Donald Trump has compared himself to Andrew Jackson. Fat chance. War-hero Jackson would despise this draft-dodging, womanizing, bullying frat-boy. He likely would say something equivalent to “keep my name outa your mouth” and demand an apology. And if none were forthcoming (a distinct possibility with Trump), Jackson would insist on a duel to satisfy such a grievous insult.
That’s not to say Jackson was an angel; he was a complicated man whose first biographer called him an atrocious saint. No one would call Trump a saint, but many would agree he is atrocious.
Others have compared Trump to Richard Nixon; but Nixon, for all his faults, was at least prepared for the job. Trump was not, and that’s glaringly obvious.
A better comparison may be with Warren G. Harding, though that comparison is probably not fair to Harding, since Trump is so far beyond the pale in so many ways. That said, the two men have much in common. Both were avid golfers. Both had reputations as ladies’ men, lecherous philanderers, or dirty old men, depending on your point of view.
Harding’s campaign rhetoric was described as “a rambling, high-sounding mixture of platitudes, patriotism, and pure nonsense”. Curmudgeon H. L. Mencken was even more harsh: “It reminds me of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights.” Those are also apt descriptions of Trump’s speaking style.
Both men were surprising choices as nominee of the Republican Party. Both won election in part because of deep divisions within the Democratic Party. Both were intellectual lightweights who had the misfortune to follow intellectual giants. Both were unfit to be President, a fact Harding admitted, but Trump never will.
As President, both advocated massive tax cuts for the rich … both pushed hard for deregulation … both appointed highly suspect men as Attorney-General. Both their presidencies were marked by scandals, including Teapot Dome under Harding and the yet to be resolved Putingate under Trump. Given Trump’s massive conflicts of interest, his scandals are likely to exceed Harding’s.
Many regard Harding as the worst President in American history; but that dubious distinction may well pass to Trump, based on his past and present performance. He is clearly ignorant about most issues at hand and most matters of state; and what’s worse, he shows no interest in learning what he doesn’t know. As hard as it was to imagine his election, it’s even harder to imagine his presidency being successful.
Harding’s chief accomplishment was to bring the word “normalcy” back into common use. That’s not a word one would ascribe to Trump’s presidency. The present sorry state of affairs might best be described as abnormalcy.
To a large extent, that is due to the fact that Trump himself is abnormal, both as a man and a politician. That is to say, he behaves outside the norms that constrain decent people. Or as former FBI Director James Comey put it, Trump is “outside the realm of normal”.
Trump is a man without morals, manners, or principles … he has no sense of decency and no sense of proportion. He’s also a bully, who punches down with impunity and regularity. He is an unrepentant and inveterate liar; he may be in fact a pathological liar. A strong case can be made that he is in fact mentally ill. He certainly fits the profile of a sociopath; he engages in antisocial behavior, lacks remorse or shame, and demonstrates a clear lack of empathy.
One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, this heartless, graceless, thoughtless man will be gone from office. But sad to say, the racist voters … the gullible voters … the ignorant voters … the desperate voters … who voted for this degenerate despite his deplorable behavior – and the ninety-odd million people who didn’t bother to vote – will remain. The electoral system that declared him the winner despite losing by nearly three million votes will remain. The normalization of Trump’s boorish, bullying behavior will remain.
That being the case, the question remains – has abnormalcy become the new normal?
©2017 Tom Cordle