Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump and his VP as Predicted by Montesquieu

Yesterday, this New York Times story went around on Trump's plans to empower his Vice-President. 
'One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?
When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.
Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?
“Making America great again” was the casual reply.'
In an interview, Mitch McConnell showed he fancied himself, as I put it, Trump's Cardinal Richelieu.
As a historian, I know the story of the foolish but headstrong king surrounded by courtiers fighting for influence. On Facebook, in a discussion on the NYT piece, in fact, Craig McFarlane pointed out that Montesquieu described this pattern exactly in The Spirit of the Laws. The first thing a despot does, Montesquieu says, is appoint a Vizier to run everything, so that the despot can hang out and enjoy the luxuries of power. 
Spirit of the Laws, Book 2, Chapter 1: "a despotic government, that in which a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice."

ibid, Book 2, Chapter 5: "From the nature of despotic power it follows that the single person, invested with this power, commits the execution of it also to a single person. A man whom his senses continually inform that he himself is everything and that his subjects are nothing, is naturally lazy, voluptuous, and ignorant. In consequence of this, he neglects the management of public affairs. But were he to commit the administration to many, there would be continual disputes among them; each would form intrigues to be his first slave; and he would be obliged to take the reins into his own hands. It is, therefore, more natural for him to resign it to a vizir, and to invest him with the same power as himself. The creation of a vizir is a fundamental law of this government."
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein has penned an excellent piece about the dangers Trump poses to the country.  

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