It is now just two weeks to the 2016 American election day. At the moment it seems that Donald Trump will go down in flames, defeated mostly by his own actions, words and history rather than by any extraordinary accomplishment by his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump has been a famous figure in American popular culture for more than three decades – his ego is legendary and his ability to singlehandedly influence the media and public opinion has few rivals. As I’ve watched and reflected on the progress of this election I’m struck by the remarkable similarities between “The Donald” and another great name of history – Sir Winston Churchill.
Both of these men were popular figures of their eras with outsized egos and a global audience seemingly attuned to their every utterance, adventure and initiative. Even though we know Sir Winston Churchill as the great leader of England in WWII, that isn’t where his story begins. Unlike Donald Trump, Churchill was a member of the British aristocracy, a man born with expectation of greatness thrust both upon him and burning within. His was a life of military service and public office – each filled with seasons of great achievements and crushing defeats.
Donald Trump doesn’t share Churchill’s aristocratic birth, military experience nor his public service record, but Trump has ‘served’ the public in other ways as a real estate developer, popular culture character and self-promoter that in combination with his personal style have led him to become his party’s nominee for President. You may be thinking that my comparison between these two men is tenuous at best, but here is the key part – each man would never have led their countries had it not been for an existential threat made real.
We all know how Churchill’s push in the 1930’s for Britain to prepare for war against a rearming Germany and his unpopular stances on a number of other issues led to his exile from influence in the English government. It wasn’t until the overt military actions of Nazi Germany against the world and England herself that Churchill’s decade of words and warnings come to roost in a nation’s mind. Churchill quickly found himself Prime Minister – leading the charge of a lone nation against a seemingly unstoppable foe.
Had Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s failed to take power in Germany, you probably would not know who Winston Churchill was.
What does this have to do with Donald Trump? As Churchill’s path to lead his nation could only have happened in response to the active threat of Nazism, Donald Trump could find himself The President of The United States should his named nemesis – ISIS successfully carry out an attack against the United States prior to the election. Trump has named radical Islamic Fundamentalism as an existential threat to The United States and should they actually successfully attack, I suspect that Americans will suddenly flock to elect this man – ugly warts and all – because unlike Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has consistently and repeatedly expressed a desire to crush the threat of militant Islamic actors like ISIS.
Should ISIS or any other Islamic group fail to attack The United States before the election, Hillary will likely be President, but given the right circumstances, turns of fate and actions of militaries from other parts of the world, we could see the rise of another supersized ego, poised to lead a nation, indeed the West in an all-out battle against a widespread and entrenched foe that has declared its goal to be our utter and complete destruction.