Donald Trump is our national obsession. Almost six weeks after the election and on the eve of Christmas and Hanukkah he is topic A at every gathering. People have Post Traumatic Trump Disorder and feel compelled to share their thoughts and feelings, their joy — “I can’t stop feeling happy!” said a normally contained editor and intellectual, to his own surprise — and despair. My world is full of Hillary Clinton supporters and intimates. At a Manhattan Christmas party last week a despairing Democrat told me that she had not only wept on election night she had vomited. She was still beside herself.
The truest and most profound revelations are often those advanced by they who do (or seem) not to realize the ramifications of what they are declaring. I encountered such a moment recently from one familiar to me, who is given to victimization, exaggeration, lies, blatant slanders, and lawsuits. She has long accused one of her parents of abuse; the extent of the charge which I have never found particularly credible considering that I have had past dealings with that same person. Admittedly, there are individuals particularly adept in presenting a pleasing, or least innocuous public persona while being gargoyles in private.
However, in recent conversations, she confided that this parent would go into her bedroom every night when she was a child and be a “real and loving mother,” apologizing for any excesses that may have occurred during the daily rants; (rants which I had observed). And it struck me, although I doubt the same insight occurred to my interlocutor, that this daily habit of asking forgiveness and reconciliation is stereotypical of the perpetrators of abuse. I had doubted any wild charges claimed by one prone to mendacity unless I had personally observed them. But this unintended revelation gave some credibility to her story.
Now Peggy Noonan, the author of the quote above, is by no means given to mendacity. She continues to be among the top three of my favorite American journalists/pundits, along with Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept and Conor Federspiel of The Atlantic; diamonds among the dung of advocacy and sycophantic journalism; all with a different basis of appeal, but with a common commitment to the pursuit of intellectual integrity in their scribblings.
Noonan’s particular gift is in absorbing the mood and comprehending the soul of her nation; which some might denigrate as a more primitive form of “intelligence.” Yet, despite all of the political theory written by the self-identifying rationalists of ancient Greece, including that template of all ensuing political dystopias, Plato’s Republic; Hellenist civilization was incapable of establishing enduringly stable and peaceable city states and thereafter kingdoms. Alexander’s Empire took but ten years to disintegrate into quadrants. (It took Imperial Rome about three centuries to accomplish half that feat.) And large reason for that political incompetency was the Hellenists’ denigration of the “lizard brain,” and consequent lack of “emotional intelligence.”
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For years before the present epochal moment, Noonan has registered an unease that there exists an unrest stirring beyond the culturally gated community of the Versaillean elites of the Potomac and Hudson. The natives are restless. But whether Noonan realizes the historical significance of a republic’s obsession with a particular leader of the moment cannot be garnered from the article in which she observes and reports the phenomenon.
The republican ideal not only seeks to disperse socioeconomic and political power between many power bases so as to make the rise of tyrannical rule and oppression that much more difficult. A healthy republic requires a morally and politically competent populace, from within which a good many men of nobler qualities would arise to contemporary notability. Yet none becomes a colossus bestriding the narrow world [under which] “petty men walk under his legs and peep about.” Indeed, Cincinnatus, who was appointed dictator for short durations in 458 and 438 BC in order to deal with immediate national emergencies was the model to which both early Roman and American republicans aspired. Even a major American city is named after him. After doing his tour of duty, the Roman patrician would return to his austere and modest lifestyle as a plougher of fields, to retire into a quiet life on his farm, under his vine and fig tree.
But since JFK, whose hubris, whether in his nation and/or in himself, thought it possible and prudent to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” there has emerged a fawning adoration for a new class of Caesarians while congressional legislators have in comparison become petty and venal men walking betwixt the columns of the elected demigod.
Indeed, there has likewise emerged a new class of Eusebian apologists singing paeans to these new Constantines.
I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.
It is unimaginable that the present occupant of the White House, that initiator of that “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” could ever deign to return to the common life, and certainly not to the cotton fields.
When a nation and its populace increasingly place such singular political privilege and regard upon its primus inter pares (“first among equals”), its princeps; it is little wonder that when their champion loses out, some might stress, put on the pounds, lose their libido, and sell all their possessions in preparation for their own personal apocalypse. In an age of mice, actual men appear as giants (nephilim – Numbers 13:33).
Well before the actual demise of a free civic polity and the establishment of a new autocracy, there is required an increasingly fawning and servile mindset in the populace and the laying of the ideological and cultural foundations of a new political paradigm and milieu in order to “prepare ye the way of the lord”, to abuse the Biblical intent of that phrase (Mark 1:3, Isaiah 40:3).
© Copyright John Hutchinson 2017
 Peggy Noonan, “The Smartest Thing I Heard in 2016,” The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-smartest-thing-i-heard-in-2016-1482450561.  Joe Klein, “Donald Trump’s Lizard Brain,” Time, February 18, 2016, http://time.com/4228885/donald-trump-lizard-brain/; John Oliver, “Canadian Election,” Last Week with John Oliver (HBO), October 15, 2015, [YouTube] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V5ckcTSYu8.  William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 1599, Act 1, Scene 2.  Plutarch, “The Life of Cato the Elder,” ca. 75 AD, translated by Bernadotte Perrin in The Parallel Lives (Vol. 2), Harvard University Press, 1914.  Rob Hardy, “Cincinnatus,” The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington, accessed January 2, 2017, http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/cincinnatus/.  Joel Achenbach, “George Washington could have been a strongman, but kept giving power away,” The Washington Post, July 28, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/achenblog/wp/2016/07/28/remembering-the-miracle-in-philadelphia-and-george-washingtons-greatest-acts/?utm_term=.ea5cc3706ed3.  Eusebius, “The Life of Constantine, Oration of Constantine to the Assembly of the Saints, and Oration of Eusebius in Praise of Constantine,” early 4th century AD, in Volume 1, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, translated by Bagsley, ed. by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Edinburgh: T & T Clark; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1890, pp. 1040–1544.  David Remnick, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, New York: Vintage Books, 2010, p. 274.  Senator Barack Obama, Remarks on Final Primary Night, St. Paul, MN: June 3, 2008, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/03/obamas-nomination-victory_n_105028.html.  Paul Schwartzman, “Psychologists and massage therapists are reporting ‘Trump anxiety’ among clients,” The Washington Post, March 6, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/how-do-we-know-america-is-anxious-about-a-president-trump-shrinks-and-massage-therapists/2016/03/03/e5b55a22-e0bb-11e5-846c-10191d1fc4ec_story.html?utm_term=.c2174a3a037c.  Jim Geraghty, “The Season of Liberal Panic,” National Review, December 27, 2016, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443355/donald-trump-liberal-hysteria-unhealthy-politically-counterproductive.