I posted this for a student who had trouble with WordPress. I’m not the author.
I was struck by the similarities between Donald Trump and John Brown the man who Thoreau immortalizes in his “A Plea for Captain John Brown.” Much of the language used to defend John Brown can be easily used to defend Donald Trump. While searching for a reason for this I was able to find may quotes from the text that seemed similar to how supporters of Trump sound. I contend that the same thing that appealed to Thoreau about John Brown is what Trump draws his appeal from. An example to this is how Trump appeals to the fact that he is different from other politicians and relies on truth. “All their speeches put together and boiled down,- and probably they themselves will confess it,- do not match for manly directness and force, and for simple truth, the few casual remarks of crazy John Brown… Truth is his inspirer and earnestness the polisher of his sentences.” It is remarkable how well that quote works for both Donald Trump and John Brown. Many of the reasons Thoreau supports John Brown appears to give support for Trump. Both of them want to take government into their own hands and want to place truth and common sense above the law. Trump is quoted in a Washington Post interview as saying “Look, my whole campaign is about honesty.” Trump strives to be perceived as the most open and honest of all politicians. One of the core elements of his campaign is how comfortable people are believing what he says to be the common sense truth.
One similarity between Trump and Brown is that they are both willing to sacrifice for a cause that they deem great. Thoreau believes Brown drew a lot of his strength and ability to succeed from the justness of his cause. I believe the same thing empowers Trump. Trump wants to Make America Great Again and doesn’t seem to care what is sacrificed in order to achieve that end.
Thoreau’s piece appeals largely to the emotion behind John Brown’s actions in order to defend them. It defends a man who’s actions were incredibly unlawful and possibly morally wrong. The idea behind them demonstrated the most altruistic and selfless act of personal sacrifice that a human being is capable. “When his competitors criticize him they mostly criticize his tactics. I have noticed the cold-blooded way in which newspaper writers and men generally speak of him.” Much of the language Thoreau uses to defend the rebel John Brown is highly idealistic and principled. Trump is a public figure who has been criticized for his actions in much the same way as John Brown. One of the primary similarities between them has to do with the relationship between motives and methods. As Thoreau did we recognize John Brown had good motives but bad methods. Trump has some of the very best motives as well, simply put “Make America Great Again”. The methods Trump employs from endorsing violent tactics, spreading hatred against outsiders, and threatening to deport millions has drawn much criticism for his campaign.