On the fall of strongmen and the endurace of republics
News has just broken that the long-time leader of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has resigned, following a soft coup by the military last week.
He went from a liberation fighter to a dictator over an almost-40 year career.
This weekend I went to watch "Hamilton". It was a wonderful piece of theater. But one thing struck me as I watched it, and strikes me now as the news breaks of Mugabe's fall.
The greatest gift George Washington gave his fledgling nation was leaving.
He could have easily run for and won a third term. Alexander Hamilton himself urged him to run. (After the revolution, there was talk of making Washington a "king", talk which he squashed.) By leaving, though, he was teaching the republic a lesson: the state is greater than any one person. The president is not the embodiment of the republic; the citizens are.
It's a lesson which, for the most part, we have followed. We've had strong, forceful men in the Oval Office. But none of them have tried to set up a dictatorship. The republic's institutions have always been stronger. And when Franklin Delano Roosevelt broke the tradition of limiting oneself to serving only two terms, a constitutional amendment was adopted enshrining the two-term limit into law.
This is something to remember as we sail though these perilous times. Donald Trump is someone who has no regard for tradition or niceties. He would savage the Constitution in service of his own desires. But we are stronger than him. We have always been stronger than him and his like. It's time to remind him and his followers of this fact. The Republic is greater than any one man, especially than a carnival barker.
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