Trump: The Unlikeliest Churchillian
Comparing the late Prime Minister Winston Churchill to President Donald Trump is guaranteed to elicit scorn from intellectuals, for one was a prolific man of letters, while the other speaks in the vocabulary of the common man. One was a journalist and scholar, while the other is a builder, deal-maker, and master persuader (as Scott Adams argues). And one smoked and drank prolifically, while the other abstains from both.
But beneath the veneer of literary styles, there are obvious historical similarities between Winston Churchill's becoming prime minister and Donald Trump's shocking election to the American presidency. It is hard to watch the film Darkest Hour, about those terrible days in May 1940 when Churchill became prime minister. At that moment in time, it seemed that the U.K. would have to surrender to Hitler. Three hundred thousand British troops were trapped on the beach at Dunkirk without any apparent means of rescue. Hitler was on the march and had taken Norway and Belgium; France had capitulated to the Germans without a fight.
Chamberlain resigned, and Churchill accepted King George VI's appointment to the position of prime minister, but the king, and both parties of Parliament, loathed Churchill. They, both sides, also knew he was the only man to lead at that moment in time. Neville Chamberlain's unfortunate good-will gesture at Munich had been a disaster. Only Churchill realized and had incessantly warned about the evil that was Hitler's regime. FDR, hoping to avoid U.S. intervention in the war, was not helpful or forthcoming with military aid just yet. Roosevelt eventually rose to the occasion but had not fully discerned the evil that Hitler represented to the world. Churchill did. FDR was not the wartime leader Churchill was.
To the horror of our 2016 establishment, Donald Trump was elected. He has been as loathed as Churchill was when he took on the P.M. job as the catastrophe at Dunkirk was unfolding. Like Churchill, Trump is a bit reckless with his opinions and his speech. Churchill regularly offended people on both sides of the political spectrum, as does Trump. Churchill was innovative, imaginative. He devised the civilian boat rescue of all those soldiers at Dunkirk. It worked. Trump has, in a year, defeated ISIS, although the media are loath to report that. Trump has revitalized the economy beyond anything Obama was able to do. He has successfully rolled back the restrictive regulations Obama put in place that have strangled the economy and suppressed GDP growth to 2% for eight years.
Churchill, by design, filled his Cabinet with rivals. Trump has had little to say about Special Counsel Mueller's assembled team of on-the-record Trump-haters. Hmmm. Who is wise? History proves that Churchill was – and so is Trump. Churchill knew only too well that he was hated by his naysayers in both houses of Parliament. Trump knows the same. He may even be cagier than Churchill. Trump has survived for years in the cutthroat world of New York and global real estate. He is quite likely more savvy about the ways of the world even than Churchill.
Churchill never rode the underground to "meet the people," as the film suggests. But the scene proved that his strategy of building up the spirits of the English people by exaggerating their success had worked. They were ready, willing, and able to defend their island nation. They were behind Churchill one hundred percent – just as Trump's supporters are behind him. Support for Churchill shocked his naysayers just as the "deplorables" who voted for Trump offend the left and the NeverTrumps. Just wait. Let's see who comes out on top.
History, it seems, does repeat itself. The British rewarded Churchill's success, saving England from the ravages of Hitler, by voting him out of office in 1945, after the Germans surrendered! He became P.M. again in 1951, had a stroke, and died in 1965. He was subsequently voted the greatest Brit of all time.
Would it not be a hilarious turn of events if Trump became recognized as the greatest American president of all time? Churchill was a highborn man of letters with a lifetime of public service under his belt. Trump is none of those things, but he is a host of things Churchill was not. The end results may just be similar.
Trump may just be our Churchill. They certainly share some personality traits. Churchill's love of England saved England. Trump's love of America may save us as well.