Trump, the Maximum Leader

Donald Trump has befuddled political observers of all stripes (including me) and roiled standard contemporary political definitions. What is he?

In his past he’s mostly associated with big government liberal Democrats. One could argue that the reason for that is because that is the world he inhabits — New York City, projects in major, mostly Democrat-controlled cities, Wall Street (which is actually more Democrat and liberal-populated than people realize) and amoral (often immoral) relativist celebrities. He doesn’t seem to have ever studied any coherent political philosophy or philosophers or any economists such as Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, Tom Sowell, et al.

Trump, if anything, is apparently, to whatever extent, self-educated and plays things by ear or makes decisions based on past personal and business experiences along with what might seem to be the best strategy for getting a favorable pro-Trump result. He does not seem to have a capability to plan for the long run but relies on a quick wit, bluster or simple bullying to get his way at that moment.

He is not consistent from one day to the next and no one expects him to be.

He is extremely competitive. He is also unusually self-centered for a big businessman, which would explain why is operations are surprisingly small in personnel numbers and often reliant upon Trump’s personality to keep them moving (or collapsing). He has made few business alliances and his projects are often odd lot one-off buildings/redevelopments that have no connection to anything else in the city. He doesn’t work with other well-known urban developers such as James Rouse or share in big projects.

Trump is a loner. When Trump passes away, his business empire won’t survive in whole.

I offer that Trump is closer to a Latin American caudillo, supremo or “Maximum Leader.” These men, usually military, mostly ascend to the “Presidency” through a coup and then cling to power as “President for Life.” They are not often Cincinnatus. They have a few long-time trusted friends that they keep close and are usually paranoid and suspicious of outsiders. They are extremely dismissive of intellectuals and “establishment” rivals from powerful families. They often develop and promote a cult of personality — “The Big Man” or someone masculine, healthy, almost an immortal. Their length of survival is often dependent on keeping the cult fresh and rivals cut down (to size or dead). The rule can be unpredictable and capricious. It’s not unusual for these men to have an eye for the ladies.

Trump is not political ideologue pushing an idea or set of public policies but rather he is his own, unique man. Trump is Trump.

He is, if anything, running against something, much like a caudillo mounting a coup to remove corrupt leaders who do not “represent the people.”

Clearly, the analogy has some holes. As much as Obama has been trying to turn America into a banana republic, it isn’t there yet. But it’s easy for me to see Trump’s personality fitting in the group.

Perhaps, to push it further into the past, Trump is like a self-made medieval English baron or, for that matter, most any medieval European feudal baron. He’ll “rule” exclusively on his interests not any recognizable political philosophy. If elected, he’ll most likely find that running the kingdom is more complicated than running the fiefdom or the campaign. The truly great adapt while the lesser lights are usually deposed. Trump will not be able to talk or bully his way to presidential greatness.

As some, Steve Hayward recently mouthed this, we’ll have to elect Trump to find out what he’ll be.

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