Four years ago, when Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected and became the President of the United States, I wrote a column for my monthly newsletter, the Wein Press, about that event. I have never claimed the ability to predict events, or to be prophetic about the faith of people or even nations. However, the rabbis in the Talmud have taught us that though prophecy was removed from humans, a degree of it was retained and given to fools and the mentally deficient. Because of this leniency of Heaven, I ventured to write that Trump would become the ultimate anti-hero in American history.
Greek mythology always contains characters who are anti-heroes. These are people who always came from the outside and are unlikely choices for leadership or public service. The anti-hero arises at a time when basic actions are necessary to buttress society and attempt to put it on the right path. The anti-hero always arose out of the frustration and desperation of the people. He expresses dissatisfaction with the current situation, and offers radical, if not powerful and simpler solutions, to complex problems.
In Greek legend, the anti-hero promises to clean out the stables from the collective dung of previous rulers. He rises to prominence simply based on his being an outsider who somehow expresses the will of the society to accomplish what had been previously impossible. Such a person ascends furiously, takes on the problems and issues, and attempts to cleanse the stables. After accomplishing much, but not all the projects he intends to address, he is then rejected by the very people that put him into power, and the cycle of the anti-hero continues indefinitely. The anti-hero is always doomed to be rejected. He is the eternal outlier that can never achieve full acceptance by the society of which he is a part.
So, it is with Donald Trump. Judged on an objective scale of accomplishments and benefits brought to society, I think even his enemies, of whom there are many and who are very bitter, would have to admit that he achieved many good things during his presidency. The American economy is robust, unemployment almost disappeared, the American military strength and presence is vastly improved, while, at the same time, he is the only president for half a century that did not embroil America in some sort of war and conflict. Yet, he is very partisan and thin-skinned, responding almost immediately, and with vehemence, to the sniping criticism that unfortunately all democratic leaders must suffer, for that is the very nature of democracy itself.
He has an abrasive personality that you either love or despise. There is almost no middle ground for contemplation and true evaluation. His personality is so large that it encompasses the entire news cycle and public debate. So, fulfilling the traditional role of the anti-hero, with a badly divided country, it is not so much with regard to his policies and performance, but more to do with his personality and behavior.
In 2016, Donald Trump was elected by a relatively narrow margin of victory in certain key states. In fact, he lost the popular vote by a few million votes to his rival. In the 2020 election, he lost those key states also by relatively small margins, and he again lost the popular vote. He refused to be gracious as to his defeat, claiming fraud and that the election was stolen from him. All elections in the United States contain a whiff of impropriety because of the nature of politics in America. Nevertheless, in the final weeks of his presidency, when he refused to admit defeat or show the traditional courtesy to the newly elected president, it became clear that he would be remembered as the ultimate anti-hero. The mark of disgrace would be planted upon him, despite all his accomplishments and service.
Democracy is generally a very unkind to its leaders. However, when those leaders leave office, most of the time they pass from the public eye and are not hounded and persecuted further by their political enemies. Whether or not this will be the case with Donald Trump remains to be seen. The hatred and disdain towards him by his political opponents run deep. It would be wise, and certainly beneficial for the country, to let the matter rest where it is. However, as in Greek mythology, anti-heroes are never allowed to just fade away. We will have to wait and see what will happen with this anti-hero.