Friday, March 12, 2021

Machiavelli and Trump: The Unarmed Prophets

Donald Trump is an unarmed prophet. He is popular, it seems. But he does not have the backing of the American elite class, who know how to develop a winning political strategy, and the bureaucratic and revolutionary forces, who know how to fight street level political battles. Therefore, Trump cannot be an effective politician. The term “unarmed prophet” comes from Machiavelli’s The Prince. Machiavelli brands Savonarola as the unarmed prophet, whose political mission must end in disaster because he does not enjoy the backing of an army of armed followers. The irony is that Machiavelli was plagued with the same deficiency for which he chastises Savonarola—he too was an unarmed prophet. Machiavelli was not a mere political theorist. He was a man of powerful political passions. He aspired to be a revolutionary and fight for the creation of a new Republic, one that would be formed by uniting the states of Italy. He was a partisan, an active politician. He wanted to overthrow the existing balance of political forces in Italy and make space for a new balance which would be Republican. In his books, when he is talking about historical events several centuries in the past, Machiavelli keeps commenting on what “ought to be” the political reality of present day Italy. Since he was an unarmed prophet, Machiavelli’s political mission could not be fulfilled in his lifetime.

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