Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Trump As Sulla

American politics has gone insane. This is equal parts awesome and deplorable. Awesome in that we're seeing things we've never seen before. Deplorable in that we're seeing things we never hoped to see.

Donald Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. Now, there are reasons to like Trump and reasons to dislike him; I lean more towards dislike, personally. However, two common responses to Trump frustrate me to no end. One is the response that relies on conventional wisdom to justify hatred. This is when people think "Donald Trump" is all the explanation necessary for their opposition. This is not unique to Trump haters; George W. Bush and Barack Obama both have their detractors who can't articulate anything beyond saying their names in the most condescending way possible.

The second response to Trump is the equally-empty declaration that he's "dangerous" and the endless comparisons to Hitler. What single, concrete proposal of Trump's is anything like an action of Hitler's? The comparison relies on rhetorical affinity, that Trump promises to "make America great again" and that, when Hitler promised something similar to Germany, the result was the Holocaust.

That's a giant, disingenuous leap in reasoning. Is every promise of renewal a commitment to genocide? No. Some are just, well, promises of renewal. This extreme rhetoric gets people worked up beyond reason.

So I while I dislike Trump, I dislike his detractors more. When I became aware of a campaign to ostracize Trump supporters on Facebook, I became a Trump supporter on Facebook (and I lost at least three idiot friends by doing so).

What are the elements of Trump's proposals that I dislike? Well, I think his approach to things like immigration are decidedly lacking in empathy or charity. But I get it; it's hard to recommend a charitable response to the unconscionable annihilists in our midst. The worst are full of passionate intensity, and as a result, the love of many has waxed cold. Trump is the candidate for everyone who's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore.

I'm worried when I read things like Barack Obama's statement, "Mr. Trump will not be president." Is this a prediction or a promise? What if it looks like Trump will win the election? Does Obama take steps to stop this from happening?

I don't think Trump is Hitler, but I can see parallels to Sulla. Sulla was also a dude who was mad as hell, who hated what the rulers before him had done to Rome and who vowed to "make Rome great again." (Did Sulla had a weird 50-cent trucker's hat with the slogan on it? It's hard to tell because organic matter like cotton hats is difficult to preserve for 2,000 years.)

I'm not convinced a Donald Trump presidency would be nothing to worry about. But I'm also not convinced it would be an unmitigated disaster. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Perhaps we'll get a chance to see just where.

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