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Trump! Demagogue or Savior; Some Historical Precedents Voters Should Know

I’m not sure what to make of Donald Trump, but I’m in good company. Most of the so-called experts are just as uncertain. The Huffington Post dismisses him as a folly and  cover his campaign in their entertainment section. Many Republicans claim he is a phony conservative and wonder if his campaign is a Trojan horse put in place to help Hillary’s quest for the White House.

One thing about Donald Trump is that he seems to fit the definition of a demagogue – someone who plays to peoples’ emotions and fears and uses prejudices to gain power. History is replete with other such leaders. Historically, demagogues arise during times of such trouble and or decline that desperate people turn to someone who promises to make their lives better. Napoleon rose to power after the French Revolution’s drastic failure to achieve the promises of the revolutionaries. In 20th century the Bolsheviks under Lenin overthrew the Czar after the hash he’d made of fighting WWI. Italy was in sad shape when Mussolini promised to make the trains run on time. Germany was in even worse shape when its citizens turned to an Austrian corporal to improve their lives. None of these choices turned out well for those who made them, but the citizens were so disheartened and fearful they turned to someone who promised to make things better. If Trump is a demagogue, not a savior this might happen to those who support him.

In the United States things aren’t quite that bad, key word, yet, but more and more people realize that major problems loom on the horizon. The national debt is over 18 trillion dollars and rising fast. The economy is still a mess. Racial tension is increasing. Our boarders are wide open. ISIS running rampant in the Middle East, and lone wolf terror attacks increase in our own country. In the most recent Rasmussen poll 66% of voters believe this country is headed in the wrong direction. People are worried, even scared, and they want someone to make things better. Into this state of affairs comes Donald Trump who promises to, “Make America Great Again.” His critics decry his promises as infeasible and un-American. They attack him as arrogant, but he still rises in the polls.

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We have had a similar experience in America. After the stock market crash and the Great Depression descended on the country voters elected Franklin Roosevelt who promised them a “New Deal.” He, too, was a demagogue. While history has treated FDR very kindly, his policies didn’t get us out of the depression. Unemployment was still almost 15% in 1940 after eight years of his leadership. Trump’s plan of eliminating so-called anchor babies is attacked as unconstitutional, but many of FD’s policies were in fact declared unconstitutional. Trump wants to deport those here illegally, but FDR actually rounded up and interred Japanese-American citizens for years during WWII. As for arrogant, FDR was the only man who decided he needed to be elected for a third and later fourth time. Yet none of this kept him from being popular because he promised the people what they wanted to hear.

As for his ultimate legacy FDR gave us an expanded government, and increased regulations. He ushered in the welfare state. His social security program started a string of government entitlements that are unsustainable and are contributing to many of our problems today. There is no way to know for sure what Trump actually would try do if elected, let alone what actions he’d resort to in order to get his policies enacted. That is the problems with demagogues. When people follow a savior, they often regret their ultimate destination.

There is no way to know for certain with Trump. Certainly running your own company is much different that leading a democratic republic, but that proves nothing. Our current president has turned out to be as big a demagogue as FDR ever was. Electing Donald Trump might make our country great again, or back to back imperial presidencies could change our republic and lead us into a very different future America. Trump supporters should consider all this very carefully before voting for the Donald.

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About Nicholas Wishek

Retired teacher. 40 years classroom experience. Served in California National Guard 6 years. BA in history, MA in education. Married 35 years. Two sons. Many columns published in OC Register 2009-2014.