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TRUMP: IGNORING MACHIAVELLI AT HIS PERIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

For all his ruthlessness and duplicity, it’s almost a certainty that Donald Trump has never read the works of Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) is widely thought of as the personification of Satan.

In fact, Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Cesare Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli did not advocate evil for its own sake. 

Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect solution to a problem. He realized that men—and nations—are not always masters of their fates. And he warned that there is no course of action that is guaranteed safe or successful.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a man of simplistic “solutions” for simplistic audiences.

By early April, he opposed the issuing of a national “stay-at-home” order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. But, one by one, states began issuing shutdown orders of their own. Since then, he has railed against those orders and demanded that “we need to reopen the country.” 

Donald Trump

What lies behind this demand are two hidden agendas:

First, throughout his Presidency, Trump has claimed sole credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the result of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Second, Trump wants to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies, where he can slander anyone he wants while basking in the worship of thousands of his fanatical followers.

His White House “Coronavirus briefings” have been his pale substitute for dispensing propaganda under the guise of sharing reliable medical information.

Which is why he has clearly missed this warning, offered in Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses:  

…I shall speak here only of those dangers to which those expose themselves who counsel a republic or a prince to undertake some grave and important enterprise in such a manner as to take upon themselves all the responsibility of the same. 

“For as men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations.  But the reward never equals the punishment….

“Certainly those who counsel princes and republics are placed between two dangers. If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty….

“I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. 

“If either then the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity.

“In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either the prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many.”

Right now, more Americans are wary of “reopening the country” than they are rushing to do so. 

On the May 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted:

“If you look at actual behavior, people locked themselves down before any politician took a move. And even in those states where the politicians are opening up, people are still locking down….

“You look at the movement based on cell phone tracking. Red and blue states have the same amount of movement. The same number of people basically in state after state are staying home. And red and blue states, there’s no correlation between whether it’s a red and blue state and whether people are doing better or worse.

“And so I think the key decisions right now are not being made in statehouses and certainly not the White House. They’re being made in living rooms, as people decide, is it safe? Can I go out?”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

By pushing his mantra—“America needs to reopen NOW!”—Trump is risking the lives of millions of Americans. But he is also risking the future of his Presidency.

Several states—such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that have re-opened have seen swarms of people flooding into bars and restaurants. They weren’t wearing masks or practicing “social distancing.” Packed together like sardines, they offered themselves like a sacrifice to Coronavirus.

If a new wave of COVID-19 breaks out after America “reopens,” Trump will be seen—as Machiavelli warns—as the primary instigator of that “reopening.” He will also be seen as the primary cause of that re-infection. 

Herbert Hoover did not create the Great Depression. But he presided over the first three years of it. And that was enough to elect Franklin D. Roosevelt for 12 years and give Harry S. Truman another eight.

Trump—unintentionally—is offering Democrats another chance to own the Presidency for a generation.

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