There is a familiar archetype in Greek Legends. It repeats itself over and over again throughout the course of Greek mythology and some of the heroes fall under this category as well. I am referring, of course, to the archetype of ‘Tragic Hero’. They are identified with heroic, and often noble, traits who achieve great feats by virtue of their many talents. Unfortunately, however, they also suffer from fatal flaws in their character which, ultimately, cause their downfall.
Most famously, there were Oedipus and Bellerophon but they can be found in other literature as well. In George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, Daenerys Targaryen appears to be a classic tragic hero if the ending of the television series based on it is anything to go by. She is great and noble and achieves glorious feats but ultimately, she is consumed by hubris and becomes worthy of the title of the ‘Mad Queen’.
Donald Trump: The Tragic Hero
Reality often mirrors fiction, just as fictions often mirrors reality, and as fate would have it, there are real life personas as well who fit the archetype beautifully. But none, perhaps, fit the bill more perfectly than the sitting president of the United States Donald J. Trump. Make no mistake, what Donald Trump has achieved during the first term of his presidency ought to be enough to earn him a place in the list of the greatest United States president in the modern era.
But it is his fate that his stellar success will never be recognised, no songs will ever be sung of his brilliance, no Op-Eds will be written paying homage to his significant achievements and history is unlikely to judge him kindly. But those of us who have paid close attention to details and ignored the theatrics would remember his significant contribution towards a better world. Certainly, Donald Trump did himself no favours but it is also a fact that he was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
The greatest phase of his life began when he walked down from the series of stairs and announced that he will run for the presidency. There have been occasions in the past when he floated the idea of a presidential run but until that moment, no one ever took him seriously. It is a testament to the manner of obstacles he had to overcome that for a significant while, no one appeared willing to believe that Donald Trump was serious about his presidential bid.
It is hard to pinpoint precisely when the business tycoon decided to run for the presidency but one tends to believe that the manner in which he was humiliated by President Barack Obama contributed to his decision. And his announcement speech itself created a huge controversy when he suggested that illegal immigrants entering the United States from Mexico were not a specimen of great human intellect or integrity.
Donald Trump: The Candidate
Donald Trump ran the greatest presidential campaign any presidential candidate has run in recent memory. It was energetic, it was high-tempo, it was flamboyant, it was majestic and, at times, it was brutal. There were numerous occasions during his campaign when the intelligentsia assumed that his chances were done and dusted but at every turn, he continued to defy expectations and conventional wisdom.
He is as much a product of the times we live in as he has helped shape the destiny of the world. It is unthinkable at any point in recent memory when the American electorate would vote someone like him to the White House. But as Tucker Carlson once remarked, happy countries do not elect Donald Trump, desperate ones do.
He did manage to identify certain concerns of the American electorate that gave him a shield of Teflon against the barrage of propaganda that was unleashed against him and against his numerous character flaws. He was right when he said that unless he raked up the issue of illegal immigration, no one would even be speaking of it during the campaign. He called out the American wars in the Middle East for the sham they were. His anti-globalism, anti-war and anti-illegal immigration plank made the Republican voter-base more than willing to overlook his flaws.
When combined with his refusal to cower before the politically correct crowd, his willingness to speak truth to the establishment and the recklessness and candour with which he carried himself made him more and more appealing to the white working class and the Republican voter-base. He cared more about winning than being the ‘nice guy’ and it showed. And he was willing to fight. A significant section of the electorate respected him for it.
Only Donald Trump could have survived the ‘locker-room talk’ audio clip that made its way to the media merely weeks before election day. Only Donald Trump could have survived the relentless negative coverage that he received from the media since the moment he announced his campaign. Only Donald Trump could have survived the wave of his own follies. Thus, when a tired Hillary Clinton wondered in exasperation why she was not fifty points ahead in the polls, it was not really a surprise. Anyone in her position would have felt the same.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump defeated the establishment of both political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, the mainstream media, big business, Hollywood and even the Pope who somehow found his voice to condemn his proposed border wall. And he did all that with a fraction of the money that Hillary Clinton spent on her campaign. Since his victory, the intelligence community and Big Tech have also jumped on the campaign to oust him from the White House.
The Great American Divide
What Donald Trump achieved during his campaign was truly spectacular and unprecedented. The results of the 2016 Presidential Elections were the greatest upset in American political history. And yet, his efforts would not be acknowledged as such, in parts due to his own flawed personality and parts due to the malice of his political opponents.
There is good reason why Donald J. Trump would never have been one of the more popular presidents, no matter how effective his presidency or great his achievements. And the reason for it lies in the very aspects of his character that helped him win the presidency. He is too crude, his mannerisms are too erratic, he is too eccentric and he is prone to making bizarre comments.
