Here is where Mr. Sullivan’s essay actually begins, in his natural habitat, the cocktail party of movers and shakers in Washington D.C.
‘And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw,…’ One can only wonder at what office party? He is one of America’s elite pundits.
The admixture of quotations from Plato and his self-serving interpolations of the Master, reeks of ‘Straussian scholarship’, that opens his essay, mere window dressing to his staged political hysterics about Mr. Trump as the end of ‘Democracy’. Mr. Sullivan sounds the warning, while carefully eliding from the essay his stark complicity in the rise of the American Caudillo. Amply demonstrated by this quote:
‘And as I watched frenzied Trump rallies on C-SPAN in the spring, and saw him lay waste to far more qualified political peers in the debates by simply calling them names, the nausea turned to dread.’
Mr. Sullivan has watched too many movies, or more likely too much television. But this partial quotation raises the question of Mr. Sullivan’s judgement, if it exists:
…and saw him lay waste to far more qualified political peers in the debates…
In the end the opponents of Mr. Trump were reduced to the utter dregs of American Politics, Rubio and Cruz: so much for Mr. Sullivan’s judgement if any doubt remained of his status as myopic prattler, or by another name as Neo-Conservative redux. But then more of Plato:
Plato had planted a gnawing worry in my mind a few decades ago about the intrinsic danger of late-democratic life. It was increasingly hard not to see in Plato’s vision a murky reflection of our own hyperdemocratic times and in Trump a demagogic, tyrannical character plucked directly out of one of the first books about politics ever written.
Mr. Sullivan’s selective reading of The Master leaves out the most salient, and perhaps the most important point about Plato, he was no democrat, but an advocate of The Philosopher Kings, as the only way to protect against the mortal political danger of too much democracy. Mr. Sullivan in his maladroit way presents himself as a contemporary iteration of that model of political leadership, in his role of conscious stricken pseudo-technocrat, bemoaning the rise of Trump and Trumpism. But he cannot be brief about his dismissal, his exercise of contempt for The Rebellion Against The Elites, as so aptly named by the Financial Times, as part of their propaganda campaign against Left Wing backbencher Jeremy Corbyn, Le Pen and other continental iterations against a catastrophic Neo-Liberalism- Mr. Sullivan lacks curiosity and the intellectual range to make that kind of connection. Trump and his epigones happened for the reason that the Neo-Liberal economic policies advocated by Sullivan, and other members of that Elite, collapsed in 2008 and prosperity has yet to return, except to the 1%.
Eric Hoffer makes an appearance in the essay, The True Believer , who was a willing, and the most able apologist for the Vietnam War, that Lyndon Johnson could scare up from America’s intellectual class. Some of us are old enough to recall his White House appearances. Sinclair Lewis’ ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ makes its obligatory appearance , but not Phillip Roth’s engaging ‘The Plot Against America’, perhaps too laden with nostalgia and self-celebration of Roth as child-hero, not to speak of the political inconvenience of Charles Lindbergh in the dual role of an actual American Hero and as an American Fascist. Trump is a bully and a coward and the Circus Ringmaster on The Apprentice. A role that cemented in the public mind his status as Leader.
I have tried to be as brief as possible in my comment, and realize that I can’t answer every part of Mr. Sullivan’s rambling essay, brevity and succinctness are literary strangers to our author.