Upon studying and reflecting on French revolutionary history, we can find fascinating parallels between Donald Trump and Charles X.
Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 came the “Bourbon Restoration” that brought the brother of the beheaded Louis XVI to the throne after years in exile. The radical Jacobin new order of the First Republic was [tragically] backtracked, although the post Napoleonic Bourbon monarchy was so far past revolutionary times that a moderate form of constitutional monarchy was the order of the day, rather than a total regression to absolutism that was craved by Ultra-Royalists. Louis XVIII, the restored Bourbon monarch, played into this moderate monarchism, while his younger brother, a devout ultra-conservative absolutist craved a regression to the Ancien Régime.
When Louis XVIII died in 1824, his ultra conservative younger brother was crowned Charles X, King of France, and his reign would be marked by a consistent struggle to overturn all the liberal advancements since the Revolution.
Obviously, the historical background between Charles X and Trump are unique- Trump is by no means a post-revolutionary monarch- but the parallels are uncanny.
Some aspects of Charles X included:
- Laws for the privatization of nationalized lands, to be given back to the aristocracy
- Laws to disenfranchise all but the richest citizens
- A hatred for the press (other than those that validated him)
- Extremely thin skin, he would would freak out at any criticism
- An affinity for getting his loyal Ultra-Royalist cronies into offices despite popular opinion
- The desire to carry out a conservative coup to stamp out any left wing elements
Of course, we know that Trump’s policies all seem to convert public ownership to private and benefit the aristocracy at the expense of the people. He has a hatred for the press, other than those that praise him, he has extremely thin skin and is essentially staging a modern American version of a royalist coup- a coup of big-moneyed private interests for total domination of the political sphere.
Here’s an interesting fact. For years, Charles X’s popularity was very low, and many were anticipating a total coup to regress the nation back to the pre-revolutionary system.
An election took place where a wave of liberals swept into office, further weakening Charles’ dreams of a royalist takeover (will history repeat with the “blue wave” of 2018?). Panicked, he finally proposed the July Ordinances, which shut down the presses, dissolved the newly appointed positions dominated by liberals, excluded from future elections all but the rich, appointed new reactionary Councillors of State, among other things.
Finally, fever pitch was reached, the people hit the streets in July of 1830, and brought about the Second French Revolution. Most people don’t know this, but this famous painting:
Is actually about the 1830 revolution, not the 1789 one.
Within 3 days, Charles was deposed. He literally went from implementing an attempted total takeover to the ultimate blowback: losing power altogether.
So, the blind hubris, thin skin, hardcore reactionary policies got the people into the streets and took Charles X out, forever ruining the aim of total restoration of the Ancien Régime and regression to absolutism.
Obviously, Trump is maximally attempting a modern day version of this. Tax cuts for the super rich, privatization of national lands, defunding social programs… you name it. But, the dialectic will ensure a pendulum-like counter-force is building potential energy, soon to be unleashed into kinetic energy in a pro-people wave.
But, let’s learn this lesson from history. Following the 1830 revolution was not the establishment of a 2nd Republic (that didn’t happen until 1848)…it was the ascension of his cousin the Duke D’Orleans, who agreed to rule as a moderate constitutional monarch, but a monarch nonetheless.
In modern equivalencies, our conservatives are akin to their royalists, our liberals (the Clinton type) are akin to their constitutional monarchists. What do we have now that is akin to their radical Jacobin Republicans of the 1790’s, the ones that changed everything?
So, when history repeats itself, and Trump produces a massive left wing counterreaction, will the “pseudo-left” swing back, to bring in a modern day Duke D’Orleans? Or will we learn from history, and will the Jacobins rise again?