History appears to
provide a dangerous
example of how
The American Spark
Does History Provide The Key To Understanding Donald Trump?
By Cliff Montgomery - July 19th, 2017
One may discover the essence of a politician by noting the general character of his actions and statements. The
politician’s true intentions then usually come into focus.
But this simply is not true with Donald Trump. As The Washington Post declared back in 2015, “Trump’s policy
positions often seem a little like the weather in New England: If you don’t like them, just wait a few minutes.”
He’s sure to feed you a different view soon enough.
This reveals that Trump’s most solid supporters often are more attached to his personality than to his ideas.
And by now, everyone knows that Trump is a mercurial person who is adored by some and despised by many.
But few people realize that a politician without a clearly defined, thoughtful view of the world must - by default -
rule by quirk of personality.
That can be a problem. When the leading quirk of that politician is a love-hate relationship with everyone in the
world - and especially with himself - we may surmise that the politician’s country is in for one very bumpy ride.
In fact, history appears to provide an example of how someone like Donald Trump handles political power. A
European monarch who ruled over 100 years ago seemed to possess the same primary traits as the man who
now commands the White House.
Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last of the German emperors; he also served as King of Prussia. He ruled both
nations from 1888 to 1918. Wilhelm insisted that his Germany would plot a “New Course” on the world stage,
and it did - his boastful, tactless pronouncements and activities eventually helped bring on World War I as well
as the ruination of his rule.
Wilhelm often was his own worst enemy. He was “possessor of the least inhibited tongue in Europe,” wrote
historian Barbara Tuchman in her opus The Guns of August, and added that Wilhelm “periodically” sprouted
incendiary public comments on sensitive political matters without first consulting the more thoughtful members
of his government.
Wilhelm’s loose and careless tongue sometimes “shattered the nerves of diplomats,” said Tuchman.
Other historians likewise offer studies of Wilhelm’s personality that often read as if they are pinpointing the
character traits of Donald Trump. Thomas Nipperdey, well known for his exhaustive tomes on German history
from 1800-1918, declared that Wilhelm II was:
“...[G]ifted, with a quick understanding, sometimes brilliant, with a taste for the modern,—technology, industry,
science,” stated Nipperdey, “but at the same time superficial, hasty, restless, unable to relax, without any
deeper level of seriousness, without any ... drive to see things through to the end, without any sense of sobriety,
for balance and boundaries, or even for reality and real problems.”
Wilhelm was “uncontrollable and scarcely capable of learning from experience, [while] desperate for applause
and success,” so much so that, “as Bismarck said early on in his life, he wanted every day to be his birthday,”
The German emperor was “romantic, sentimental and theatrical, unsure and arrogant, with an immeasurably
exaggerated self-confidence and [a] desire to show off,” as if he were “a juvenile cadet, who never took the tone
of the officers’ mess out of his voice,” declared Nipperdey.
Yet at the same time, Wilhelm “brashly wanted to play the part of the supreme warlord, full of panicky fear of a
monotonous life without any diversions,” even as he remained “aimless, [and] pathological in his hatred[s],”
wrote the historian.
David Fromkin, a U.S. historian perhaps best known for his study of the Middle East entitled A Peace To End All
Peace, has declared that Wilhelm held an especially strong love-hate relationship with Great Britain. Trump has
a similar relationship with all those groups who likewise fail to provide him the hero worship he craves - women,
immigrants, left-wingers, celebrities and intellectuals:
“[Wilhelm] was wildly jealous of the British,” explained Fromkin, even “wanting to be British, wanting to be better
at being British than the British were,” but all the while “hating them and resenting them because he never could
be fully accepted by them.”
A 1968 study written by Langer et al. pointed out that Wilhelm’s unstable personality produced harsh
consequences for Germany:
“[Wilhelm II] believed in force, and the ‘survival of the fittest’ in domestic as well as foreign politics,” and though
Wilhelm “was not lacking in intelligence, ... he did lack stability, disguising his deep insecurities by swagger and
tough talk,” declared the Langer study.
“He frequently fell into depressions and hysterics ... [and thus] Wilhelm’s personal instability was reflected in
vacillations of policy,” continued the study.
“[Wilhelm] was not so much concerned with gaining specific objectives ... as with asserting his will,” pointed out
the study, which meant that “his actions, at home as well as abroad, lacked guidance, and therefore often
bewildered or infuriated public opinion.”
“This trait in the ruler of the leading Continental power,” the Langer study openly stated, “was one of the main
causes of the uneasiness prevailing in Europe at the turn-of-the-century.”
Many would say that Americans now know just how those Europeans felt at the time.
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