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Tag Archives: Nehemiah Scudder
One of the advantages that science fiction has as a genre is the ability of writers to recast issues by presenting them in another place and time. On occasion, the transformation of our problems into another situation can be forced (e.g., the original Star Trek episode in which the racial conflict was between those who were black on the left side of the face and those who were black on the right side of the face).
During the third quarter of last century, one of the top science fiction writers was Robert Heinlein. While most famous for his novel Stranger in a Strange Land, his early career consisted of a series of short stories and novellas that formed a “future history” — taking the United States from the mid-20th Century until around 2200. In several of the stories in this sequence, Heinlein mentions Nehemiah Scudder, a preacher who became popular enough to be elected president in 2012. Scudder then establishes a religious dictatorship which governs until it is overthrown around 2100. While Heinlein never got around to writing a story focused on Scudder’s rise to power, his summary of that rise in other stories identified some aspects of American politics that were not immune to the rise of a demagogue. So in what ways does the election of Donald Trump mirror those aspects and in what ways do they differ.
The obvious difference is that Donald Trump is not a fundamentalist preacher. However, writing in 1941, (well before the rise of the Moral Majority), Heinlein noted the power of fundamentalism in American power. While Trump should not have been the natural candidate for fundamentalists, somehow he managed to get the support of fundamentalists over other “better fitting” candidates during the primary followed by the usual support for the Republican nominee in the general election.