He is too aggressive when circumstances demand a more nuanced approach, he is too thin-skinned at times and his antics very often do not behove the occupant of the White House. Thus, the very characteristic traits that empowered him to overcome significant odds also ensured that he will never have the support of an overwhelming majority of the American electorate.
Thus it happened that when Donald Trump entered the White House, the US was already a deeply divided country. And although it has become fashionable to blame the 45th US President for all the divisiveness, the fact of the matter is that he did not create the divide anymore than he caused the outbreak of war in the Middle East. His campaign was shaped by it, moulded by it, but he did not cause it. He is a product of the American divide, not the creator of it.
The American divide was caused by years of neglect and complete apathy towards working class Americans by urban elites. It was only exacerbated by the utter lack of accountability for those who wrecked the lives of millions of Americans. And what is purposefully cloaked by the establishment is that it is not a racial divide, it is a class divide that’s threatening to tear the country apart. An iconic speech of progressive political commentator Michael Moore is worth quoting in this context.
Moore said, “It’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He was the Malatov cocktail that they have been waiting for. The human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.”
He continued, “They’ve lost their jobs, the banks foreclosed, next came the divorce and now the wife and kids are gone, the car’s been repoed. They haven’t had a vacation in years, they’re stuck with the sh***y bronze plan where you can’t even get a f***ing Percocet. They’ve essentially lost everything they have except one thing: the right to vote. They might be penniless, they might be homeless, they might be f**ked over and f**ked up – it doesn’t matter because it’s equalised on that day.”
“On 8 November, the dispossessed will walk into the voting booth… and put a big f**king X in the box next to the name of the man who has threatened to upend and overturn the very system that ruined their lives. Donald J. Trump,” Moore said, before stating emphatically, “Trump’s election is going to be the biggest f**k you! In human history. And it will feel good.”
Michael Moore was not the only person who reached such a conclusion. Tucker Carlson, in his book ‘Ship of Fools’, opined, “Trump might be vulgar and ignorant, but he wasn’t responsible for the many disasters America’s leaders created. Trump didn’t invade Iraq or bail out Wall Street. He didn’t lower interest rates to zero, or open the borders, or sit silently by as the manufacturing sector collapsed and the middle class died. You couldn’t really know what Trump might do as president, but he didn’t do any of that.”
The Trump Years
It is under these circumstances that Donald Trump took the reins of the Presidency. The Democrat establishment, on the other hand, had two choices before them. Either they could humbly take the blame for the defeat, which would make it a lot more difficult to fend off the progressive rebellion within the party, or they could take the easy route and declare Trump an illegitimate president at significant risk to the health of the country.
So naturally, the Democrat establishment took the latter route. Throughout the four years of the Trump presidency, the mainstream media, the propaganda wing for the Democrat party, told everyone how every bit of new information on the Mueller probe was the ‘beginning of the end’ for Donald Trump. Unfortunately, they had to repeat it every few months and what was remarkable was that they did so without losing any enthusiasm at all.
All of this was accompanied by fervent declarations of Trump being a Nazi and ‘literally’ Hitler. The Democrats had half the country convinced that the sitting president of the United States was a Nazi Russian puppet and the only ones who could save the country from the mess were the heroes in the Democrat Establishment. It was quite a beautiful game that the DNC played and in terms of political strategy, it was sheer genius.
No one in the DNC had to take any responsibility for the 2016 defeat at all. Hillary Clinton can still walk around calling everyone who disagreed with her a Russian asset. They could project their own candidate as the only one who had the chance to defeat Trump in 2020, fending off the progressive rebellion. And they could legitimately silence all and every criticism of the DNC by claiming that such criticism benefits Trump and Republicans.
Eventually, that is precisely what happened. In Democrat primaries, defeating Donald Trump took greater precedence than addressing the concerns of the electorate. Progressives such as Jimmy Dore and Krystal Ball raved and railed but there were hardly any takers for their rhetoric. The results of the 2020 elections were a total success for the Democrat establishment. Joe Biden’s cabinet picks also reveals that progressives are unlikely to find a place at the table.
The extent of collusion between the Democrats and the media that was observed during the Trump presidency is entirely unimaginable. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is writing bestsellers on lessons that were learnt during the Coronavirus pandemic after his orders contributed to the death of thousands that could have been avoided. And the media let him get away with it completely. He even received awards for it.
