Heading For A Fall? Will the reign of “Mad King Donald”, the 45th American President, end as tragically as that of Ludwig II, the "Mad King of Bavaria"? Over the Christmas period, newspaper articles and blog postings have appeared in the US media alleging that President Trump’s increasingly erratic behaviour and his refusal to accept professional guidance is placing the Republic in danger.
IT RISES like a piece of romantic confectionary from the fir trees that crowd around its base. The conical rooftops and soaring white-stone towers epitomising the fairy-tale castle. So much so that a scaled-down version became the centrepiece of Walt Disney’s “Fantasyland”. It is called “Neuschwanstein” – the new swanstone castle – and it is the most enduring legacy of Ludwig II: the “Mad King of Bavaria”.
So erratic, so spendthrift, so megalomaniacal, had Ludwig II become that in the early hours of 10 June 1886 a Bavarian Government Commission arrived at the gates of Neuschwanstein bearing a document officially deposing the King, and under orders to take the allegedly “insane” Ludwig into custody.
At first, the King resisted. Police officers loyal to Ludwig drove the Commissioners from the castle gates at gunpoint. For a few hours, the opportunity existed for the King to rouse the Bavarian people against his enemies. But, Ludwig hesitated and the moment was lost. A new detachment of Bavarian police soon relieved the King’s defenders and Neuschwanstein was sealed off. By 12 June a second Commission had taken the King into custody and Ludwig’s uncle, Luitpold, was proclaimed Regent. A day later, Ludwig’s body (and that of his psychiatrist, Dr Bernhard von Gudden) was found in Lake Starnberg, 11kms south of the Bavarian capital. Officially, Ludwig had committed suicide. Unofficially …. ?
Ludwig II's spectacular legacy - Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.
Will the reign of “Mad King Donald”, the 45th American President, end in such tragic circumstances? Over the Christmas period, newspaper articles and blog postings have appeared in the US media alleging that President Trump’s increasingly erratic behaviour and his refusal to accept professional guidance is placing the Republic in danger.
It was Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria against the advice of his Secretary of Defence, General James Mattis, that constituted the final straw for Pulitzer-Prize winning NY Times columnist, Thomas Friedman:
“It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behaviour — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.”
Accordingly, Friedman is calling upon the Republican Party to stage an “intervention”. Essentially, what he and a growing number of like-minded American opinion formers are demanding is that, for the remaining two years of his presidency, Trump becomes a mere figurehead – guided by a responsible Cabinet of the Republican Party’s own choosing. If Trump refuses, then Republicans and Democrats must join forces and impeach him.
All of which raises the question: Can Mad King Donald be removed from office (and this world) as expeditiously and bloodlessly as Mad King Ludwig?
Twitter was not available in 1886, which meant that the Bavarian Government could control the flow of information concerning Ludwig’s deposition. Such scattered resistance as did occur when rumours of the King’s predicament eventually filtered out to his faithful peasant subjects was easily dispersed. In 2019, by contrast, any attempted Republican Party “intervention” would be revealed instantly in a Presidential “tweet” – thereby mobilising tens-of-millions of Trump’s loyal followers. How easily these “peasants” could be dispersed is an interesting question. They would not be carrying pitchforks.
Much now hinges on how determined the American ruling-class is to “fire” its rogue CEO. Trump has initiated a trade war with the Chinese that is unnerving the world’s free-traders. He has openly attacked the US Federal Reserve – prime defender of the global neoliberal order. Wall Street is not impressed. Not since 1931 has the stockmarket fallen so precipitously in a single week. Bad enough, one would think, but include the strategic signal contained in the Syrian withdrawal and everything gets much worse. American markets are secured by American arms: weaken one and you weaken the other. Weaken both, and you become a “clear and present danger” to the national security of the United States.
And all those Trump loyalists bearing arms? One suspects the American military is just itching to give them a Napoleonic “whiff of grapeshot”. The Second Amendment notwithstanding, there is room for only one army in the USA.
And Mad King Donald’s legacy? Not a Neuschwanstein, certainly. Just possibly, a half-constructed Mexican border wall.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 28 December 2018.