Posted by: David Offutt | October 23, 2017

The Moses Syndrome of Trump and the G.O.P.

Michelangelo’s Moses (1513-1515) in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy [Photo by David Offutt, Nov. 2012]

President Donald J. Trump and the congressional Republicans may not like each other but they share several dominating characteristics: incompetence, irresponsibility, and maliciousness. In direct connection with flouting those traits, they all suffer from the Moses Syndrome. It is this that unites them in a common cause.

 

Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Pharaoh Seti I, or Sethos (1956)

Most are probably familiar with the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament and the 1956 epic film “The Ten Commandments.” In the movie, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, as Pharaoh Seti I, delivers the following decree: “Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.”

 

And who is it today that they’ve equated or confused with Moses? Whose presidency did the Republican leadership pledge to obstruct and sabotage on his first inauguration day when they met at the Caucus Room Restaurant? Whose legacies are they trying to remove from our collective memory? Could his name be Obama?

 

Charlton Heston as Moses (1956) – historically, the soldier Horemheb attempted to remove the name of Akhenaton, the adopted name of Amenhotep IV, from Egyptian records.

There are clear similarities in the story of Egypt’s eradication of the name of Moses and of Trump and the G.O.P’s obsession to eliminate anything that might be considered a positive achievement by President Barack Obama. Moses was born a Hebrew slave but was raised by the pharaoh’s daughter to be a prince of Egypt by keeping his origins secret. Once his true identity was discovered, he was deemed unqualified and unfit, was banished from Egypt, and his name was removed from all his accomplishments and from all records.  Barack Obama was our first black president, which clearly made him unacceptable to a large number of voters. He was also deemed to be an illegitimate/unqualified president because many wanted to believe him to be a Muslim born in Kenya – Mr. Trump rose to political infamy by questioning Obama’s claim to be born in Hawaii.

 

However, there are also some differences. The Egyptians chose not to destroy the cities, temples, monuments, roads or whatever Moses was accredited with. They just wanted his name removed from them so that a Hebrew couldn’t get credit for designing or supervising anything that benefited the Egyptians.  On the other hand, Trump and the G.O.P. can’t easily erase the name of Obama from history. (Although, it’s conceivable that the influential state of Texas will try to do just that in purchasing future editions of their public schools’ history textbooks – what Texas wants included or excluded gets sold nationwide.) These people are determined to destroy what Obama did with nothing better to replace them.

 

Michelangelo depicted Moses with horns, an anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews have horns. (Photo by David Offutt)

Even though the Affordable Care Act has done exactly what it was designed to do, Trump and the G.O.P must destroy the ACA, regardless of how many millions get hurt.  Because they named it “Obamacare,” it’s the one and only way they can immediately erase his name from our lexicon. Poor Trump. He may have naively thought his adopted Republican Party, after years of voting to repeal it, had a better replacement for it. He obviously hadn’t been paying attention to what they were really doing.

 

When Trump promised to provide cheaper and better health care for everybody, somebody no doubt informed him that he was talking about “Medicare for everyone” – and his adopted party has opposed Medicare since its inception. The sole Republican mission is to reduce taxes on the millionaires and billionaires, which are vital to making Obamacare work. That’s something Trump can certainly relate to. He’s now willing to sign any repeal no matter how mean-spirited it is. Since the ACA was so carefully constructed and consequently works quite well, Trump has figured out the only way to get rid of it is to give up on legislation and to personally sabotage it.

 

That “horns protruded from his head” as Moses descended from Mount Sinai is based on an early mistranslation that was used during the Renaissance. A more accurate translation is “rays of light protruded from his face.” (Photo by David Offutt)

The same could be said of other targets that are in his crosshairs. There is nothing inherently wrong with the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, or the protection of “dreamers” whose parents brought them into the U.S. when they were kids. While none are perfect, they all are beneficial and no serious effort has been made to improve any of them. The only reasons for sabotaging them are that they were done on Obama’s watch and Trump campaigned on a promise to end them – and a minority of voters was eager to see him do it.

