Winston Churchill Foresees Donald Trump

Those who are possessed of a definite body of doctrine and of deeply-rooted convictions upon it will be in a much better position to deal with the shifts and surprises of daily affairs than those who are merely taking short views, and indulging their natural impulses as they are evoked by what they read from day to day.

Churchill, The Gathering Storm

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37 Responses to “Winston Churchill Foresees Donald Trump”

  1. 1 1 Moggio
  2. 2 2 Steve Landsburg

    Moggio: Thank you.

  3. 3 3 Ken M

    I’m curious what enamors you of Trump’s doctrine and deeply-rooted convictions?

  4. 4 4 Steve Landsburg

    Ken M: I believe you’ve missed my point.

  5. 5 5 Ken B

    I confess a certain curiosity. What are Hillary Clinton’s deeply rooted convictions?

  6. 6 6 Steve Landsburg

    Ken B: I think you might have also missed my point, though less thoroughly than the previous Ken.

  7. 7 7 Ken B

    No Steve, I got your point perfectly. I agree that these are cogent and spot-on criticisms of Trump. Perhaps it’s the pre-election post nostalgically recalling “Vote for the crook, it’s important” that I misunderstood?

  8. 8 8 Ken B

    I must say as well, the chances of even one Ken missing a point are slim, two must be astronomical. I think Ken M was being ironic. I believe the term is erotema.

  9. 9 9 Roger Schlafly

    I must be missing the point also. Trump is guided by deeply-rooted convictions more that most other leading politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Congressional leaders. A lot of his controversy is precisely because of how he sticks to those deeply-rooted convictions.

  10. 10 10 nobody.really

    I must say as well, the chances of even one Ken missing a point are slim, two must be astronomical.

    “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

    Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

  11. 11 11 nobody.really

    Thomas Babington Macaulay Foresees Donald Trump (but inexplicably calls him Mr. Southey):

    [A] philosophical statesman [requires] an understanding at once comprehensive and acute, a heart at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure so copious to any human being – the faculty of believing without a reason, and the faculty of hating without a provocation.

    * * *

    Government is to Mr. Southey one of the fine arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religious or a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A chain of associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and what he calls his opinions are in fact merely his tastes.

    * * *

    Now in the mind of Mr. Southey reason has no place at all, as either leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does not seem to know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never occurred to him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumour does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is hardly foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory propositions cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to settle it, or that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with something more convincing than ‘scoundrel’ and ‘blockhead.’

    It would be absurd to read the works of such a writer for political instruction.

    * * *

    What theologians call the spiritual sins are his cardinal virtues, hatred, pride, and the insatiable thirst of vengeance. These passions he disguises under the name of duties….

    * * *

    The only opponents to whom the Laureate gives quarter are those in whom he finds something of his own character reflected. He seems to have an instinctive antipathy for calm, moderate men, for men who shun extremes, and who render reasons. He has treated Mr. Owen of Lanark, for example, with infinitely more respect than he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr. Lingard; and this for no reason that we can discover, except that Mr. Owen is more unreasonably and hopelessly in the wrong than any speculator of our time.

    * * *

    Exclusion, persecution, severe punishments for libellers and demagogues, proscriptions, massacres, civil war, if necessary rather than any concession to a discontented people; these are the measures which he seems inclined to recommend. A severe and gloomy tyranny, crushing opposition, silencing remonstrance, drilling the minds of the people into unreasoning obedience, has in it something of grandeur which delights his imagination. But there is nothing fine in the shabby tricks and jobs of office; and Mr. Southey, accordingly, has no toleration for them…. He renounces the abject and paltry part of the creed of his party, without perceiving that it is also an essential part of that creed. He would have tyranny and purity together; though the most superficial observation might have shown him that there can be no tyranny without corruption.

    * * *

    We do not, however, believe that Mr. Southey would recommend such a course, though his language would, according to all the rules of logic, justify us in supposing this to be his meaning. His opinions form no system at all. He never sees, at one glance, more of a question than will furnish matter for one flowing and well-turned sentence; so that it would be the height of unfairness to charge him personally with holding a doctrine, merely because that doctrine is deducible … from the premises which he has laid down. We are, therefore, left completely in the dark as to Mr. Southey’s opinions….

  12. 12 12 Jonathan Kariv

    I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong – Bertrand Russell.

    Yes,yes, Bertie at least had beliefs to not die for but it strikes me as obvious that’s possible to have either too much conviction or too little. Our host has mentioned this “too much or too little” senario with respect to population and pollution. There the suggested method of thinking about weather one has too much or too little was to look at the external incentives to the decision makers. What’s the analog here? Trump seems to me to have obviously too little conviction but how to think about this in less clear cut cases?

