Octavia Butler is one of my current favorite authors. She shocked me while reading Parable of the Talents, which came out in 1998.
In the 2030s, America was falling apart due to economic decline, global warming, and political corruption. Mob violence, murder, robbery, arson, and even slavery are widespread. Then there arose Senator Andrew Jarret as a presidential candidate promising to restore law and order.
He wants to take us back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshiped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who was different.
The above is not particularly Trumpian. But…
Jarret supporters have been known, now and then, to form mobs and burn people at the stake for being … Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or, in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or even a Catholic. …
We have a presidential candidate whose supporters attack his opponents. Most importantly and specific, Butler shows him responding in ways reminiscent of Trump’s responses to the Charlottesville attack, to being endorsed by former and current Klan leaders, to his supporters calling for assassination, coup, or revolution if Clinton won.
Jarret condemns the burnings, but does so in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear.
One way that Trump differs from the above is that during his campaign, while he never openly endorsed white nationalists, he did openly and repeatedly encourage his supporters to attack opponents at his rallies.
As for the beatings, the tarring and feathering, and the destruction of “heathen houses of devil-worship,” he has a simple answer: “Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us to make America great again.”
Trump, despite his support from and for white nationalists, has also said his movement is open to all races, though, unlike in the book, it’s not really true. As stunning as the inclusion of “make America great again” might seem, remember that Butler, like Trump, got that from Ronald Reagan.
Candidate Jarret, like candidate Trump, made grand promises about restoring jobs and order. But, as President, Jarret failed to deliver. Support for him declined. And then people got turned off by Jarret’s violent Crusaders. Americans, except for a die-hard core of supporters, came to see him as incompetent and ineffective. So Jarret did what every struggling despot does, he started a stupid war – with Canada and newly-independent Alaska. People rallied to him temporarily, but then, as the war dragged on and their husbands, brothers, and sons died, they turned against him even more. Jarret left office hated and isolated. We’ll see.
All quotes are from pages 19 and 20 of the 2007 Grand Central Publishing reissue.