Humans are always on the search for the most power and will do whatever it takes to attain it. Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat that preached and ruled with this philosophy. Born in Florence Italy, Machiavelli wrote many pieces on how to acquire power in politics.
Many politicians are compared and contrasted to Machiavelli. The term Machiavellianism was created to explain the strategy of obtaining power by deceiving, manipulating, and exploiting others. In the 1960s the psychologists Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis studied Machiavelli’s writings, personality, and tactics to publish the MACH-IV to measure the Machiavelli trait which can be found in all humans. Our current President, Donald Trump has been noted to have characteristics quite similar to the Italian leader Machiavelli, however, humans are complex characters which means President Trump isn’t entirely Machiavellian.
Machiavelli once said, It is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both. This idea is shown through his ideologies and theories. Machiavelli’s novel the Prince explains how politicians should be noble in their character like a prince, however he mocks this idea by saying how a prince is just a mere fairytale, and that a leader should be able to put aside the ethics of honesty, and kindness to sustain the stability of the state. Machiavelli also believed in empiricism, he thought that action should be carried out from the information we learned from past experiences and historical events, rather than the imagination. He believed that people relied to heavily on chance and that ambition and glory were most important. He also felt that bad things against the social good are justified if the outcome is positive, this ideology gives way to one of the major modern economic ideas; capitalism. In capitalism, the economy is based on private ownership of means of production in order to create the biggest profit, even if jeopardizes social good or natural resources. The easiest way to spot a Machiavelli personality according to Dale Hartley Ph.D. is when they function best in jobs and social situations where the rules and boundaries are ambiguous, they use emotional detachment and a cynical outlook enable them to control their impulses and be careful, patient opportunists, their tactics includecharm, friendliness, self-disclosure, guilt, and (if necessary) pressure, they prefer to use subtle tactics (charm, friendliness, self-disclosure, guilt), when possible, to mask their true intentions and provide a basis for plausible denial if they are detected,however, they can use pressure and threats when necessary, and they tend to be preferred by others in competitive situations (debating, negotiations), but arenotpreferred asfriends, colleagues, or spouses(Meet the Machiavellians). All of these techniques can be used to identify this dark character trait. Our President has seemingly illustrated all of these notable characteristics.
For one, Donald Trump is manipulative. When you google search Donald Trump Manipulative over 1.2 million results are displayed, which shows this isn’t such a crazy idea. Like Machiavelli, Donald Trump uses fear in his favor. For instance, during his election he implanted the fear into many Americans that illegal immigrants, are rapists and criminals, and he has commented on US terrorist attacks. Violence in the United States has actually decreased over the past years, but Trump’s fearful tactics imply the opposite. We focus so closely on the things that bring us fear which limits our ability to see the whole picture. Just like the daily news portrays our world in a scary way to grab our attention, Donald Trump scares the American people in order to gain attention. This is worry some because as humans, it is a natural instinct to eliminate whatever creates fear. Donald Trump provokes anger and hostility through this natural reaction to fear. Humans cope with fear by becoming angry and hostile. He uses this resentment and throws it at Non-American groups of people. Donald Trump has said things like, China is taking our jobs; they’re taking our money, and Syrians are now being caught at the Southern border; we don’t know who they are; could be ISIS. By hanging the fear of unemployment and the loss of money over Americans and using China as the Scape Goat, Donald Trump is creating a new anger towards China. By associating ISIS and the fear of terrorism and all Syrians Donald Trump is forming hate towards that group in order to get the most power and support possible, which really brings out his Machiavellian personality and strategies. This also forms the idea that anyone that disagrees with him is anti- American.
Just like Machiavelli, Donald Trump chooses conflict over cooperation. He does this by forming the idea that he is the only one that can save America, and make it great again. By saying things like, No one else will keep you safe, and No one is going to mess with us. he getting used to losingportrays himself as a big man who will do whatever is necessary to be the best president the United States has ever seen and create an aggressive attitude he thinks is necessary. Similar to Machiavelli’s beliefs, he was willing to do anything if it meant more power. He uses the manipulative tactic of making everything seem black and white. He takes complex political affairs and creates a simple right or wrong answer. Donald Trump once said, We’re going to start winning so much that you’re going to start getting used to winning instead of getting used to losing. This is just one of the ways Donald Trump manipulates, he decided that politics are winning or losing which gives comfort to the American people because they think they understand that it is that simple. His manipulative abilities are strikingly corresponding to Machiavelli’s ideas.
