DONALD TRUMP AND OLIVER CROMWELL
Donald J Trump (1946-) Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)
Sorry Neo-Nazi conspirators, but your guy isn’t back from the dead in a comb-over avatar. Even though during this campaign season, many professional commentators and just regular citizens have noticed the similarities between Donald Trump and the dictator-de-jour, Adolph Hitler, that comparison is faulty. Indeed, a closer link exists between Trump and Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England during the Interregnum, ca. 1649-1660. But let me back up from the 17th century to just last week, on March 22, 2016, in the Arizona Primary –now considered to be a debacle of disenfranchisement: only 60 polling stations in the entire state were open; lines of up to a mile long, with 2-3 hour wait, and all so called ‘registered independents’ were not allowed to vote in this ‘presidential preference’ election. Additionally, I re-registered to vote over a month before the March 22 election, but still had not received my new Voter Registration card with my new address. I believe that I marked ‘independent’ on the application, so likely my provisional ballot cast during the AZ primary/preference will be thrown out. Why would Arizona set up such a system that disenfranchises a large minority of voters who do not want to commit to either party prior to the November election?
Here is what it looked like at my polling site, the Arizona Historical Museum; the queue wrapped three times around the front of the building into the parking lot. This image was taken at about 5 pm, but it had been that way all day, according to election officials and the media.
In an act of sympathetic nature, there was a huge fire at a local recycling plant that darkened the dramatic early evening sky of Phoenix; it looked as dystopian as Divergent. This is what happens when the wrong guy wins and thousands of people could not vote.
But back to Trump and Cromwell. There are of course differences: Cromwell lived in England during the Civil Wars and Interregnum, and he appeared to have had a kind of religious conversion to Puritanism in the 1630’s – that brand of radical Christianity that was brought to this country in 1620 with the Pilgrims (Separators) at Plymouth, and in 1630 with the Puritans (Non-Separating) at New Boston and Salem. Cromwell was a land-owing, gentleman farmer, solider, husband, and father of nine children. His attachment to Puritanism was both fervent and sincere, as he attributed his military successes to the hand of God. Thus, key differences: Cromwell was a war veteran and a person of religious, (albeit extreme) faith. Trump has neither served in the Armed Forces nor seems to practice organized religion, as he panders to both the Evangelicals and the Zionists.
Another difference, Cromwell was an elected member of Parliament on and off from 1628 to 1649. Trump has never been elected to political office. In the mid-17th century, the Church of England and King Charles I had effectively estranged the majority of English citizens who had had enough of both church-establishment and royal privilege. The people rose up against the King and the Anglican Church, and through a combination of his fierce military record (especially against the Irish) and his being of the right faith at the right time, Cromwell stepped into the power vacuum after the king was executed (1649) and the Parliament was dismissed (1653). He was named ‘Lord Protector’ of what was then a four-part United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. He ruled as Protector (de facto dictator) until his natural death in 1658. He signed official documents with the imprimatur ‘Oliver P.’ — a play on previous British sovereigns’ signatures; for example, Queen Elizabeth (Tudor) signed her documents ‘Elizabeth R.’ — ‘R’ standing for ‘Regina’ (‘queen’ in Latin). For Cromwell, the ‘P’ stood for ‘Protector.’
While in office, his greatest ally was the New Model Army, with whom he had served, a kind of theocratic mash-up of the Puritan elite, gentried officers, conscripts, and regulars who just wanted the monarchy overthrown and Church rule off their backs. Indeed, after he became Protector, he took the role as Commander in Chief literally, and basically divided South-central England into 12 wards, in which he posted a ‘major-general’ and members of a ‘select militia’ who sought to stomp out latent Royalists. “The whole system was unparalleled in seventeenth century Europe and was the closest thing England ever came to being a police-state” (Gentles 164). Back to Trump: although we are not experiencing a true civil war in this country at this time, we are certainly going through a kind of political warfare. The destabilizing effects of this presidential campaign will need to be balanced after the election. One can easily see Trump ruling ex officio, without guidance of, or consensus with Congress.
Like Parliament, our Congress holds in check the executive branch, that is unless the Congress is disbanded or suspended or ignored, in favor of the singular efficacy of authoritarian rule. If we choose Trump, we may have a Lord Protector on our hands. Under the aegis of his office, he may seek extraordinary powers to govern and change our country. He may indeed build a wall on our southern border; he may ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S.; he may deport Mexicans; he may continue with more overt expressions of sexism, racism, and religious or cultural bigotry; he may continue to condone and incite violence and bullying at his rallies.
After the Monarchy was restored in 1660, and the English placed King Charles II on the throne, it was ordered that Oliver Cromwell’s dead body be dug up from where it laid in Westminster Abbey, then publicly hung in chains, and beheaded. Talk about posthumous regret and revenge. Let’s not give Trump the chance to hate him unto death.
Gentles, Ian. Oliver Cromwell, God’s Warrior and the English Revolution. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011, Print.