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Reality Check on the Caligula Presidency: Courting a Disaster?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-02-17 10:42:12
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Emperor Caligula making his horse a Roman senator

During his presidential campaign Donald Trump declared that once he became president, his behavior would change and he would desist from his customary childish antics. That is to say, he would become more presidential. Lately, one of his admirers and former advisor was asked by a journalist what ever happened to that promised transformation. His terse answer was “well, it’s a work in progress.” Indeed!

If one thought that the gravitas of the office would change the Caligula-like behavior of Donald Trump, one is bound to be disappointed. The tweets full of abrasive insults and so called “alternate facts” (or lies) continue unabated: imagined voter fraud, berated “so called” federal judges, department stores carrying his daughter Ivanka’s merchandise, tumultuous phone calls with the allies, an alt-right white supremacist provocateur whispering advises on national security in his ear. As Trump himself likes to say, without realizing that he is saying a mouthful: “what’s going on”?

Let’s see if we can make some sense of it. In the first place, keep in mind that this is the very first reality TV presidency; therefore any day can be a sweep day, or a cliffhanger. The people, however, were told exactly what to expect, and in very concrete terms: build a wall, ban some Muslim immigrants, withdraw from trade deals, and resort to punishing tariffs. They were also promised in no uncertain terms a reactionary brand of conservatism which would  “make America great again,” in reality, a cover for white supremacy.

So far, it must be acknowledged, the people have been served from the menu they ordered from. But let’s also keep in mind that it was not the majority of people who voted by approximately a 3 million  vote difference for Trump’s opponent. He won merely 30% of the electorate’s votes, but won in any case thanks to its distribution in individual states and the system’s electoral college provision.

If one looks carefully at the voter’s exit polls, a more disquieting picture appears; one hinting at an unmitigated disaster. About two thirds of voters thought Trump was unqualified to be president. Another two thirds thought he lacked the temperament for the job. What were the voters saying then by voting for him? Essentially this: although we don’t like crazy and extreme, we can no longer bear the same old narrative and cast of characters, and so we’ll give you a shot. You have promised to drain the swamp of political insiders, have decried the influence of big money and the paralysis of the two parties, so go for it.

But what has Trump given the people so far? A Cabinet plucked from the billionaire’s club; an endless stream of tweets expressing childish rants; an extremely partisan agenda shouting that “we won, you lost, get used to it.”

What Trump has failed to realize, so far, is that while one can win a nomination and a general election with a 30% plus approval, in the White House, a 35% approval rating is simply not adequate. A president who pleases only his most diehard supporters ends up isolated while endangering his party. Right now, Trump is at 40% in most polls, which makes him the least popular president in memory.

He probably has six months to grow-up and start acting like an adult and a president, before the people, who are already showing signs of buyers’ remorse, decide that he is not the right person for the job after all and start talking about impeachment proceedings. The way it looks now, that will happen, sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile on their current trajectory, Trump and his allies in Congress,  proceeding full speed ahead, are headed straight for a wall — and no, it won’t be the big, beautiful one they are always bragging about.

Author’s note: this  piece on the Trump presidency essay has appeared, in a slightly   modified form, in Modern Diplomacy on February 10, 2017.


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them for FREE HERE!

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