Rachel Maddow at MSNBC was discussing the possibility of Russia causing a power outage in the United States during a freezing winter. Democrat Senators were blaming Russia, without any evidence, for the Hunter Biden emails. The media censored the news because they believed it could be damaging for Joe Biden’s presidential prospects. CNN called the Antifa riots ‘mostly peaceful protests’ even as fires raged in the background.
Questions regarding Joe Biden’s mental health were declared off limits even though it was painfully obvious that the former Vice President had suffered a clear and discernible cognitive decline. Trump’s historic peace deals in the Middle East were never discussed even though the deals marked the greatest moment of the Trump presidency.
It was unreal watching all of it unfold from a distance. It speaks volumes for the integrity of the media when the only time Trump was cheered was when he bombed Syria. We, in India, complain about a biased liberal media here. The likes of Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai pale in comparison to what we can see in the United States. But even considering all of this, there were certain things that were completely under Trump’s control that he failed monumentally at.
First and foremost, he did not appoint enough Trump loyalists in his cabinet. People who had stuck by him when he had no support at all during his campaign were sidelined in favour of more establishment characters. Also, he did bungle the Coronavirus response. While it is true that the response of every government could be criticized, it was obvious from the very beginning that he was extremely unsure of how to respond to the crisis.
Even then, the series of events unfolded as a tragicomedy. Because the Democrats and the media, who were outraged by Trump’s conduct, were themselves asking people to come forward and celebrate the Chinese New Year in large numbers during the advent of the pandemic. The exact same comparisons that Trump was making about the Coronavirus and the Flu were being made by Democrats and others in the media.
It was a bizarre situation to say the least. The less said about public health experts the better. They defended the mass gatherings at the ‘anti-racism’ protests where Coronavirus restrictions were being flouted at will and labeled them a public health intervention. According to such ‘public health experts’, people could not be permitted to organize funerals for their deceased family but mass gatherings to further a political agenda was just fine.
One could go on and on about the lunacy that prevailed but the insanity that has characterized American political discourse during the Trump years has no parallels in recent memory. Who would have thought people in the media would justify looting and rioting? And yet, that is precisely what happened. There is an even a phrase that has been coined to describe the phenomenon: Trump Derangement Syndrome.
With Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 Presidential Elections, the Trump presidency is at an end. And although Donald Trump is refusing to go quietly into the dark night, the choice is out of his hands. He will have to accept his fate and move on. There are endless possibilities of what could have been and what eventually came to pass. But the results are pretty clear as of now.
Trump supporters, ironically, are acting in the same fashion that Democrats did after his victory in 2016. Democrats are, of course, wringing their hands and complaining about how awful all of this is but truth be told, Trump supporters are only following in the footsteps of their Democrat counterparts. And they are far from hitting the pits that the Democrats did between 2016-2020.
But larger questions remain. What will be Trump’s legacy? How will Donald Trump be remembered? As political commentator and journalist Michael Tracey put it, a Trump defeat is a “win for the lunatics who’ve spent four years subjecting the rest of us an unceasing tsunami of freakish nonsense.” Therefore, the lunatics and the crazies are unlikely to remember Trump fondly even after he has left office.
But there are lessons for others in Trump’s meteoric rise and subsequent defeat as well. The overarching lesson that the Trump phenomenon has for others is that it is impossible for any movement to succeed without acquiring the support of a section of the establishment elite. Donald Trump might have won the presidency but he was still an outsider to Washington politics. And that was felt acutely throughout his tenure.
It was extremely difficult for him to implement the policies he wanted because the political establishment of both political parties were opposed to him. He promised to ‘Drain the Swamp’ but in the end, the Swamp made a meal of him. But it is a testament to his abilities that even with all the constraints, he did manage to make some progress on the Border wall, managed to fend off pressure for increased military entanglement in the Middle East and until the advent of the pandemic, had a booming economy.
He is also the US President who recognized China as enemy number 1. And at least on the foreign policy front, the Biden presidency will likely retain many aspects of the Trump agenda rather than charter a different path altogether. Will Trump run for office again in 2024? Four years is a long time and it is unlikely to say anything for certain as of now. But if he did, it is hard to see anyone who could possibly prevent him from winning the nomination within the party as of this moment. But a lot of things could change between now and then.
The most interesting phenomenon, certainly, will be to see how the friction within different factions of the Democrat party evolves in the next four years. With Trump no longer in the picture, it will certainly blow the wind out of the sails of the Antifa wing of the party. Social Democrats, too, will finally have to reckon with the fact that Biden is not a progressive wet dream.
On the Republican side, many believe that Donald Trump was let down by the leaders of his own party. Therefore, the defining feature of American politics in the next four years could very well be the internal wars within the respective parties.