Is Mr. Trump great-souled or small? Can he be ruffled by a tweet? Is he subject to the whisperings of an Iago? Does Washington need such an outsider? Might the qualities that make Trump good in business prove a tragic liability in the political world? All the above.
Trump is both larger and smaller than most of our recent presidents. For his salary, he said: “I think I have to by law take $1, so I’ll take $1 a year… Do you know what the salary is?” And the man almost single-handedly catapulted the entire American political establishment. It is not true that he received enormous help from the RNC. Whilst Hillary had two presidents campaigning for her those last fateful days, and the help of untold star-power, it was essentially just Trump and his kids on that final mile. It is only our egalitarian disbelief in the possibility of largeness that we smugly say he had enormous help, and that if it wasn’t for this, and wasn’t for that, he would not have succeeded. Indeed, the help Trump did get was due to his own muscle, taken seemingly from a herd of sheep. Trump’s supporters, like the citizens of Venice, believe we need such a large man to fight our Turks. Our political elite is the Brabantio that won’t accept him.
However, unlike the moor of Venice, Trump is a businessman and not a warrior. He is not as simple as Othello. He is also not a Coriolanus. And he is not a Pericles nor Lear. But none of these are like each other either. What Trump is, is a man of proportions seemingly equal to these other heroes, and he happened in an age when such things do not happen. It is precisely this that seems to unsettle our democratic sensibilities. We are not accustomed to behold something big, something almost biblical in scope. Obama was the first black president. Hillary wanted to be the first woman. But neither personality was quite equal to the role.
But how can Trump also often be so incredibly small? Well, first, even Caesar, Cassius said, almost drowned when they were swimming together once, crying out for help. And it is widely known that people close to great men, such as secretaries, usually have a gentle but healthy contempt for them. So today we see these things, especially in the media, that only secretaries used to see. Yet regrettably, this is not quite the whole portrait when it comes to Trump’s small side.
Blood will tell how it goes in future, but when Trump asked the debate moderator, during one of the debates, to call up some radio host to confirm some story or other, it disappointed me a great deal. I was untroubled by most of Trump’s other remarks, and even his flippant demagoguery did not upset me very much, but this seemingly innocuous act of smallness with the reporter betrayed a pettiness that I found rather significant. It must have come from the years spent in commerce, I suppose. But Othello would not have stooped like this.
Yet even Othello wished to justify himself in a certain light. Just before he stabbed himself, he made sure that the Cyprians would be told that he did not act ignobly, but only out of passion:
“When you shall these unlucky deeds relate
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate.
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you
Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well.
Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; one of whose subdu’d
Albeit unused to the letting mood,
Drops tears as fast as the Arabian trees…
What I am getting at is that if we are to experience the largeness Mr. Trump has inside of him, we will have to swallow much too that is small and sometimes vain. Either way, though, something unusually big has happened, more than the usual change of personnel, and amounting to a change of spirit, with nothing quite like it before.