The three articles in this series suggested the following insights about Trump:
First, Trump, at heart, is a people person: the ultimate populist.
Second, Trump uses words like paint: captivating us with the colors, but we must remember that the picture he paints can change at any moment.
Third, Trump wants to be liked and he has already set his mind towards winning the popular vote four years from now.
This fourth article looks at two leaders of the past who bear great similarities to Trump: Huey Long of Louisiana, and Cyrus the Great of Persia. The first of these has been discussed in the secular media, and the second has been discussed in the Christian media.
Huey Long, the Kingfish of Louisiana
Huey Long was one of the most famous political figures of the 1920s and 30s. A populist, he was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1928 and United States Senator in 1930, and was preparing to run against President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was assassinated in 1935. His story has been the subject of documentaries and a movie based on his life, All the King’s Men, won the Academy Award 1949.
The Huey Long connection to Trump was mentioned from time to time during the campaign, in the secular media. For instance, George Will wrote in February that Donald Trump was upsetting the Republican establishment in the same way that Huey Long had upset the Democratic party years ago. But the main stream media never made too much of this similarity in 2016. Why not? It doesn’t work to smear a Republican by comparing him to an infamous Democrat!
Yet in this series we are trying to understand people, not policies. So we will look deeper at the similarities between the two men.
In the description below I will be quoting some passages from Sandy Landry’s book, Alive with Passion and Purpose, which profiles many famous personalities and biblical characters in the light of the Bible. Even though it predates the rise of Donald Trump, listen to how similar her profile of Long is to Trump’s.
Huey Long entered Louisiana politics as an outsider. He stirred up the entire state in his first bid for governor in 1924, by going from town to town, railing against the political establishment in Louisiana, by charging with his impressive oratory skills and larger-than-life persona that the regular people are not being treated fairly. Then he would turn in that same speech and focus his attacks on people, the key governmental leaders in that particular county. “Even if his listeners had nothing against the man he attacked – which a few always did – the majority still couldn’t help but be impressed with Huey’s sheer audacity.” Sound familiar to Trump so far?
Huey Long attached himself to the regular working people. He proclaimed himself to be a candidate of the people, but in actuality he was the son of a wealthy Louisiana farmer. Sound familiar?
Huey Long had an ability to draw people in with his stories and would repaint when needed. “He told the Protestants up north about hitching up the wagon and taking his Baptist grandparents to church on Sunday, and the told the French Catholics in the south about hitching up the wagon and taking his Catholic grandparents to mass every Sunday. When questioned about the discrepancy, he answered ‘Heck, we didn’t even have a horse.’”
Landry’s profile continues: “The Anglo-Saxon North and the French Canadian South had always been politically of two minds, but oddly enough, here was a man that both sides seemed to appreciate, one who was a political genius, part bully, and part hero.” Sound familiar to Trump? “They told themselves that he was no worse than the rest, except that he was looking out for them and the other crooks only cared about themselves.” Does the argument about who is worse, sound familiar?
When he narrowly lost the Governorship in 1924, he blamed his loss on the rain. “The rain had kept the poor farmers home and that cost him the election.” Does the election turnout blame game sound familiar? “That lie brought little comfort to his opponents who realized they would never be able to keep him out again, and they were right.” He won handily in 1928. Trump also lost the Presidency his first time and won the second. Here, though, there is a slight difference, because I believe that it has only been since his Presidential election that Trump’s opponents are realizing just how difficult it may be to defeat him in four years.
Historians say that Huey Long as a populist accomplished a lot of good for the people of Louisiana. But his great personal mistake was in continuing to believe that his bullying and attacks would not have personal consequences, even as he was so successful for so long that he was turning his attention to run for President against FDR in 1936. Landry concludes: “His ability to influence masses of people had carried him so far that it became the very thing that his enemies feared the most. However, his ruthless tactics had reaped ruthlessness.” Huey was shot in 1935 at the age of 42.
Trump entered politics much later in life than Huey Long, and will be 70 at his inauguration, the record for a first-term US President. While Trump shares Huey’s weakness of not fully grasping the impact of his negative actions on others, I certainly do not expect their stories to end the same way, but the dramatic end of Huey’s story should be a warning to pray.
We need to pray that Trump will walk in reality, and not in a self-projection of his own populist fantasy. This is a place that “people persons” struggle time and time again. They see their ability to influence people as a way that they can win them back with whenever it is required.
Cyrus the Great of Persia
Another figure that Trump has been compared to in the Christian media is Cyrus, most notably in Lance Wallnau’s recent book God’s Chaos Candidate. Wallnau tells the story of feeling like God told him to look at Isaiah 45 to understand how God sees the 45th President of the United States. He did not know what he would find in that chapter.
In that Isaiah chapter, the Lord continues to talk about Cyrus. God says about Cyrus in verse 1: “whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him,” and later on in verse 4: “I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known me.”
I have not read Lance’s book yet, so I won’t attempt to weigh in on his message for America. But let’s examine here and now, whether or not Cyrus in the Bible fits the description of a biblical “people person,” or even further as an “ultimate populist.”
The answer is definitely yes.
Cyrus fits the model of ultimate populist personally. Let’s read the first few verses in Ezra for clues:
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.”
This way of phrasing it is consistent with the way “ultimate populists” behave. He is calling out a group of people, from all the peoples to go do the work, and at the same time he is elevating himself as the one doing the building. We can see later on in Ezra that when evil reports came back to Cyrus that the Jews had an ulterior motive in their temple building project, the project was put on hold.
We also have a fascinating look at Cyrus and his self-promotion through the world famous “Cyrus Cylinder” discovered in Babylon in 1879.
This cylinder is a clay proclamation from King Cyrus to his entire kingdom speaking of the evils of the previous Babylonia regime, all the good that King Cyrus did, and attributing it to his own Persian gods. The cylinder makes a glancing reference from Cyrus to the work he did for the Jews, when he said “I returned the images of the gods, who had resided [in Babylon] to their places, and I let them dwell in their eternal abodes. I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings.”
The message on this cylinder reminds me of the way Trump uses Twitter. Are we looking at a 2500 year old “Tweet”?
What should we notice about the two proclamations? The proclamation in the book of Ezra began as an act of humility. Cyrus recognized that the Lord God of Heaven had given him all the kingdoms of the earth and had appointed him for a task. But the proclamation on the cylinder, has the attitude and behavior common to the kings of that era, i.e. giving the credit to the gods served by the king. Could Cyrus have been counseled after giving his proclamation to the Jews that he might be endangering his own legitimacy with the rest of the people?
And what lesson can we learn here for the sake of Trump?
If Trump is a Cyrus, then for sure Trump will accomplish God’s agenda on the earth for this season. That is for sure. But the question is whether Trump will be humble enough to acknowledge that this charter has been given to him by God, or whether, like Cyrus, he will turn the glory to himself or to any god other than the One True God.
Yes, God’s will is to be done. It will be done. But for Trump the man, we must all pray that he will do what is right. As Micah 6:8 says we should pray:
“He has told you O man what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
We still have a few remaining topics, such as understanding Trump as a deal maker, how he sees his wealth, and the dynamics that we can expect behind the scenes within his staff.