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Enoch Powell, Nietzsche and Donald Trump

May 4, 2018

In American politics, Donald Trump is unique, but if we look to England of forty years ago, we’ll find someone very much like “The Donald.”

In the mid-1960s, a British member of Parliament, Enoch Powell, commanded the attention of the British public by his stance against immigration and the British Labor Party’s Race Relations Bill.

Collapse of Britain’s empire after World War II generated a flood of immigrants from British India and other Dominions that threatened the racial makeup of England.

By the late 1960s, Indian Sikh’s were visible on British transit as bus drivers and Council Housing that had served a largely white British working class was roiled by the admission of non-white immigrants from the Dominions.

Enoch Powell’s stand against immigration attracted the support of British workers who had never supported Conservative politicians, but felt threatened by the influx of immigrants. When the Conservative Party won the 1970 general election, Powell’s supporters claimed that Powell’s stance on immigration guaranteed the Conservative victory.

Powell, unlike Trump, was an academic, a classicist and student of philosophy who early in his career was fascinated with the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Will to power is a strong impulse in all politicians, but Enoch Powell’s identification with Nietzsche went beyond the pale of English politics and raised concerns that Powell had not learned lessons from Britain’s battle with Nazi Germany.

Opponents of Trump express concern about his frequent verbal slights against women (the weaker sex), his failure to search for specialists in public policy who might inform and enrich his views, his self-confidence and absolute belief in his own intuition and judgment.

Those characteristics are compatible with Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman or Übermensch.

Trump’s appeal to strength against weakness is not necessarily Nietzchean, but we should not be surprised, therefore, that a businessman, seemingly unprepared for public office, has found approval with Republicans after years of expansionist American foreign policies.

They should beware assuming that Trump will reverse the consequences of Geore W. Bush’s democratic religion. Trump ran against the expansionist foreign policy decisions of George W. Bush, but politicians motivated in the belief of their own superiority are not likely to retreat from using force in any confrontation.

 

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