Is Trump our Napoleon?

Napoleon’s genius in transmogrifying himself from an obscure lowly artillery officer to emperor of Europe was due to a similar intuition that in demoralized France, worn out from both revolutionary fervor and Bourbon reaction, he alone could offer something similar and yet different from both these despised opportunistic factions. Napoleon would reluctantly employ authoritarianism but put it in service to the proverbial people rather than the aristocratic landed class and ossified clergy. He could cut through bureaucracy and corruption in the fashion that he had sent a “whiff of grapeshot” though mobs of rioters.

Napoleon’s enemies were not just the corrupt royal class and the freebooters who had betrayed the Revolution, but ostensibly a gang of opportunist foreign countries like Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria that all wanted to take advantage of French chaos by stealing their borderlands or their trade, and their preeminence.

Napoleon also never spelled out an agenda on how to make France great again because his own spectacular success was prima facie evidence that whatever he had done for himself he could easily do for his country. Success need not be defined, simply professed.

Obviously the wheeler-dealer Trump is not the general Napoleon, and we are not France of 200 years ago at war with Europe. But he appeals to a similar depressed public that feels the chaos of continual economic and social upheavals — and lawlessness — can easily cease and be replaced by a new national triumphant consensus, if only led by a dynamic man on a horse.