what he wants.

And what he wants is the following: he has promised to build a wall along the southern border of the United States and get Mexico, somehow, to pay for it. The building of walls is of course an unfailing sign that a civilization has entered into its Universal State phase, the end phase and ultimate outcome of all great high civilizations.

And he has also promised mass deportations of all illegal immigrants in this country, which sounds to me like a feat that would require “special forces” and “detention camps” to be set up as temporary housing for them while in transit. I don’t see how 11 million illegal immigrants could be rounded up and sent off in any other way.

He has also promised to put a ban on all Muslims attempting to enter the United States, legally or otherwise. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but the entire basis of the United States was set up as a haven for the religiously persecuted of the Old World: it was precisely people whose religions were not tolerated elsewhere that this country opened its arms to embrace. So banning an entire people based on their religious identity is about as un-American an idea as it gets.

He has also promised to “fix” the 17 trillion dollar deficit and to put the kaibosh on the deal Obama made with Iran. No more losing 500 billion a year in trade deficits with China: Trump promises to end all that, though he doesn’t specify how.

He has also promised to “destroy ISIS,” (just as Crassus promised to rid Palestine of the Parthian menace) but he has not given any clear idea what sort of government he would put in their place, while Iraq would most likely descend into chaos and further anarchy. Perhaps he intends to prop it up with corporations that would hi-jack all its oil in order to fund his other massive projects. A local government? I doubt it. Not with Trump running the show. Instead Iraq would most likely become annexed and run by his New Empire.

But it sounds to me like Donald Trump is a man who will, once elected president–and I think I can guarantee you that he will–simply do as he pleases, just as he did in circumventing the Fox News GOP debate last night with his own privately staged and funded rally for ex-soldiers.

Trump is a figure who should make everybody nervous. He may very well shred the Constitution, usurp all powers of the Executive Branch and use his wealth and emotionally-driven followers to help transform him into America’s First Dictator.

Who knows, even lists of proscriptions may follow, just as the proscriptions of Sulla announced everyone who would be murdered without trial or due process of any kind, since they had proven to be political opponents during his wars with Marius.

America, it seems to me, may very well be transformed into a police state–it would certainly have to be if Trump means what he says, and I believe that he has the means, motives and wealth to make it happen.

Get ready, Americans: the Republic–whose founding fathers deliberately (and now, it seems, ironically) founded it on the model of the Roman Republic with all its checks and balances–is about to be torn to pieces once again.











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