Trump is no ‘phenomenon’: he is a product of today’s America
- Trump was born and educated in this country; he was given a set of values in this country; and he was shaped politically by the ideas of this country
- To treat Trump as being outside this nation’s history is to turn him into a useful but cheaply devised scapegoat
Donald Trump is not a phenomenon. There is nothing unique about this US president. Yet, Democrats talk about him as if he were a newfangled incarnation of wickedness and incompetence. Republicans talk about him as if he were a political virtuoso of world-shattering stature.
Take for example the words of Henry Kissinger: “Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries have not seen. So it is a shocking experience to them that he came into office.”
But both parties are wrong about him. Trump may be a character, but he is not a singular character. Trump may have a big personality, but it is not so extraordinary that it has not been weathered before. Trump may be fantastically wealthy, but that is not a novelty in the White House either. By the comparative standards of the 18th century, how rich were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?
And, although Trump may fancy himself a once-in-a-lifetime defender of “traditional American values”, he is hardly the first president to use the coded rhetoric of nationalism to incite the passions of nervous whites. Andrew Jackson did it. James Polk did it. Calvin Coolidge did it. Woodrow Wilson did it. So did Nixon and Reagan.
Trump is not especially stupid or evil, as most Democrats contend. The truth is he is just another politician who has chosen to take sides in the timeless pursuit of individual liberty and human rights all over the world.
Trump was born in this country; he was educated in this country; he was given a set of values from his parents and teachers in this country; and he was shaped politically by the ideas of this country. Some of those ideas gave birth to colonisation, slavery, segregation, unconstitutional wars, Watergate and even genocide.
To treat Trump as being outside this nation’s history is to turn him into a useful but cheaply devised scapegoat. By treating him as a phenomenon, we permit ourselves to shirk personal responsibility.
George Cassidy Payne, New York