“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”–Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech. July 21, 2016
The Democrats, including President Obama himself, went after Trump for this quote at their convention. In her acceptance speech, Clinton retorted that Americans fix things by working together.
It made me think of the philosopher Thomas Carlyle and the “Great Man Theory of History“. Carlyle stated that “The history of the world is but the biography of great men”.
This theory was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After that, it fell out of favor, with most philosophers and historians preferring theories that emphasized societies and cultures as a whole. What Carlyle would call “Great Men” were products of their times and places. Often, they just happen to be overseeing the culmination of events that were many years in the making.
“If Napoleon did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” in other words.
But though it has long been out of favor with most historians, the Great Man theory has never totally disappeared among nationalistic elements of society. I’m not sure why, but believers in what is usually called “Right-Wing Authoritarianism” seem predisposed to favor this theory. Maybe because it complements the strong patriarchal nature of such movements.
Whatever the reason, Trump’s claim and Clinton’s reply underscore a profound philosophical difference between the two parties. (Not that Trump is aware of it–it came across as more of his usual bragging–but it spoke to something deeper in the political divide.)