Donald J Trump may be recorded as the most contentious of all American presidents, but history has seen his type before.
While grappling for a mythic equivalent, the story of David and Goliath offered some comparisons that might help unravel the Trump enigma.
The myth of David vs Goliath is a powerful narrative that has permeated western culture. The story begins with opposing armies locked in a lengthy stalemate. Neither camp is willing to leave their hillside position and risk open warfare in the valley below. For forty days a mighty Philistine warrior named Goliath challenges any Israelite soldier to a one-on-one battle to determine the outcome of the war. The Israelites are dismayed and terrified at the sight.
David, A teenage shepherd who happens to be visiting his soldier brothers, hears the giant traduce his people, and full of youthful bravado, steps forward to accept the challenge. Armed only with his trusty slingshot, David fells the giant, beheads him with the Philistine’s massive sword and presents the grisly trophy to his king. The Israelite army then routs its enemy as it retreats in disarray. Not much more is said of the giant or his backstory.
It can be assumed that Goliath was the most feared man in his entire nation. His reputation was such that there were no arguments from fellow soldiers about who should fight on their behalf. Goliath would have dominated military training drills and exercises. He was a huge man who has found his calling in life.
But what was Goliath like way from the battlefield? Was he a popular man? Was he a good conversationalist, a jolly and personable fellow? Probably not. He was most likely a somewhat brutish loner who lacked empathy and compassion. He would have trained hard to remain at the top of his field. He must have had enemies, rival combatants that were jealous of his success and intent on taking him down.
Goliath’s position of dominance must have brought perks and advantages such as money and fame that bred jealousy. But, when the stakes were high, and an entire army’s fate rested on the shoulders of a single man, the rank and file were happy to have Goliath as their representative.
The current US president is not a well liked man. He is driven by a large ego. He seems to enjoy firing subordinates and burns through employees at a prodigious rate. Many of the discarded underlings write vengeful books about their experiences and appear on network television to throw jabs from a safe distance. Trump has gone through life seeking to impose his will on those in his orbit. He has ruffled many feathers, endured many failures, but on the whole, it must be said that Trump is winning the game of life.
In response to Trump’s obvious flaws, Joe Biden has attempted to paint himself as a man of boundless empathy, decency, and good intentions. The Democrats are obsessed with social justice and the achievement of equal outcomes, They are not the party of merit, success, and equal opportunities. They contrast this with an image of Trump as cold, distant, and heartless.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Trump is Goliath. The current president fought his way to the top of the real estate industry, reality television, and now politics. He is clearly a man of considerable talents. He is adept at surviving cut-throat competition and battling against huge odds. His 2016 election victory left almost every political pundit dumbfounded and reaching for excuses.
Part of Trump’s political success could stem from the fact that the American people do not want another empathetic leader. With enemies like China and Iran intent on causing the nation harm, perhaps the 2016 electorate sifted through a huge field of Republican contenders and selected the toughest son of a bitch they could find. They wanted a Goliath to represent them. Voters then confounded the pollsters and chose Trump’s bombast and pugnaciousness over Clinton’s colourless shape-shifting, and the rest is history.
In office Trump has certainly kept his side of the bargain. His image remains as a tough guy willing to defy America’s enemies. He has certainly not softened his persona for the sake of popular opinion. His pragmatic approach might have been exposed somewhat by the pandemic, but whether this will hurt his re-election chances remains to be seen. Betting markets are tightening by the day. Biden’s lead has all but evaporated. The 2020 polls are probably wrong again, as they were in 2016. Many Goliath fans keep their opinions to themselves. They don’t erect political signs in their front yards. They shy away from bumper stickers and MAGA hats. They might even lie to their close acquaintances about their voting intentions.
Trump is a known commodity, a real entity, not some polished hollow candidate that switches stances based on the opinions of focus groups and spin doctors. He may not be nice. He makes plenty of enemies. But when the time comes to elect a leader who will defend their country and make the tough decisions, the silent majority will opt for the big, bad son of a bitch again.
That’s why Trump will win in November.
Joe Biden is no fearless youthful shepherd.
G G Novack – Political Correspondent