To the many paradoxes surrounding the improbable political career of Donald Trump, we may add the following: we can only understand Trump, the most recent major development in American politics, by turning to the oldest tools of political analysis that our civilization offers. To get the full picture of what is happening today, we have to go back to the roots of political science, to the ancient Greeks and their view of politics and human nature.

Most people don’t think of Plato when they think of Donald Trump, but they should. Our usual forms of political analysis—both the more rigorous, like academic political science, and the more popular, like the conventional wisdom of political journalists and commentators—utterly failed to come to grips with the Trump phenomenon. They did not predict his success as a presidential candidate. To the contrary, they confidently,...


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