by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Kevin Williamson of National Review Online argues “against presidential idolatry.”
As you may know, I have an interest in the American presidency as a cult and in the president as an object of idolatry. I am writing a book about the subject. So I was amused when Donald Trump’s perfervid votaries at that ghastly clown show down in Orlando actually went so far as to set up a golden idol of the man for public veneration — I’m starting to feel like they are trolling me personally, but it’ll be a funny footnote in the book.
Of course, the Trump idol was fake gold, and it was made in Mexico — which is to say, it was only four bankruptcy proceedings away from being the Trumpiest thing imaginable. When the alien archeologists sift through the ruins of our civilization at some time in the future, I hope they discover the golden Trump idol, which may help them to understand where we went wrong as a species.
Trump presents himself as an outsider, but, in truth, he always fit in pretty well in Washington, D.C., a city that is packed to the rafters with elderly mediocrities who had rich parents. Trump’s godlike conception of the presidency is bipartisan Washington orthodoxy, and his nationalist/neo-mercantilist views are a lot more like Joe Biden’s than anybody in either camp would care to admit.
Even the Caligula-by-way-of-Versace frescoed ceilings in Trump’s noncy Manhattan apartment have their Washington equivalent. I refer, of course, to The Apotheosis of George Washington, painted on the inside of the Capitol dome by Constantino Brumidi, who honed his pious craft for years in the service of Pope Gregory XVI. Like the golden idol of Trump, The Apotheosis of George Washington expresses in immediate visual form precisely what is wrong — what is worst — in our political culture.