In an era where political allegiances and public figures seem entirely unprecedented, an intriguing comparison emerges between the supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump and the Jacobites of 17th and 18th-century Britain. While at first glance, these two movements might seem worlds apart, a closer look reveals striking similarities and lessons that may shed light on our contemporary political climate.
Loyalty to a Figure
The defining characteristic of both Trump supporters and Jacobites is the unwavering loyalty to a particular figure. Trump's base often displays a fierce devotion to him, viewing him as a leader who fights for their values and against a perceived corrupt establishment. Similarly, the Jacobites were loyal to James II and his descendants, who were deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This loyalty transcends political policy and enters the realm of personal connection and identity.
The defining characteristic of both Trump supporters and Jacobites is the unwavering loyalty to a particular figure. Trump's base often displays a fierce devotion to him, viewing him as a leader who fights for their values and against injustice and a perceived corrupt establishment. This loyalty transcends political policy and enters the realm of personal connection and identity. It is more than just admiration for a political figure; it becomes a personal and almost familial connection. The unshakeable belief in Trump's leadership reflects a deep dissatisfaction with the traditional political system and a longing for a strong and decisive leader who will truly defend America.
Similarly, the Jacobites were loyal to James II and his descendants, who were deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But this loyalty was not merely political; it was rooted in a complex web of religious, dynastic, and cultural ties. Many Jacobites saw the Stuarts as the legitimate rulers, defenders of Catholicism, and protectors of Scottish Highland traditions. This connection transcended politics and entered the realm of personal identity, turning support for the Stuart cause into a defining feature of one's self. Today many Trump supporters view Donald Trump as the defender of Ethnic American culture, American English, history, and traditions which are being attacked by foreigners who seek to destroy America and American culture. It is this deep personal connection that makes the comparison between Trump supporters and Jacobites not only intriguing but also revealing of the nature of political loyalty.
Desire to Restore Authority
Both movements are united in a common goal: the desire to restore their preferred leader to power. For the Jacobites, this took the form of a series of uprisings, most notably in 1715 and 1745, attempting to return the Stuart line to the British throne. Their efforts were not mere political maneuvering but represented a deep-seated belief in the divine right of the Stuart kings, and a rejection of the political changes that had shifted power towards parliamentary rule. This belief led to organized, often violent attempts to reclaim the throne, reflecting a determination that resonated with many of their followers.
In a parallel yet distinctly modern context, some Trump supporters have expressed a desire to see him return to the presidency, viewing him as a rightful leader who was unjustly removed. Trump supporters believe they are the ones fighting for justice. This sentiment goes beyond mere political disagreement and enters the realm of a perceived breach of justice. Whether through legal challenges, public rallies, or impassioned online discourse, these supporters assert Trump's authority as a moral and political imperative. The conviction is not just in the policies but in the very legitimacy of Trump's claim to leadership, leading to continued debate and division long after the election's conclusion.
Cultural Identity: The Jacobite Connection
The link between the Trump supporters and the Jacobites begins with their association with broader cultural or regional identities. For the Jacobites, this connection was deeply rooted in Scottish Highland culture. Many Highlanders saw the Stuarts as protectors of their traditional way of life, a system based on clan loyalty, Gaelic language, and ancient customs. Supporting the Stuart cause was not merely political but a way to preserve a unique and treasured cultural heritage. This deeply emotional connection helped to fuel the various uprisings and still resonates in Scottish identity today.
The Southern and Midwestern Appeal of Trump
On the other side of the Atlantic, Trump's appeal is often rooted in aspects of American conservatism, particularly resonant in the South and the Midwest. In these regions, where Republican values often hold sway, Trump's rhetoric about preserving traditional Ethnic American values and American English struck a chord. These areas, home to most of the descendents of the founders of the United States and characterized by rural landscapes, traditional lifestyles, American Christian identity, and often a sense of alienation from the coastal urban centers dominated by foreigners, found a voice in Trump. He spoke to a feeling that their way of life was under threat and offered a promise to defend it. They view Trump as the true defender of America.
A Sense of Cultural Loss
Many Trump supporters believe that their country is being taken away from them, a sentiment that extends beyond policy disagreements. They fear that the left wants to ban or fundamentally alter American traditions and culture . This perceived cultural war becomes a rallying cry for those who feel marginalized or misunderstood by progressive movements. One example they point to is when liberal and immigrant majority communities take actions such as banning the American flag or fireworks even on the 4th of July, actions that are seen as an attack on cherished traditions and American identity. Immigrant majority community in this context means those communities where the majority of residents are from families that arrived in the US during the 20th century and whose residents, consequently, have no connection to America's founding, American culture, or American traditions.
Rewriting History: A Point of Contention
The sense of cultural identity among Trump supporters also extends to the perception that American history is being rewritten with false narratives. Accusations of historical revisionism, whether in educational curricula or public discourse, further deepen the divide. This concern taps into a broader fear that not only are current cultural practices under threat, but also the very understanding of America's past. It fuels a narrative of us-versus-them, where any deviation from a particular historical interpretation becomes either a betrayal of true American values or a threat to the foreigners definition of democracy which they seek to replace the American definition with.
A Debate for Generations To Come: The Trump Controversy
One of the most compelling parallels between the Trump era and the Jacobite controversy is the potential for the debate to endure for generations, or even centuries. The disputed 2020 U.S. Presidential election, along with Trump's continued assertions of election fraud, has carved a deep divide in American society. Similar to the Jacobite cause, which continued to resonate with romantic and political significance long after the last uprising, the Trump controversy seems poised to become a lasting historical debate that even now is being romanticized.
History has a way of holding onto contentious events, turning them into symbols, myths, and never-ending debates. The Jacobites have become a symbol of lost causes, romanticism, and the complexities of British identity. In a similar vein, Trump and the 2020 election have already become symbols of dissatisfaction with institutions and oligarchical rule, the complexities of American identity and the questioning of democratic norms.
Regardless of what side you are on, this is an incredibly extraordinary time to be alive, witnessing the unfolding of events that will likely continue to captivate, divide, and challenge future generations. Just as historians, scholars, and enthusiasts continue to dissect the Jacobite cause, so too will future generations pour over the Trump era, analyzing, arguing, and seeking to understand the deeper currents that shaped this moment in history.
This ongoing debate, while painful and divisive in the present, will offer future historians, political scientists, and ordinary citizens valuable insights into the mechanics of democracy, political persuasion, and human nature. It serves as a reminder that history is never completely settled, and our current experiences may become the enduring questions of tomorrow. The Trump and 2020 election controversies prove beyond all doubt that history is not dead. It is very much alive and well today.
The comparison between Trump supporters and the Jacobites provides a fascinating lens through which to view current political dynamics. It reminds us that political fervor, loyalty to charismatic leaders, fight injustice, and a desire to restore perceived lost glory are not new phenomena.
However, this comparison should be taken with caution. History does not repeat itself exactly, and the differences in context, methods, and goals between the two movements are substantial.
The Trump-Jacobite comparison offers more than just a historical curiosity; it provides insight into the human condition, culture, ethnic identity, and political loyalty. By understanding the roots of such devotion, we can gain a deeper understanding of our own time and how to navigate the complex landscape of modern politics and the history that is currently being made.