When fiction comes to life: Understanding similarities between Donald Trump and Charles A. Lindbergh
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
The Plot Against America is a fictional book and now a miniseries by Philip Roth which is somewhat based on his experience growing up in New Jersey as a kid and it delves into an alternative reality where Charles Lindbergh, a pilot turned politician who believed in a non-interventionist policy for the United States becomes the President of the United States.
About 12 years after the publishing of this book, we see a President leading the United States who has uncanny similarities with the Charles Lindbergh portrayed in Philip Roth’s books and there have been other changes in the atmosphere of the country, similar to the changes in a Lindbergh ruled America which raises a concern for what could happen if the current US President is allowed to continue to govern and serve in his position.
This article seems to highlight the similarities between President Donald J. Trump and the fictional President Charles A. Lindbergh and explain its effects on the ideology of the country. Even though it has been specifically mentioned by the writer-producer of the miniseries, David Simon to not confuse Trump with Lindbergh, it becomes difficult not to compare as in 2004, in the introduction of the book, Philip Roth had also asked the readers not compare the book with the current scenario (which was the post 9/11 situation) but there still were several parallels drawn and they seemed quite plausible.
Life Prior to Politics
Both Donald Trump and Charles Lindbergh did not have prior political experience before becoming the President. Both of them had professions which did not require any understanding of the law and both of them did not have any understanding of politics.
Donald Trump was a businessman running the Trump Organization who was famous only because of his controversial comments and eccentric appearances on Television.
Charles Lindbergh was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, and activist who received the United States' highest military decoration, the Medal of Honour, for his transatlantic flight.
America First refers to a foreign policy stance in the United States that generally emphasizes isolationism, It mainly talks about a non-interventionist approach of the United States and its withdrawal from International Treaties and Organizations. This policy has been debated in the US politics since World War I but has never materialised till now. However, this policy was key to the Lindbergh campaign and was implemented by him after his election when he withdrew from World War II and normalised relations with Germany. Coming back to reality and in 2017, we see that Donald Trump’s administration propose a federal budget for 2018 with both Make America Great Again and America First in its title, with the latter referencing its increases to military, homeland security, and veteran spending, cuts to spending that goes towards foreign countries, and 10-year objective of achieving a balanced budget.
We also see Trump breaking the US foreign policy precedent and negotiating and signing treaties with terrorists in Afghanistan and planning on bringing back the troops which furthers the idea of Isolationism.
Hostility about isolationism vs. Intervention abroad
Lindbergh and his group were isolationists. They wanted to keep the U.S. out of most foreign entanglements. Trump is more commonly described as a unilateralist, someone who thinks the U.S. can be engaged around the world, but on its own terms, unconstrained by alliances or multinational groups like the United Nations. Still, Trump, like Lindbergh before him, argues the U.S. should not be the world's policeman.
During the campaign of Lindbergh, you could see that he used to give the same speech everywhere which ended with “This not a fight between me and Roosevelt, rather it is a fight between USA and Roosevelt” which was used to show that FDR is destroying the United States by intervening in “England’s war” and this is how he appealed to the Nazi sympathisers. Both Lindbergh and Trump were contesting to become president after USA’s deep involvement in international disputes. For Lindbergh it was World War 2 and for Trump it was the Middle East dispute. This allowed them to garner the votes of democrats who were against the war crimes that took place in these countries and eventually win because of their hostility towards intervention in international disputes.
It can be very clearly seen that Trump and Lindbergh have a very similar school of thought and that the on-ground situation and the disagreement of the voters with the interventionist approach led to win of both the candidates. Following the win of the candidates, a change in the approach of radicals in the country was quite visible. Whether it was the state departments openly discriminating against the Jews during the time of Lindbergh or the discrimination by the police against the African Americans in the United States right now.
These extremist activities and discrimination against the vulnerable and minority groups have increased after a controversial candidate has been elected. This can be accredited to the fact that these extremists who did not feel powerful enough during the time of the previous administration, feel powerful now and think that they will be saved or praised by the state after doing the said discriminatory acts. Hence, it is important to note that if Donald Trump wins a second term as the President of The United States, there is no doubt that there will be an increase in the discrimination against the minorities and people will further motivated to ostracize the minorities.
 Juanpablo Andrade, Trump’s budget proposal truly puts America first, The Hill, May 24, 2017, http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/334793-trumps-budget-proposal-truly-puts-america-first.  Sarah C. Ray, Historian Draws Parallels Between Trump and Lindbergh, Middlebury, Oct. 12, 2016, http://www.middlebury.edu/newsroom/archive/2016-news/node/541736.  Greg Myre, 'America First': From Charles Lindbergh To President Trump, NPR, Feb. 6, 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/02/06/513240634/america-first-from-charles-lindbergh-to-president-trump.  Hillary Lewis, David Simon on Philip Roth "Caution" for 'Plot Against America' Adaptation: "Never Confuse Trump for Lindbergh", The Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 12, 2019 https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/david-simon-philip-roth-said-never-confuse-trump-lindbergh-1247241.  Christopher Douglas, “Something That Has Already Happened”: Recapitulation and Religious Indifference in The Plot Against America, 59 MFS Modern Fiction Studies, 784–810 (2013).  Bill Bryson, One Summer: America, 1927, 25 (1, 2013).  Lynne Olson, Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s fight over World War II, 220 (2, 2013).