Fintan O’Toole: The Irish priest who paved way for Donald Trump

Fr Charles Coughlin created the template for a media-savvy demagogue to acquire a huge political following in the US

Donald Trump is often said to be unprecedented in American history, and in some respects he is. But not entirely.

There is one other demagogue in the age of mass democracy and mass media who paved the way for Trump. Though he never got all the way to the White House, he was for a period an immensely influential political figure. His contemporary, the American novelist Wallace Stenger, described him in terms that apply equally to Trump: “a shifty manipulator of the truth and a man ambitious for personal power”.

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