Recently I finished listening to a Washington Post podcast entitled “Presidential”, outlining the lives of all the presidents.
Lillian Cunningham, the narrator, interviewed experts, historians, biographers, fellow journalists, and curators about the personalities, characteristics, flaws, and scandalous conceptions as well as misconceptions of the past Commanders-in-Chiefs.
The episodes were quite eye opening and provided much needed perspective for today’s perception of what a President is and should be.Five days ago, the United States, for the forty-fifth time, successfully made a peaceful transition of power from one elected leader to another. Businessman Donald J. Trump is now the leader of the free world.
With the advent of this radical, unconventional movement, sparked by anti-establishment, pro-nationalistic esprit de corps propagated by this unabashed narcissist, millions of Americans have taken to the streets with chants of, “Not my president!” and “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” But ultimately… he is our president.
This uproar of this seemingly unparalleled phenomenon clouds the media, failing to take into account the history of the office he now holds.
Since the ratification of the Constitution, Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Whigs, Know-Nothings, Republicans and Democrats have fought over the preservation of states’ rights, foreign policy, and immigration. To quote the Bible, “Nothing is new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9 ESV).
The most obvious example is the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Hence the backdrop of drama in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
Moving along, John Adams, the second President of the United States, was, despite his impeccable background and political rapport, a fairly disastrous president. He restricted the rights of Americans, particularly the press with his implementation of The Alien and Sedition Acts.
Thomas Jefferson—who wrote, “all men are created equal”—owned slaves.
John Quincy Adams was loud and boisterous, expressing in all his hubris and “prestige” the ills of others. He was an “unconventional” candidate all the while being a progressive.
Moreover, with the media touting Hillary Clinton as the most qualified individual to ever run for the office, I, and history, would beg to differ. I’m not sure the qualifications would have mattered.
Case in point, Martin van Buren, our eighth president, who served as a state senator, attorney general of New York, US Senator, Governor of New York, Secretary of State, ambassador to the UK, and Vice President under Andrew Jackson was arguably one of the worst Presidents we have ever had. Additionally, he, not Jackson, instituted the Trail of Tears campaign.
Like van Buren, James Buchanan, our fifteenth president, who was highly experienced within the factions of government, implemented policies that allowed the secession of the southern states, ultimately leading to the Civil War.
In the twentieth century, Herbert Hoover, our thirty-first president, was a self-made millionaire, Director of the US Food Administration, natural disaster relief advocate, Secretary of Commerce, and an extremely charitable person. However, his policies, even during a surplus (think about that for a second), contributed to the Great Depression.
This attests to the skewed idea that a debatably successful businessman can effectively govern the American economy. But I digress.
Concerning personality, Trump mirrors Grover Cleveland’s hatred for the media, the brashness of Theodore Roosevelt, the prejudice of Woodrow Wilson and Richard Nixon, and the infidelity of Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton. Nothing is new under the sun. Though maybe this specific combination might be, we’ll see.
So, if you are one of the persons who believe the republic is under siege, I would say, when hasn’t it been? Men are corruptible. Men are imperfect. We make mistakes. Putting our trust in a single individual to either make or break the nation is foolish. That is the purpose of the Constitution. Whether President Trump is truly a fascist or simply playing the people doesn’t make any difference. We will persevere as we always have.