In the quiet of the morning, I am reading about the Roman Empire. To understand the Empire, you must start with the Republic that proceeded it. Pennsylvania State University has a good posting on the topic here. I was struck by the similarities with the demise of their Republic and our current state of affairs.
In talking about the power of the Roman Senate the article notes that by 30 BC most politicians had abandoned the Roman traditions and the Senate consequently lost its power.
“The fall of the senatorial power in Rome can be described by different specific events; for example, Tiberius Gracchus, elected tribune of the plebs in 133 BC, proposed a law known as Lex Sempronia Agraria, which in essence gave land to those who are poor and have fought in the army and had no land to return to. This is the first of many acts that started to define the different views and wants of the Optimates (the people of power, such as the senate) and the Populares (the roman people as a whole). Knowing that the senate would disagree with his proposal, he bypassed the senate and took his proposal directly to the Popular Assembly; this was considered a major insult to the senate. Tiberius Gracchus’s younger and more persistent brother, Gaius Gracchus, also broke many rules of tradition and was blatantly insulting towards the senate. Gracchus, however, focused much more on the enfranchisement of the Italian allies of Rome (this is seen as a move towards populares). C. Marius began to break tradition and law as well by taking men into his army who did not own any land previously. Marius and Sulla were the first two political figures in Rome who used considerable military force to get what they wanted, and this trend continued all through the fall of the Roman Republic and into the Roman Empire.”
Beginning with President Obama and certainly accelerating with President Trump don’t we see the same thing happening? Each, in his own way, has chosen to bypass the historical checks and balances of our government, while invoking the will of the people. There are only two real differences I see in their approach.
First, and foremost, President Obama has the adoration and support of a friendly press who would turn a blind eye to the dangers of his actions. This was either purposeful because they believed in the political choices, or through neglect, as they chose not to investigate the true motives for those actions. The same cannot be said for the current President.
Starting from the day the American people made their choice the vast majority of the press has been openly hostile and heavy-handed in their reporting. Unfortunately, their bias has been so obvious to all but the most anti-Trump opposition they have lost credibility in even the most legitimate of issues.
The second is one of style, rather than substance. President Obama, supported by a party that was in lockstep with him claimed his actions were to help the poor, to make a government bigger and stronger so the poor would not have to worry about healthcare, savings, or survival, and to bring equality to all. He did this through vilification of capitalism and obvious preferences in religion and race. None of these positions or ideas were original to him but were longstanding approaches of the intellectual urban and academic elite.
President Trump plays to a different audience. President Trump’s strongest supporters are the people President Nixon referred to as “the silent majority.” The middle class rural and suburban Americans the elites would dismiss in their quest for power. The people Hillary Clinton labeled as “deplorable” because they do not share the same fluid values as those who rule and make up the upper echelons of government, industry, and wealth in America.
Of course, with the release of the new book “Fire and Fury” our current Caesar should be asking “et tu Bannon?”