Robert Morstein-Marx on the electoral campaign: “Make demagogues great again”

This year’s eyebrow-raising, jaw-dropping American electoral campaign has evoked in some observers the memory of the ancient Roman Republic, especially as it neared its bloody end. Commentators have drawn parallels between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Julius Caesar. That would be an insult – to Caesar. Can anyone imagine in Mr. Trump’s mouth the statesmanlike arguments Caesar is supposed to have used to try to convince the Roman Senate not to give in to anger and fear and inflict capital punishment illegally on Roman citizens? The hallmark of Mr. Trump’s campaign (at least until other problems emerged recently) has been the sheer anger it has exuded (and incited). So a more promising analogy from Roman history might therefore be the so-called popularis – roughly, ‘populist’ – ‘demagogues’ of the Late Republic.