The other day I detected one of Atlantic’s excellent columnists misusing a classical analogy. I flag Ed Kilgore, not to show off, but because the analogy is indeed enlightening if used correctly. See if you can find the mistake:
This would suggest that the occasional efforts by individual Republican congressmen to show some distance from Trump weren’t very effective. That may be because at the leadership level, the GOP has totally surrendered to MAGA, as Brownstein observes, deploying a nice metaphor comparing Republicans to Odysseus in the land of the Sirens:
Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House and Senate Republicans made a strategic decision to lock arms around Trump over the past two years. They resolutely rejected any meaningful oversight of his administration; excused, or even actively defended, his most incendiary remarks; buried legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and worked in harness with the president to pass an agenda aimed almost entirely at the preferences and priorities of voters within the GOP coalition, including tax cuts and the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Even as Trump’s presidency careened through daily storms, many of his own making, they lashed themselves to its mast.
As I’m sure you noted, Odysseus survives because he is lashed to the mast, not the other way around. Heeding Circe’s warning that no man can resist the Sirens’ call, he stops up his men’s ears with beeswax and has them lash him to his mast so that he himself can listen in safety. Otherwise he’s a dead man.
So how about this? If they had practiced Odysseus’s self-discipline, the defeated GOP legislators would have successfully resisted Trump’s siren call. Think of the mast as bedrock principles and the ropes as their moral duty.
The Sirens promise men what they most desire, which in the wily Odysseus’s case is knowledge.
you famous man, great glory of Achaeans,
come over here. Let your ship pause awhile,
so you can hear the songs we two will sing.
No man has ever rowed in his black ship
past this island and not listened to us,
sweet-voiced melodies sung from our lips.
That brings him joy, and he departs from here
a wiser man, for we two understand
all the things that went on there in Troy,
all Trojan and Achaean suffering,
thanks to what the gods then willed, for we know
everything that happens on this fertile earth.’
GOP legislators may have thought that Trump had all the answers, that he could rewrite the past and forge the future. They may have thought he could deliver electoral paradise. Instead they were buried under a blue wave.