  13. 13 13 Harold

    Macaulay’s prose does seem to describe Trump well. However, the political trajectories if Southey and Trump are in some ways opposite, as Southey turned down a seat in Parliament. From wikipedia:

    “Without his prior knowledge, the Earl of Radnor, an admirer of his work, had Southey returned as MP for the latter’s pocket borough seat of Downton in Wiltshire at the 1826 general election as an opponent of Catholic emancipation. But Southey refused to sit in the House of Commons, causing a by-election in December that year, pleading that he did not have a large enough estate to support him through political life.”

    Ken B. “Perhaps it’s the pre-election post nostalgically recalling “Vote for the crook, it’s important” that I misunderstood?”

    I recall a proposed alliance between Bush and Clinton to oppose Trump. Which one is the crook?

  14. 14 14 Josh

    #9, you can’t be serious right? Trump is obviously _only_ concerned with winning elections: he has no principles or rationale for which his actions are based, other than what gives him the greatest odds of winning.

  15. 15 15 Richard D.
  16. 16 16 Roger Schlafly

    “Trump is obviously _only_ concerned with winning elections”

    This statement would make more sense about Obama or Hillary Clinton. Trump already won the election a year ago, and yet the mainstream media hates him for his policies. If Trump really just wanted to please the general public, he would have done a lot of things a lot differently. No, he is hated for his principles, and for the rationales behind his actions.

  17. 17 17 Ken B

    It was clear in the post who the crook was.
    I am indulging in a little bumper sticker nostalgia myself: “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts”. For the first time I supported a fringe candidate, and one of the perks of doing that is you can play the “I’m from Massachusetts” card.

  18. 18 18 Jonathan Kariv

    @9/16 Roger Schlafly, would you mind spelling out for me what these principles Trump’s sticking to are? As far I can see he’s in the “indulging of natural impulses” camp. It seems that quite a few of our company (Steve in the post,Ken B #7, Josh #14) also don’t see how you get Trump as having deeply rooted principles.

  19. 19 19 nobody.really

    No, [Trump] is hated for his principles, and for the rationales behind his actions.

    Only time will tell. We may yet learn that Trump is a man of great convictions. We must await the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

  20. 20 20 Ken B

    Roger 16
    I think in the past you have argued, correctly in my view, along the lines that if Trump cured cancer his critics would condemn him for putting oncologists out of work. That’s not really consistent with arguing now he is hated instead for his principles. (I am not unaware this says more about his critics than about him.)

    As it happens I agree Trump does have some settled opinions. Some I share, some I do not. But I think it is fair to note he has a tendency to shoot from the hip, and to “triangulate”. What for instance is his current position on NAFTA?

    Unlike many here I agree with you that Trump has some virtues, and is often in the right. But I don’t think you can deny that he sometimes seems to react more from impulse than from consideration.

  21. 21 21 Ken B

    Jonathan Kariv 18
    I think you are going too far including me in that group. I want to organize my thoughts on this. I disagree with both Steve and Roger on Trump, but if you push me I disagree more with Steve. I certainly disagree with his support for Hillary Clinton!

    I got Trump wrong early on. So did pretty much everybody. I like to think I have learned something from that. If you scroll back on my blog there is an unwontedly long piece on Trump’s rude rhetoric that I still stand by.

  22. 22 22 Ken B

    More for Roger.
    The perennial hot button stupid issue in US politics is abortion. If you look at Trump’s history, including the long years he was a Democrat before he espied the weakness of the GOP, you will see no evidence of an opposition to abortion. Quite the reverse. Yet opposition to abortion seems to be one of his “deeply-rooted” positions now. I suggest that is due to electoral calculation rather than to a “ definite body of doctrine”.

  23. 23 23 Jonathan Kariv

    @Ken B. The main point of that comment was asking what Trump’s “deeply-rooted” convictions are in Roger’s view. If you’re not in the group of people going “Which convictions is he talking about??” then ok I take your inclusion back. On the other hand I now address the “Which convictions exactly?” question to you as well as Roger.

    I enjoyed your piece on Trump’s rhetoric and am linking it for anyone who doesn’t feel like strolling or doesn’t know your blog.

  24. 24 24 Roger Schlafly

    Have you guys ever even watched one of Trump’s speeches? Just watch. He is fairly clear on where he stands, and much clearer than Obama or Hillary Clinton.

    Ken B, Trump does not talk about abortion very much, and I would not call it one of his deeply-rooted positions.

  25. 25 25 Harold

    #22. His position on David Duke is much the same. A few years ago he said that you wouldn’t want this person associated with your campaign. This time round he said he didn’t even know who he was and refused to denounce him.

    This suggests he has taken up racism as an electoral tool. I suspect that this is not the whole story.

    The whole birther thing was deeply suspicious, as was the Central Park 5, all taking place before this campaign. I suspect he has honed his casual racism into an electoral tool.