 

It’s reminiscent of South Carolina’s secession from the Union in 1860. South Carolina said it would secede if “that abolitionist Lincoln gets elected.” Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist at the time, and the only way the South could continue to keep slavery was to stay in the Union. But South Carolina said it would secede if Lincoln were elected, so they did, and other southern states followed. The result was that more Americans died in the Civil War than in any other war. Trump, likewise, is keeping promises to his base with no regard for the consequences to them or the rest of us. Keeping campaign promises might be good but not if they appealed to the voters’ worst instincts. History has shown where that can lead.

 

Yul Brynner as Pharaoh Ramses II (1956) – historically, it is more likely that Merneptah was Egypt’s pharaoh at the time of the exodus.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently identified the Trump Doctrine as “Obama built it. I broke it. You (Congress) fix it.” Nothing Trump does is based on information, consideration of the consequences, or having any preconceived plans for improvement.  For eight years, Republicans in Congress practiced “obstruct and sabotage” to limit Obama’s success as president. Now, President Trump is using the same strategy in the White House, knowing full well – by now – that his G.O.P. congressional majority is hardly capable of fixing anything.

 

Meanwhile, the Moses Syndrome afflicts every legislative and/or executive move. Last summer’s transcontinental eclipse was timely and symptomatic of the ever-increasing darkness that’s sweeping our land.

 

“So it shall be written. So it shall be done.” – Yul Brynner as Pharaoh Ramses II in “The Ten Commandments”

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Responses

  1. Yes David, Trump is a vindictive person and he lacks any constructive plan to fix things. The future is not bright.
    .
    The same can be said of Democrats, who have organized “THE RESISTANCE” to “stop Trump.” Democrats have no new ideas — that’s why they were voted out. You can write blog after blog dissing Trump and Republicans, but until you have constructive solutions to fix things, you are no better than the Republicans.
    .
    “the Affordable Care Act has done exactly what it was designed to do.” False. It was designed to enrich insurance companies, but has failed to do so because only sick people are signing up. Sick people are not profitable.
    .
    David, I have no health insurance. The only thing the ACA has done for me is make my tax return more complicated. But if Democrats had their way, my state would put me on Medicaid and place a lien on my home to pay for it. My home is the only thing of significance I have in this world, and Democrats want to take it away.
    .
    Only 5% of the population have gained health insurance due to the ACA, while 13% remain uninsured according to the latest Gallup poll. The ACA is a failure. If you can’t admit that, then you are part of the problem.
    .
    “The sole Republican mission is to reduce taxes on the millionaires and billionaire [TRUE] which are vital to making Obamacare work.” [FALSE]
    .
    As the 19th century Greenbackers and Populists understood, taxes do not pay for Federal spending. Uncle Sam has the power to pay for his spending with fiat money, limited only by inflation — and most inflation is not caused by government spending. Some of FDR’s staff, including Henry Wallace and James Galbraith, also understood that, and deficit spending was key to the New Deal, but today’s Democrats reject the New Deal and instead embrace neoliberal economic policies, which you also seem to support, what with your dreams about neoliberal icon Robert Rubin and your defense of the ACA.
    .
    The Federal government has the ability to give every single American FREE health care. Certainly money is no object when it comes to the F-35 jet, or for the CIA, or the latest bullshit foreign war supported by both parties. If you don’t understand how Federal spending works, then you are part of the problem. See Abba Lerner’s 1943 essay on Federal spending: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/04/abba-lerner-1943-functional-finance.html
    .
    Neoliberalism is one of the great evils of our era. The ACA is a neoliberal program, originally designed by the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation. It you want to rant about something, consider ranting about neoliberalism?

  2. Class, today’s essay question is “Compare and contrast the rise of right wing authoritarian governments today vs. the 1930’s. What do you suppose is the root cause? What can be done about it?”
    .
    Naomi Klein answers: “… the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton … is what sealed our fate. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?”
    .
    “We know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left. … The Democratic party needs to be either decisively wrested from pro-corporate neoliberals, or it needs to be abandoned. “


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