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Trump: 'the fortune' of the progressive left

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09.01.2018

Waking up to headlines on January 8 was an immensely disorienting experience. On the one hand, the Fire and Fury scandal continues unabated, offering us yet another glimpse into the dysfunctional and utterly destructive politics of the current administration. If Michael Wolff's book does indeed reflect reality in the Oval Office, then the image is devastating, further proof of the puerility and misogyny of the man charged with running the most powerful country in the world.

On the other hand, the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, which was covered on the very same newspaper pages, offers a totally different version of the US cultural landscape, one steeped in progressive visions of gender and racial equality. Oprah Winfrey, who was, by all accounts, the evening's star, forcefully articulated the aspiration for a more equitable and just society.

How then do we reconcile these two diametrically opposed moments, one of reactionary politics and another of increasingly progressive cultural pushback?

The 16th-century Italian political theorist Machiavelli can provide some insight into how we might understand the relation between the two. In his famous book The Prince, Machiavelli alters the Greek meaning of "fortune," using it, instead, to refer to the particular circumstances within a given situation. The virtuous prince, he tells us, knows how to take advantage of these circumstances in order to advance his political goals. It was, as Machiavelli explains, necessary "for Moses to find the people of Israel in Egypt, enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians, so that they would be disposed to follow him, in order to escape from their........

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