Machiavelli, Trump, and Washington By Fletcher Hall


In order to build a new order in Washington, It is first important to identify the leaks in the old order. It was Niccolo Machiavelli, author of The Prince, who wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Trump is attempting to establish a new order in Washington. Perhaps the first real new order since the end of World War II. In the years since the end of that war and the fall of communism, America has experienced many significant and diverse changes. The expansiveness of the federal government, the civil rights movement, the disappearance of the middle class, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the effectiveness of the education system, and the catastrophe in the medical system are all staggering changes that have occurred in this country.

All of these developments have created cultural and political differences of major proportion. The nation is now divided, there will be a tremendous change in the order of things. The election of Donald Trump ensured these changes. Gone are the Clintons and their 30-year dominance of the Democratic Party. Gone are Barack Obama and his left-of-center political views and policies. Gone is the control of the House and Senate by the Democrats.

Trump, his administration, and the Republican Congress will have a relatively short period of time to change the order of things and to enact the major the legislation they have promised the American people. The next congressional election, which will determine the control of Congress, is less than two years away. Enacting a legislative agenda is not the fastest process known to man, especially in Washington D.C. where gridlock and political procrastination are plentiful.

If Trump desires to fulfill many of his campaign promises, he must find ways to work with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate. The withdrawal of his nominee for Labor Secretary does not bode well. Trump did not have enough Republican Senate votes to ensure his confirmation. Trump must get his Capitol Hill team in place and functioning soon. Investigation after investigation takes time, taxpayer money, and often yields dubious results. Capitol Hill politics are vicious; however, the ability of the White House to work successfully with the legislative body is essential. President Trump must understand and embrace this fact of life. He will have to engage in the job training, and he appears to not like training wheels.

Written in 1513, The Prince is still very pertinent to the understanding of politics today. Machiavelli, the observer of princes and potentates, explains how to govern and use the tools of power to acquire political victories. So far, the ability to preserve the power of the leader is yet to be proven by President Trump. It is not surprising to see the entire Trump administration having a difficult time getting organized. Trump is an insurgent president, and insurgent presidents usually do not have a built-in cadre of loyalists in Washington. The ability to establish a new order will be a significant challenge for President Trump. The long knives are out for him. Since day one in the White House, he has faced the reality that his detractors and opponents wish to bring down his presidency. These knives are both in and out of government.

Politics is a blood sport and it “ain’t bean-bag” to quote Finley Peter Dunne. Trump must learn the nuances of governing in Washington. There are so many moving parts. So many players and so much media. So many talking heads and pundits. Trump needs to get the wagon headed in the right direction before all the wheels come off.

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.