by Joshua J. Whitfield
President Donald Trump will win re-election, and it may not even be close.
Is this conjecture or prophecy? Only time will tell. But it doesn’t matter; I expect the result will be the same: four more years making America great again, tweet by tweet. Not a question of economics or policy or even vision, it’s simply a question of psychology and politics. Americans remain seduced by the incantations and mythologies of partisan politics, so it should be plain for anyone to see. Our next general election will be a maddeningly simple game, uncomplex and brutal.
Take the politics of it. The philosopher Max Weber said long ago that the West has always been vulnerable to demagoguery, a claim both history and contemporary politics confirm. From Pericles to Putin, from Churchill to Thatcher to Reagan to Clinton to Trump: Charisma and celebrity have often mattered more than ideas.
Even noble, liberty-loving republicanism, intrinsically fearful of an unrestrained demos, has always been liable to exploitation by charismatic leaders. This is Machiavelli’s prince, idealized Medici: cruel, amoral charlatans desirous only for power. It’s why in politics oratory always mattered, and why in today’s media images, clickbait and deepfakes matter so much more.
It’s also why we’re in such danger. Because, as Cicero warned, eloquence divorced from wisdom can destroy a country. That’s a warning far more dire today, in an age in which there is no more sense of the common, good or otherwise.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News
Joshua J. Whitfield is pastoral administrator for St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas and a frequent contributor to The Dallas Morning News.