Trump as a Machiavellian Prince? Reflections on Corruption and American Constitutionalism

  • Catherine Zuckert


For the last two years journalists have asked whether Donald Trump is a Machiavellian “prince.” But a truly “Machiavellian” prince would never be suspected as such. He would follow Machiavelli’s advice always to appear to be merciful, faithful, humane, honest, and religious. Trump does not manifest any of these qualities. To prevent him from enacting dangerous policies, Machiavelli would advise us to rely on the checks and balances established by our constitution. Some critics have argued that the constitutional checks are no longer effective, because the American people have become corrupt. The problem, however, is not popular corruption so much as a lack of leadership and imagination in designing remedies for the weakening of the constitutional checks that have resulted from changes in election laws and advances in modern technology.


  1. Ackerman, Bruce. 2013. The Decline and Fall of the American Republic. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alcott, Hunt, and Matthew Gentzkow. 2017. Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Journal of Economic Perspectives 31 (2 Spring): 211–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aristotle. 1959. Politics. Trans. H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Ceaser, James W. 1979. Presidential Selection: Theory and Development. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. 2001. The Federalist. In The Gideon Edition, ed. George W. Careyand and James McClellan. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  6. Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1988. Florentine Histories. Trans. Laura F. Banfield and Harvey C. Mansfield. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 1995. The Prince. Trans. David Wootton. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.Google Scholar
  8. Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1996. Discourses on Livy. Trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Virolì, Maurizio. 2016. How to Choose a Leader. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Zuckert
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

Personalised recommendations