    I had a look at your post. Goodness, how long ago Megyn Kelly seems now! I think the key phrase is “And especially when they don’t find much of what Trump said that unusual or outrageous in the first place?”

  26. 26 26 iceman

    Harold – I hate the use of all “isms” as electoral tools, including classism.

  27. 27 27 Harold

    Iceman – it depends what you mean by “isms” I guess. B=Not being awkward, I just don’t know what you mean. From wikipedia.

    “the phrase “the isms” was used as a collective derogatory term to lump together the radical social reform movements of the day (such as slavery abolitionism, feminism, alcohol prohibitionism, Fourierism, pacifism, early socialism, etc.)”

    Since many of these are effectively political movements it is difficult to avoid using them as a political tool. (Not sure what Fourierism was but it seems to have fallen out of favor.)

    However, “ism” is also used to describe prejudice against a group – racism, classism, sexism etc.

    Webster’s dictionary has two definitions of ism:

    1 :a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory
    2 :an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief

    1. is often inherently political, 2. should not be used as a political tool.

    So if you are referring to 2, then I agree with you.

  28. 28 28 iceman

    I meant 2. My point is that prejudice based on socio-economic status IMO is similarly abhorrent, but more widespread and insidious as a political tool as it seems to be considered an acceptable and even laudable view for an entire political party not just a fringe group

  29. 29 29 Harold

    I think you are looking at the overlap between the different definitions of isms. To what extent is, say socialism as a political movement, driven by classism, an irrational dislike of people from different classes.

    I think this is a valid area of investigation. There will often be political justifications for one’s prejudices.

    However, this must not be used as a defence against cases where isms in the second sense (discriminatory and oppressive beliefs) are obvious and apparent.

  30. 30 30 Ken B

    Jonathan Kariv
    Thanks for the link!

    A fair question. I’ll try to assemble a respectable answer and post it on my blog. (Patience is a virtue.) Here’s the pith though: how I characterize the “deeply rooted convictions” underlying Trump.

    Martin Luther’s second most famous saying is “The least people should be able to expect of their church is that it not steal from them.” Well many Americans feel that the government, and the levers of culture, are working against them. It is perpetrated in part by a connected, and corrupt nomenklatura, and in part by it’s cultural norms. This must stop and the corrupt system dismantled.

    One upshot of my view is that when Trump attacks the press it is not incidental or merely tactical. This is one of the ways he attacks the entrenchment; it is central to his praxis. A concrete example: his attack on the NFL is not just brilliant branding, it is — just like the charge of fake news — a frontal assault on one of those cultural norms of the nomenklatura I mentioned: the modern idea that if you are in a role or position you are entitled to turn it to your purposes for politics or virtue signalling. Trump identifies these (correctly IMO) as a form of corruption and holds them up to scorn.

    As for this last, I was at a concert and the conductor exploited his captive audience to make a political speech. That many in his audience shared his prejudices does not, to me, matter. He exploited his position to push his politics.

    More later.

  31. 31 31 Ken B

    One of the delights of Steve’s blog is the opportunity it provides to piss people off in novel ways.
    Here I can do it by comparing Trump to other people.

    Like Harry S Truman, another belligerent guy with a penchant for crude attacks, mocking the press, and picking fights.
    Was Truman “possessed of a definite body of doctrine”?
    I don’t really think so, but I do think he did have “deeply-rooted convictions”.
    (I’d say the same as his predecessor too but I fear that would induce heart attacks.)

    Or what about another crude loudmouth born rich, with a checkered career and a history of adultery, George S Patton?
    Was he possessed of a definite body of doctrine? Not compared to John Boyd or Alfred Thayer Mahan.

    Of course I also compare Trump to Ron Popeil, Andrew Dice Clay, and a foghorn. Those don’t piss people off though.

  32. 32 32 Harold

    Ken B, do you see a parallel between the NFL stuff and “political correctness”?

    Some people object to PC because they see it as others expressing their view being shouted down by public clamour – closing down the public discussion by labelling some statements off limits.

    This seems quite similar – the respectful statement of the NFL players is being shouted down as off limits by public clamour.

  33. 33 33 Ken B
  34. 34 34 Harold

    Re 33. I guess the answer is “yes”. NFL fans are reacting with boycotts to actions from famous people they interpreted as being rude or disrespecting their icon.

    This is just right wing version of “political correctness”.

  35. 35 35 Ken B

    Not buying a ticket isn’t shouting anyone down.

  36. 36 36 Harold

    “Not buying a ticket isn’t shouting anyone down.”
    Saying people should be sacked is, and pretty much the exact thing those complaining about PC refer to.

  37. 37 37 CapitalistRoader

    Neville Chamberlain foresees Barack Obama:

    “The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you:

    ‘… We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.’

    My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”

    — 30 September 1938

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