Was ‘Trump 2016’ Prophesied 3 Centuries Ago?
Why would millions of Americans rally behind a Republican presidential candidate who, according to almost every poll right now has a miniscule chance of winning the general election? It’s simple. America’s mood is revolutionary — like, in an Emancipation Proclamation kind of way. Our present political climate, an antagonistic cacophony of cultural discord, rage and exasperation by the unwashed masses with our party establishment “better-thans” is like nothing we’ve ever seen or imagined.
Or is it?
Dutch politician and historian Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876) is credited with what seems an eerily prescient foreshadowing of the bizarre phenomenon that is “Trump 2016.”
“Pent-up anger and long-held frustration due to economic stagnation, moral decay, spiritual impotency, and political corruption,” he opined, “invariably pave the way for the rise of crass manipulators. Instead of a mastery of truth, such revolutionary opportunists tap into fear and rage, ignorance and prejudice, staging great public spectacles of narcissism.”
It’s human nature. Such sense of hopelessness, anger, betrayal and frustration can lead otherwise good people (some of whom I respect and admire) to make very bad decisions — to exercise poor judgment. It gave us Barack Obama in 2008. And Donald Trump in 2016.
“Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection.” William F. Buckley, Jr., 2000
Indeed, we’ve moved seamlessly from “Hope” and “Change We Can Believe In,” to “Make America Great Again.” It’s as though van Prinsterer had a crystal ball through which to keep tabs on the Donald’s ivory Trump Tower office suite.
To see just how eerily prescient the man’s words are, let’s hold them up to the light, one part at a time.
1. “Pent-up anger and long-held frustration due to economic stagnation, moral decay, spiritual impotency, and political corruption. …”
No honest person — though President Obama, a decidedly dishonest person, tries — can say with a straight face that we have not entered an era of “economic stagnation.” With trillions in debt, tens-of-millions of Americans dependent on unfunded “social justice” programs, and millions more having given up on looking for work altogether, we’re actually teetering on the precipice of total economic collapse.
And what about “moral decay, spiritual impotency and political corruption?” That’s America 2016 in a nutshell. Since 1973 we’ve sacrificed nearly 60 million of our most innocent fellow citizens at Baal’s altar of convenience and “equality.” And just this past June we had five radical lawyers on the U.S. Supreme Court thumb their nose at natural law, shake their fist at God and presume to deconstruct and redefine the institution of marriage to include the sodomy. This, while an increasingly apostate Christian church sat idly by and did little to nothing or, worse, affirmatively endorsed this shameful desecration of God’s created order.
I needn’t elaborate on Washington’s systemic culture of political corruption. They no longer even try to fake it.
2. “… invariably pave the way for the rise of crass manipulators.”
Enter Donald Trump — a several-times-bankrupt, big-government globalist, pro-socialized medicine, pro-abortion, pro-“gay marriage,” longtime liberal Democrat — to save the day. Or rather, to peddle the “Make America Great Again” platitudes itching ears want to hear. A “crass manipulator?” No two words better describe Mr. Trump, even if his love for country is genuine. Unless, of course, you consider it classy when a leading presidential candidate, an unrepentant serial adulterer, personally attacks his political opponents as “stupid liars,” sleazily suggesting that their wives are ugly (Heidi Cruz is a lovely woman both inside and out), brags about the size of his manhood from the debate stage, or habitually and unapologetically verbally abuses women — somebody’s wives, mothers and daughters — by calling them “pigs,” “ugly,” “fat” or “great pieces of a–.”
Trump recently boasted that he’s “such a good Christian.” Inexplicably, many Christians believe him. Or, at least, they really, really want to.
Now, I pray that someday he will be — that Donald Trump might have a genuine coming to Christ and that, as Jesus told us would happen if and when the man does, Trump might reflect this transformation in and through the righteous fruits of his words and deeds. God can reach anyone, even a Donald Trump. As with each of us, Jesus is Donald’s only chance at salvation. But we can know all this and still look clear-eyed at the candidate as he is right now. Trump the crass and unrepentant is the man we are being called to consider. Pretending he is something he is not doesn’t help us make wise decisions or encourage him to face who he actually is and repent.
3. “Instead of a mastery of truth, such revolutionary opportunists tap into fear and rage, ignorance and prejudice.”
That’s the bulk of Mr. Trump persuasive toolkit — “fear, rage, ignorance and prejudice.” As absurdly demonstrated time and again, he’s completely devoid of substance and, when pressed to articulate even a modicum of evidence that he maintains but a middle-schooler’s grasp on the issues, deflects the question by personally attacking the questioner with the most shrill, jarring and vulgar of ad hominem name calling.
The man is a political chameleon. Over and over again, he somehow gets away with wholly reversing himself on any given position, on any given issue, on any given day — sometimes within hours of making a completely contradictory, and often incoherent, position statement. Even so, to his cult of personality, the Trumpster remains the Teflon Don.
4. “… staging great public spectacles of narcissism.”
As contemporary political figures go, and second to Barack Obama alone, Donald Trump represents the caricature of wounded narcissism (a self-centeredness that likely stems from insecurity). You needn’t ask, but he’s all too happy to tell you anyway: “I am a really smart guy,” he constantly reminds us. “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.”
“Sorry, losers and haters,” he has said, “but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it!”
I don’t doubt it. History has shown that “crass manipulators” and “revolutionary opportunists,” as van Prinsterer called them, are, generally speaking, very intelligent.
Of the Dutch historian’s seemingly prophetic statement, columnist and Pastor John Kirkwood asks, “Prescient or just discerning? This [the Trump phenomenon] couldn’t come true if it were not for the decline of the conservative mind. This couldn’t be happening if it were not for the faithlessness of the believer. Yet, we stand in judgment over other nations that have been conquered by fear, rage, ignorance and prejudice, and in our hubris exclaim, ‘It could never happen here.’”
Yet here it happens.
And what of the “faithlessness of the believer”? What of this demonstrably incongruous wave of Christian and conservative support for Donald Trump?
The late, great William F. Buckley, Jr., blamed it on narcissism, and actually singled out Trump as the epitome of a narcissistic age — sixteen years ago. During the 2000 presidential primary season, and while writing in that year’s March/April issue of Cigar Aficionado, Buckley had this to say:
Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office.
Van Prinsterer might have blamed evangelical support for Trump on widespread “moral decay” and “spiritual impotency.” I mostly agree. Still, for the church, at least, and insofar as concerns many Christians’ support for this man of the world, I think the phenomenon can more precisely be described as “moral indifference” and “spiritual adultery.” It’s a lack of faithfulness — a trusting in the things of this world, rather than in the promises of God.
I pray that Trump will have many mentors from among the ranks of faithful Christians. I pray that he will have none from those ranks who want to be his pal, who want to go along with his worldly ways to get along, to make their way up in the world. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4).
It’s better not to hedge your bet with the Creator of the universe.
Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber)