Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do know history are doomed to watch helplessly as others repeat it. As a student of history, I want to let you know what I am seeing and why I am mourning for the death of the American republic.
To know why we pledge allegiance to “The Republic” and not some other form of government we have to go back to Ancient Rome.
When most Americans think of the Romans they think of the empire that crucified Jesus and persecuted the early Christians.
Before Rome was a Jesus-killing evil empire, it was a glorious republic where liberty and justice reigned (in contrast to the tyranny and corruption of their neighbors). It was this republic our founders modeled our government after.
This is why we:
- we vote in the Romans’ language (“aye” and “nay” are Latin for “yes” and “no”)
- government buildings have Roman columns
- we have a senate rather than a parliament
The democracies of the world are based on the British system. Our Republic is based on the Roman system. So if we want to learn from history the most important history to study is Roman history.
So how did the Roman Republic die?
The Roman people elected a sociopathic demagogue, Tiberius Gracchus, who promised to make Rome great again. He was a member of the wealthy aristocracy, who teamed up with the Roman poor to dismantle Rome’s ancient institutions. He promised to solve the debt problem the poor faced. Instead, he filled the Roman streets with blood and sparked a series of Roman civil wars that raged for two generations.
The civil wars did not come to an end until a Roman general took his army and conquered the entire nation. This General marched his army from France, into Italy, and all the way around to Egypt, fighting battles all the way. He then sent his army to finish off the rest of Africa and Spain while he hung out with his new Egyptian girlfriend back in Rome. This man’s name was Julius Caesar. You may have heard of him.
By the time Caesar came to power nothing could be done to save the republic. Killing Caesar didn’t do it. Cicero’s oratory couldn’t do it. His nephew Octavian even tried to force the nation back to its republican roots. But every law he passed only ended up growing the power of the emperor until the republic was nothing more than a fond memory.
Scholars preserved the dream of the republic, passing it from historian to historian, before the dream was revived 1700 years later on the other side of the planet.
Trump is a Modern-Day Tiberius Gracchus
The world sees sociopathic demagogues come to power from time to time and the results are never pretty. Tiberius Gracchus, Sulla, Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Bismark, Mussolini, and He Who Shall Not Be Named.
The problem with demagogues is that they are patient zero for a deadly ideavirus. They infect not only the nation they come from, but other nations as well. Mussolini created the playbook that inspired authoritarians like Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Tojo, and He Who Shall Not Be Named to copy his tactics (while often ignoring his ideology.)
Why a Vote for Trump is a Vote for War
The American president has the power to personally take the nation to war. No permission or authorization is needed. Congress abdicated its war-making powers to the office of the presidency a couple of generations ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We will soon see what a mistake it was.
Imagine what would happen if a sociopathic demagogue bully like Trump had the power to take us to war without having to ask anyone’s permission. Do you know why he won’t tell anyone how he will get Mexico to pay for that wall? Because he will do it by threatening to attack Mexico. He has practiced this kind of aggressive behavior his whole life. What he did with lawsuits in business he will do with wars as president.
What do you think the nations of the world will do when America starts using its military to extort money from them? They will be forced to ally against us. Think about that for a moment. The world will be allied against America the way the world was forced to ally against other aggressive nations in the past.
But what about our allies, you ask?
Trump has already alienated them:
- Canada has a petition to ban Trump from the country
- The UK Parliament debated whether to ban Trump from the country.
- The Israeli Prime minister un-invited Trump to visit the country.
Do you think these allies who don’t even want Trump in their countries will join him in his aggressive wars? Once elected, he will anger our enemies and alienate our allies. Our military might be able to take the rest of the world. But I would hate to see them try.
Why a Vote for Trump is a Vote for More Candidates Like Trump in the Future
Once Trump gets elected, the Democrats will need to find a demagogue of their own to counter him. Historically, it takes one to beat one. This is what led to the series of civil wars in Rome. After Tiberius Gracchus came Sulla and finally Caesar.
If elected, Trump will forever change United States politics.
The days of knocking on doors, talking with voters, and holding reasoned, rational debates will be replaced by huge rallies, social media monitoring, and televised shouting matches.
But that is just the start.
Imagine what the right will do once the left replaces a demagogue like Trump with a demagogue of their own. The power of the presidency will grow and grow trampling more and more right and finally leading to civil war. Even if voted out of office, Trump will still be around fanning the flames. In the era after Tiberius Gracchus Rome faced both external wars and civil wars at the same time.
When words stop working, bullets become the only means of political discourse.
The only way for words to work is for people to be willing to listen. Demagogues don’t listen. We have an epidemic of not listening in this country that Trump is making so much worse.
Can the Trump Be Stopped?
Trump voters are voting out of fear and anger. This is why you can’t really reason with them. When you give them facts that prove Trump to be a liar they don’t care. Why? Because he makes them feel safe from the bogey men he has grown in their minds. If Mexicans are rapists and Muslims are terrorists, then there is no way to feel safe unless you have Trump to protect you.
Whatever happens, these people will follow Trump like the children who followed the Pied Piper. Those kids walked away from the safety of their families and into the jaws of death. I am not angry with these people. I pity them. I also pity the nation they are unwittingly destroying with their cowardice.
Trump is incapable of quitting. If Trump is not nominated he will run 3rd party. If he is not elected 3rd party he will travel the media waves demagoguing the people against the elected president. His behavior will be like what He Who Shall Not Be Named did after he lost his first election in Germany. Trump’s Pied-Piper children will following him all along the way, bringing in more and more people as they go.
Then four years from now he will run again. Or, put another way, he will never have stopped running from his last defeat. The more he talks, the more he will poison the minds of the American people with fear and hate.
I don’t know if Trump can be stopped. But I for one won’t stand idly by and watch him destroy America without doing everything I can to stop him. For example, one thing we need to do is fix some of the problems that are giving him power. The GOP refusing to work with the democrats on immigration reform is partly to blame. The democrats want to simplify the immigration system and the republicans want to secure the boarder. These are not mutually exclusive and a deal could be reached.
The Glorious Roman Republic ended because the Roman people voted in its doom by electing Tiberius Gracchus, a sociopathic demagogue, as Tribune. Sociopaths are dangerous. Demagogues are dangerous. Sociopathic demagogues destroy nations. We have their example to learn from. It is not too late to turn back from the brink.
We are not doomed to repeat history. We are Americans. We are a nation of innovators. We are a people who invent the future. We could forge a new path. But will we? The choice is up to you.