Not only is President Trump manipulative but he takes all means necessary to gain the most power, a tactic Machiavelli took to the grave. He does this by believing he is the most superior politician and by mocking those he dislikes or disagrees with. He has gone to the extent of calling women, fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. He really would not have gone this far unless it was for his own personal gain. He is able to control every interaction he has by being the making the harshest claims he can be so it seems that he is the most superior man. He reinforces his ideas into the minds of people by repetition. He coined his slogan Make America Great Again and put it on shirts, hats, ads, and everywhere anyone could image so that it was drilled into the minds of his supporters and even those against him, that he is the big man. Big companies create jingles and slogans in their advertisement to brand their product even if they’re doing it unconsciously, Trump does the same things with his ideas. They are all just tactics to put him in power.
Trump uses social media to gain power. He manipulates the masses with his Twitter account. He knows that the current generation is constantly exchanging ideas online, and uses twitter as his weapon of manipulation. He does so by preemptive framing where he frames ideas about a predicament, diversion of the people’s attention from real issues, and by attacking the messenger to change the outcome, and by testing the public’s reaction to momentous things like nuclear weapons. He is often times the first to put his spin on events that occur within the united states. He’ll give his idea of what happened on an event even if it is totally framed. He constantly diverts the people’s attention from political conflicts to irrelevant matters such as those of celebrities. He always seems to blame the media in his tweets, by addressing the topics he doesn’t agree with as fake news. Lastly, he often brings up topics such as nuclear war, and arms just to escalate the public’s reaction. All of these trends in President Trump’s tweets add to the power he is able to make on a huge social media platform. These manipulation tactics are consistent with the Machiavellian trait.
Another prominent manipulation tactic the President uses is an appeal. He commonly validates himself by showing how high-status individuals approve of him. In society, we are more likely to listen to an individual if they have more authority. For instance when Trump said, Larry Kudlow likes my tax plan. Larry Kudlow is a financial analyst under the Trump administration, so he is said to be an expert in economics. There are thousands of different opinions on so many topics, so people tend to look to those with more experience for answers. So even if Trump’s financial plan isn’t the most beneficial, people tend to believe him because he has the backing of an expert. He also appeals to the irrational parts of our brains. He uses emotion instead of rationality to get what he wants. By using, fear, anger, repetition, and validation from authority it is easy to distract the masses from his true intentions and it is easier for him to get them to do what he wants. This is how he demonstrates his Machiavellian personality.
Although Donald Trump is very similar to Niccolo Machiavelli he is also very lacking in the aspects that Machiavelli adhered to. Trump deceives, manipulates, and does all he can to win power like Machiavelli, there is one big contrast between the two. Machiavelli said that all matters must be taken to obtain the most amount of power, whether it is by deceiving, or by being friendly. Donald Trump has succeeded in winning over his loyal supporters, but he seems to not care so much for the support from all Americans, instead, he uses liberal Americans as a way to cause division within the country. Machiavelli would most likely disagree with this strategy and instead put his focus into gaining even more support, by deceiving the liberal citizens, instead of accepting the fact that they disagree with him.
Lastly, Niccolo Machiavelli left a legacy and a trait that emphasizes the importance of taking all means necessary to become the most powerful leader possible. This often leads to the manipulation, deception, emotional detachment, and exploitation of others. Donald Trump, the current President of the United States has strikingly similar characteristics to that of Machiavelli such as his manipulative ways of using fear and anger to promote his ideas, and put all other non-American groups down, the way he presents himself as the superior person and that he is the only one able to fix america, his offensive language and name-calling of others, and his underlying manipulative tweets. He does contrast Machiavelli in the way that he isn’t kind or more accommodating to the general population to gain more support, a strategy Machiavelli would condone, because it would bring a more powerful leadership. Overall, Machiavellianism will continue to leave an impression in United States politics, on our current president, and many leaders to come.
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