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Trump and MacArthur: The Parallel Lives of Two American Demagogues

Douglas MacArthur ascended to the pinnacle of power at the inception of the American Century when his nation established itself as the world's preeminent superpower. Donald Trump's turn came at what appears to be the end of US dominance as we turn inwards and relinquish the mantle of global hegemon to the rising power of China. These two men have arguably inspired both greater adoration and more visceral antipathy than any other pair of Americans. Their long uneven climb to power and rapid fall from grace informs us not only about the weaknesses and strengths of the nation's constitutional system, but also that of ourselves as a people.

 

The more one studies MacArthur and Trump, the more their remarkable similarities of ego, fate and path to power shine through.The parallels in their rise and fall reflect the peculiarities of the American Experiment and the nation's belief in its exceptionalism. It should be of no surprise that General MacArthur thought he should be president and President Trump has often referred to MacArthur as his favorite general. Both men rode waves of historical luck and self-promotion to great heights of power, challenged the nation's constitutional order and engendered utter devotion or loathing from millions of Americans.