Predictions about the likely judgements of posterity are always grounded on the assumption that there will be a posterity, peopled with sufficient numbers of wise people as can articulate a judgement that amounts to more than simply the idle contemplations of rainbows. So on this basis, let’s assume that there is a president to follow Trump and that this wise sufficiency has so far recovered its wits as to understand the difference between a narcissistic vulgarian and the evolved political culture that enabled his ascendancy to the position, albeit temporarily, of most powerful person on the planet.
As more than just an aside on the proper definition of power, this still potent posterity will acknowledge that the greatest prince is not he who sits at the centre of the widest error. Any sustainable definition of power cannot dwell too long in reflecting on history’s sad parade of grubby psychopaths and sweaty conmen who have humbled nations with their appetites and capacity to wreak havoc, while blighting the hopes of the very multitudes that have been beguiled into supporting them.
Real power lies in the patient dedication to building good that will last, and still more in the gift of nurturing cultures that will enable that good to flourish and endure.
On that definition, Trump’s verdict before posterity would be worse than unfavourable if determined solely on what has been achieved in the first six weeks of his presidency: “worse” simply because he has grasped at every opportunity to posture as a dissembling bully and pantomime villain, rendering risible any articulation of a cultural phenomenon – society, economics, style, reasoning – to which the term “Trumpian” might be applied as a descriptor. In fact, the man’s preternatural promotion of style over substance would render the essence of any Trumpian belief system as being far more concerned with the manipulation of perception that with the discernment of reality.
At the very heart of the Trumpian con is his promise of rendering great again something that was already functioning credibly, before setting out firmly on a course of systemic degradation and desperate brinksmanship, orchestrated with bullying blusters, rants, and whines. The man seen simply as a man, as distinct from a wider belief system and enabling culture, is essentially a clown confected by that culture as a joke upon itself: in short, the deification of Everyman as Loser.
The real pantomime will be the spectacle in monitoring those who are currently colluding with that flimflammer who will surely in time feel inspired to distance themselves before posterity renders its verdict so plainly that everyone will get the point. And those of us who adhere to notions of humanity’s continuing enhancement can bolster our cognitive and political systems against the recurrence of demagogic quackery.