Alexis de Tocqueville, Donald Trump & The Prophecy of The French Revolution

The opening pages of Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and The French Revolution so hauntingly describe the malicious wasteland that our political process has become it is impossible not to acknowledge that we are on the threshold of revolution.  

“No great historical event is better calculated than the French Revolution to teach political writers and statesmen to be cautious in their speculations; for never was any such event, stemming from the factors so far back in the past, so inevitable yet so completely unforeseen. It was watched with extreme interest by foreigners the world over; everywhere it gave rise to a vague awareness that a new order was in the making and to equally vague hopes of changes and reforms.”

Indeed a new order seems to be emerging out of vague hopes of changes and reforms. What began last June as nothing more than a vulgar but well known “businessman” humorously deciding in the twilight of his years that he’d like to be the President has swelled into what can rightly be called an angry, confused mass hysteria – part nearsighted populism and part belligerent nationalism, without any historical reverence or cognitive faculties.

In January members of the British Parliament held a debate over a petition calling for Trump to be banned from the country. Nearly 600,000 people had signed the petition and stated “his words are not comical. His words are not funny. They are poisonous. They risk inflaming tension between vulnerable communities.”

Leaders from Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, Mexico, France, Germany, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia have all publically discussed the potential dangers of a Trump presidency. Historian James Thurber tells us, “I cannot recall a time when anyone (world leaders) spoke out during the presidential election, and especially in the primary election. This has to do with outrageous statements made relevant to the war in Syria, Muslims, Spanish-speaking countries, immigrants, and trade… he’s really alienated a lot of people.”

A Leger poll from February confirms that 65% of Canadians are actually “fearful” of what a President Trump would do to the world. British Prime Minister David Cameron has called Trump “divisive, stupid, and wrong.” Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has called Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all of America.” Ecuadorian socialist President Rafael Correa said he would enjoy a Trump presidency because it would be “very bad for the United States.” Adding “His discourse is so dumb, so basic that it would help socialist politicians in Latin America.”

One of the great errors of the Trump camp is thinking that he is receiving all of this attention globally because everyone is afraid of a truth-teller; that leaders are cowering in fear over a tough guy like Trump. This is false. They are afraid of the possibility that an openly dishonest and often confused populist gangster whose policies are vindictive and reactionary might soon be in control of the most powerful nation on Earth.

“At the bottom they were convinced that the French Revolution was no more than a local, transient phenomenon which they could probably exploit to their advantage. With this in mind they hatched up schemes for their own aggrandizement, made proposals, contracted secret treaties of alliance. They even haggled amongst themselves about the division of the spoils that were soon (as they supposed) to fall into their hands; they split up into opposing camps or else joined forces and were, in fact, prepared for almost every eventuality – except what actually took place.”

Establishment favorites John Kasich and Marco Rubio both have absolutely no chance of winning the nomination at the ballot box and yet they remain in the race. Kasich has somehow been able to survive TWELVE debates without having to answer for his decision to accept the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid, which translates to billions of new federal welfare spending at the behest of hospital lobbyists. Medicaid was originally established for pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. This expansion will transform Medicaid into a poverty trap for millions of working-age Americans. Rubio has managed to deflect criticism of his leading role in the ‘Gang of Eight’ bill by joining Donald Trump on his vicious “Lyin’ Ted” campaign. The truth is that both Kasich and Rubio represent “establishment” views on immigration, welfare spending and a host of other issues and while both candidates tell us that Donald Trump is not qualified to lead the GOP and that he must be stopped at any cost – that is, except declaring their support for the only candidate with a chance to beat him, Ted Cruz. Senior members of both campaigns have openly stated that they are hanging around in hopes of reaching a brokered convention this summer. In this scenario, neither Trump or Cruz would be awarded the nomination and the GOP establishment would be allowed to drop in with their preferred candidate.

Less than a week ago, over fifty private jets had arrived at an ‘off the record’ meeting hosted by the American Enterprise Institute off the coast of Georgia. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and other members of the “establishment” were all there trying to figure out how to stop Donald Trump. If the “establishment” was truly interested in stopping Trump I would think that the best way to do it would be to have Rubio and Kasich drop out and pledge their support to Cruz. But no. Mitt Romney is now campaigning with John Kasich in Ohio, where were he to win on Tuesday would still be mathematically eliminated from the race.

Over the past couple of weeks there have been a number of Senators and Representatives joining the ‘Never Trump’ campaign and yet not one of them has endorsed the one candidate that can actually take on Donald Trump – and so he continues to rack up delegates with support from less than a third of Republicans.  

“Meanwhile the Revolution followed its destined course. After the attitude of the outside world towards it gradually changed, the more it revealed its aspect as a grim, terrific force of nature, a newfangled monster, red of tooth and claw; when, after changing laws, it tampered with age-old customs and even the French language; when, not content with wrecking the whole structure of the government of France, it proceeded to undermine the social order and seemed even to aim at dethroning God himself; when, worse still, it began to operate beyond the frontiers of its place of origin, employing methods hitherto unknown, new tactics, murderous slogans.”

The true character of Donald Trump and his campaign has emerged as divisive, intolerant, reckless, reactionary, and vindictive. He is your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving who, slumped in his lazyboy chair with a beer can resting on his belly, belches out antiquated anti-everything rhetoric in the name of ‘telling it like it is’. He has used anger to manipulate his followers into a frenzy instead of helping to focus that anger into a positive agent of the change that people so desperately want. We are already beginning to see the consequences and we’re not even halfway through the primary season. Donald Trump’s campaign is responsible for the annihilation of civility in our political process. Opposing views on policy have been replaced with vulgar, grade school-style insults. The incessant coverage has only empowered Trump to go further and further into the gutter.

Cheap one-liners became long form put-downs. Veiled threats to media personalities became threats to other candidates and politicians. “I’m sure I’ll get along well with him and if I don’t he’ll pay a big price,” Trump has said of House Speaker Paul Ryan. In the aftermath of bitter protests in Chicago, Trump has openly threatened to send his own group of malicious supporters to Bernie Sanders events. “Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours.” This sounds more like the provocations between warring nations than a Presidential campaign. Donald Trump tells reporters that he doesn’t “condone violence” yet he is currently considering paying the legal fees for one of his supporters who was arrested after sucker-punching a protester during a Trump event last week. The 78-year-old man has said on camera that perhaps the protester was probably a member of ISIS and that “he wasn’t acting like an American.” He concluded, “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.” He later added, “You bet I liked it. Knocking the hell out of that big mouth.” It’s worth noting that Donald Trump has consistently threatened to “knock the hell” out of ISIS.

After the protests caused Trump to cancel his event in Chicago he went on a tirade complaining that his 1st Amendment rights were being trampled. In trying to position himself as a martyr for free speech he has distracted his followers from his own efforts to infringe on those very same rights. Less than a month ago Trump himself yelled: “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. … So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace — or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons — write a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.” Of course, the protection he is referring to comes from the First Amendment. To Donald Trump and sadly, many of his supporters the Bill of Rights serves as nothing more than the kindling of vengeful fires.

“Not only were the barriers of kingdoms swept away and thrones laid low, but the masses were trampled underfoot – and yet, amazingly enough, these very masses rallied to the cause of the new order.”        

This remains to be seen.

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