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Donald Trump’s Ancien Régime

Donald Trump's presidency is not a replay of twentieth-century fascism. Rather, the TV-obsessed US leader is recreating something much older, and more reminiscent of a Disney fantasy: his own princely court, complete with a beautiful princess, cowering sons, an evil adviser, and a court jester.

PRINCETON – Something like Donald Trump’s America has appeared before in history. Just think about it: Trump spends his time either in the Oval Office, which is now decorated with gold drapes; or at his Mar-a-Lago resort, which has a turret, guarded gates, and a princely, canopied bed. He is a modern-day Louis XIV, living in his own version of Versailles.

Like his historical analogue, the 45th president of the United States is obsessed with truths and lies, authenticity and fakeness. He has demanded to be carried down the Mall in a carriage procession when he makes his first official visit to the United Kingdom. And, not even 100 days into his presidency, he had issued an order for people to be killed in Syria while gushing about “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen.”

History doesn’t repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain allegedly said, “it does rhyme.” Trump, too, rhymes with the past. But his presidency is not a replay of twentieth-century fascism, as Yale historian Timothy Snyder and others have argued. Rather, the TV-obsessed US president is recreating something much older, and more in keeping with a Disney fantasy: his own princely court.

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