Shakespeare saw Trump coming: why didn’t we?

We have Macduffs aplenty, but don’t have a Malcolm.

Bear with me Shakespeare haters—it’ll be worth it.

In Macbeth, the title character has risen to the position of King of Scotland by regicide, simpler -icides, and the institution of what amounts to a reign of terror. Along the way he has driven his wife mad and had his coronation banquet ruined by the ghost of one of his murder victims. Remember “Avaunt, and quit my sight!” Yeah, that ghost…that banquet.

Macduff, another Scottish nobleman, fed up with watching his homeland disintegrate, approaches Malcolm (lots of M’s, sorry), the rightful heir to Macbeth’s throne to try to put the country right. That’s important, because a simple rebellion would be, well, illegal, even against a maniacal leader. But Malcolm has legal claims, even though he has previously fled the country in fear.

So they meet.

Malcolm greets the angry and fed up Macduff with words to this effect: let’s have a beer or two and drown our sorrows at some tavern.

Macduff counters with something akin to: screw the beer, let’s get an army together and kick some ass.

Shakespeare said it differently—which is why, four hundred years later, he’s still a Jeopardy category and in 2418 I won’t be.

But the lesson should not be lost on us. The two of them don’t go off and drink themselves to oblivion. They raise an army, Macbeth is vanquished, and order is restored. It’s a lot messier and bloodier than that; it is, after all, Shakespeare.

America in 2018 finds itself in a similar situation, in the throes of a reign of terror speeding toward a plutocratic dictatorship where the middle class loses all possibility of improvement and their bosses accumulate untold wealth. Rights are being methodically stripped away as legislation is haphazardly proposed and often passed. The new Supreme Court will guarantee that the process continues.

I don’t want to cry in my beer—it seems we are doing a lot of that. The problem is, we have Macduffs aplenty, but don’t have a Malcolm. The Democrats have been unable to produce anyone who speaks for the party and around whom the party rallies—someone who can unify the disparate Democrats. Even when Obama was president, Republicans looked to McConnell for leadership. They had McCain and Hatch. We didn’t agree with these men, but they were visible: they were the opposition and we knew it.

Who is the Democratic opposition? Is it Elizabeth Warren? Cory Booker? Joe Biden? Gavin Newsom?

Without a modern-day Malcolm to step up—to focus our anger and energy and lead us on a path to salvage our country, we’re little more than a scattered group of toothless rebels on a liquid diet, and there’s not enough beer in the world to drown our sorrows.

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