Monthly Archives: March 2023
Draining the Swamp: The Passion and (political) Death (maybe) of Donald J. Trump
Jesus came to drain the swamp. His mission, laid on him by the Almighty as a descendant of King David, was to save the Jewish people from the tyranny of the corrupt Pharisees and Sadducees as well from their Roman oppressors and inaugurate a new age of peace and justice. The “swamp” was the religious cabal in the capital city which dictated what the people should think and do and controlled most of the nation’s wealth. The Roman interest was largely in the income they gathered through heavy taxes that mostly fell on ordinary folk.
The land of the prophets was sore beset and ripe for revolution. There had already been several would-be messiahs in the century before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, or as he was actually known, Jehoshua bar Josef (Joshua, son of Joseph). They had all come to bad ends, as Jesus himself would, along with his plan for replacing the rule of sinful men with the will of a righteous and loving God.
Donald Trump came on the scene in 2016 after his own version of forty years in the desert, mostly spent making and losing money. Rather than a call from the deity, he was summoned by the collapse of legitimate leadership in a disillusioned nation. Bernie Sanders was his unwitting John the Baptist, the long-suffering chosen one called to finally lead his people out of the wilderness. But Bernie was beheaded by the Democratic party, leaving Trump (original family name, Drumpf), Bernie’s amusement-park mirror-image, to assume the messianic mantle.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to think you are a messiah. But there never seems to be any lack of candidates. To this day they crop up regularly in various religious sects. In most cases they die natural deaths like Menachem Schneerson, late leader of the Jewish Lubavitcher community, but sometimes they succumb violently like David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, immolated by the FBI, or Jim Jones of Kool Aid mass-suicide fame. Paul of Tarsus, another man with a mission, said he had experienced a number of exclusive interviews with the Almighty before coming up with his own version of salvation out of which, with a little help from a Roman emperor, we got something called Christianity.
Politics produces even more would-be saviors per capita than religions do, though they are rarely as genuine as a Bernie Sanders or a Jehoshua bar Josef. The contenders for president who appear like spring mushrooms every four years almost always come out of the swamp themselves. False prophets, the ancient Israelites would have called them.
Trump’s initial assessment of the political morass was true enough, if not original. His gospel for righting it may even have been sincere. But he was vilified by the powers-that-be of both parties and scourged daily in the mass media (though Rush Limbaugh & Co. did a complete about-turn after it
became likely Trump would get the Republican nomination). All of which only made him more popular with the beset millions who ended up voting for him after Bernie was taken down. Like Jesus, Trump not only presented himself as a savior, he created a movement: Make America Great Again (think, Make Israel Great Again).
Jesus was reckless, ended up betting everything on a dramatic last stand against the religious establishment and the Romans. For his efforts he was rewarded with crucifixion. Trump was worn down and then narrowly defeated by four years of constant cries for his head and his own gross incompetence. Jesus was reckless but strong. Trump was feckless and weak. Instead of immolating himself for the sake of his loyal band he watched them storm the Capitol on his wide-screen, munching fast food, and ended his days in the White House a whiny sore-loser.
2016 was a unique moment in American politics. It was a year that should have offered the American people two, or at least one and a half, real change-makers, if not literal messiahs (it’s always dangerous to put one’s faith in a redeemer). One of them made it to the White House. But it was the also-ran, Sanders, who ended up having the greater impact on the national agenda, while Trump continues to nurse his political wounds like an overweight Achilles in his golden tent in Mara Largo. He just won’t die, and his disciples, the diminishing legion who refuse to deny him, are neglected and vilified like the Jews of the Jesus movement who were left to hang out to dry by the gentile but not gentle juggernaut of Paul of Tarsus.