Donald Trump: Our First Equestrian Class President
Little more than halfway toward President Trump's 100 Days milestone, shadow government leftovers from the Obama era continue to damage his administration, the mainstream media establishment continues to vilify him, and Deep State intelligence agents and former operatives openly flirt with seditious conspiracy to overthrow him.
And yet, Donald Trump's populism overcame establishment wisdom and defeated the most well-funded and well-connected political machine in recent history. For these facts alone, his persistence would be a noteworthy success. Unremarked in all this is something that may cement his presidency as a turning point in American history.
There has perhaps been no other nation in history quite like the United States, but has there ever been a historical precedent for what we're seeing now in Trump's presidency?
Some time ago, my wife introduced me to an amazing podcast called the History of Rome, produced and hosted by Mike Duncan, which I highly recommend. Looking back in time to the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, while viewing our present through that lens, I noticed something extraordinary.
Founded by citizens who overthrew a corrupt monarch, Rome expanded its territory until it encompassed the whole of the Italian peninsula, and then in a series of wars against Carthage and the Greek states, established itself as the preeminent power of the Mediterranean world, all well before Julius Caesar drew his first breath.
The Republic was principally ruled by a Senate who invested political power in the hands of various consuls, tribunes, or elected dictators, a system which persisted nearly two centuries into the Empire of the 3rd century AD. However, the basis of Roman civil society was the highly stratified class structure embodied by the Tribal and Centuriate assemblies, the latter composed of the aristocratic patricii and equites, followed by representatives of the first through fifth classes of commoners, and last, a single representative from the lowest class: the proletarii.
Even during the late Roman Empire (the Dominate) when the Senate's blessing was a long-dead formality, no ruler of Rome had ever "donned the purple" and become Emperor without already holding a position of Senatorial rank or higher - the Senatorial class had become a de facto ruling social class as early as 200 BC. It was only at the very end of the early Roman Empire (the Principate) that we see the first Emperor to come from the lower aristocratic rank - the equestrian class. The equestrian class were aristocratic land owners who were expected to provide military service in the cavalry legions, but were not part of the ruling political elite that governed the Senate, and by extension, the Republic and Empire.
Rome's first equestrian emperor, Emperor Macrinus, had a short and tumultuous reign from April 217 AD until June 218 AD, when he was captured during a revolt by his rival, Elagabalus, and executed. His overthrow foreshadowed the Crisis of the Third Century fifteen years later, after both his successors were themselves assassinated, a fifty year period of intermittent civil war when Rome was divided into three independent and rival empires.
What lesson can we draw from this? A remarkable one.
Donald Trump is the first American President who has attained the office without having first held a position beyond that of a private citizen.
All other Presidents had been of Senatorial rank or higher (Senate, Governor or cabinet level rank) or of a military rank of general before coming to office, with the sole exception being Abraham Lincoln, who had still previously been a member of Congress. Much has been made of Barack Obama's historic achievement as America's first African-American president, and not without merit. However, by nearly all other perspectives except race, the pattern of American politics remained unchanged: a charismatic young Senator defeating aging, out-of-touch Senators in the campaign for high office.
There should be no surprise that Obama's presidency played out in line with the status quo - globalism advanced, war continued, the surveillance state expanded, false narratives were woven into our nation's histories, and the American people remained on the losing end of the equation. Poverty increased, real unemployment rose, economic growth stagnated, racial animosity grew, and we continued to become entangled in wars that more seemed to benefit foreign powers like Saudi Arabia and wealthy social manipulators like George Soros.
Trump's electoral victory, by contrast, has shattered the historical power structure where only established political figures were elevated to the Presidency. And his opponents continue to be apoplectic at the result. He was simply "not supposed to win."
Donald Trump, despite his wealth, is not one of the nation's political elite. He did not advance by joining their exclusive club and rising through its ranks. He openly scorns them at every opportunity. He has taken none of their patronage and owes none of their favors.
In Roman terms, he is our first national leader of Equestrian rank, which brings with it unprecedented opportunities for structural reform as well as great risk to both him and our country. And if the recent talk of coups, soft coups, assassination attempts, or seditious conspiracies to gut Constitutional rule through a rogue judiciary or insubordinate intelligence community are indicators, the future of America's continued existence as a Constitutional Republic itself may depend on President Trump's success.
Macrinus, as such, is not a hopeful analogy. His sad reign was just over one year long. Although he replaced the infamous tyrant Caracalla, he quickly earned the scorn of the Senate for promoting commoners to high rank. He also faced an extreme economic crisis left by his predecessor. However, more instructive to modern observers are two factors which set the downfall of Macrinus firmly in motion: his refusal to move to Rome from his estate in Antioch in the Roman province of Syria, and his total failure to deal with Caracalla's heirs, who conspired in secret and eventually fomented a rebellion that overthrew him.
Donald Trump may be facing a similar situation, if those who oppose him truly believe him to be setting a paradigm-shifting precedent for decades to come. If Macrinus is any example, President Trump needs to move himself and his people out of Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower and firmly into the DC swamp as soon as possible, making the beltway his own, while any failure to aggressively investigate and prosecute any outstanding crimes of his opponents (Hillary Clinton) and predecessors (Barack Obama) will embolden them, not placate them. With former President Obama setting up shop in a house within stone's throw of the White House, defending the sitting President's legitimate, lawful executive authority is an urgent priority.
For some perspective on just how unique this power shift is, here is a list of all Presidents and the positions of Senatorial rank or higher they held prior to being sworn in as President of the United States:
Highest Position Held Prior to Attaining the Presidency
George Washington - General of the Army
John Adams - Vice President
Thomas Jefferson - Secretary of State, Vice President
James Madison - Secretary of State
James Monroe - Senator, Governor
John Quincy Adams - Senator, Secretary of State
Andrew Jackson - Major General, Senator, Governor
Martin Van Buren - Senator, Governor, Vice President
William Henry Harrison - Major General, Senator
John Tyler - Senator, Vice President
James K. Polk - Governor
Zachary Taylor - Major General
Millard Fillmore - Vice President
Franklin Pierce - Brigadier General, Senator
James Buchanan - Senator, Secretary of State
Abraham Lincoln - * Member of Congress from Illinois *
Andrew Johnson - Governor, Senator, Vice President
Ulysses S. Grant - General of the Army
Rutherford B. Hayes - Brevet Major General, Governor
James Garfield - Major General
Chester A. Arthur - Vice President
Grover Cleveland - Governor
Benjamin Harrison - Brevet Brigadier General, Senator
William McKinley - Governor
Theodore Roosevelt - Governor, Vice President
William Howard Taft - Secretary of War
Woodrow Wilson - Governor
Warren G. Harding - Senator
Calvin Coolidge - Governor, Vice President
Herbert Hoover - Secretary of Commerce
Franklin Roosevelt - Governor
Harry Truman - Vice President
Dwight D. Eisenhower - General of the Army
John F. Kennedy - Senator
Lyndon Johnson - Senator, Vice President
Richard Nixon - Senator, Vice President
Gerald Ford - Vice President
Jimmy Carter - Governor
Ronald Reagan - Governor
George H. W. Bush - Director of CIA, Vice President
Bill Clinton - Governor
George W. Bush - Governor
Barack Obama - Senator
Donald Trump - private citizen, CEO Trump Organization