Few, if any non-politically motivated commentators predicted Donald Trump and his dramatic rise to the presidency. However, some people accurately forecasted Barack Obama’s reelection efforts in 2012.
New York Times bestselling author Harry S. Dent, Jr. was one of those folks. In his startlingly prescient book, “The Great Depression Ahead,” Dent wrote the following:
Whoever is elected in 2012 will likely be the next FDR and a popular president for decades and centuries to come — and will almost certainly be a Democrat or even an Independent!
For the most part, Dent hit the nail on the head. Obama was, and still is. an incredibly popular President. While conservatives lash out at him at every occasion, they can’t deny his qualities that have won him two terms. Well-spoken with a comedic touch, Obama was indeed a modern-day FDR.
Most directly, the former President initiated several mandates and execution orders to help heal the devastated economy. One of these measures was to provide cash incentives to first-time home buyers post-2008.
Such actions can lever a dramatic impact on families, and on future generations. I would know: I benefitted greatly, perhaps immeasurably from Obama’s policies. Thus, if anything, my family will remember Obama, even if they never remembered him as President.
But where does Trump fit into this broader narrative?
Trump as the Gatekeeper
If Obama was the modern-day FDR, it logically stands that Trump is the modern-day Harry S. Truman.
Obviously, the most striking similarity between Trump and Truman (besides the first four letters of their surnames) is the media. Both famously and infamously, mainstream news outlets predicted an easy victory for Truman rival Thomas E. Dewey.
An almost-direct replication of our current times, the media hated Truman. At one point, the Chicago Daily Tribune referred to him as a “nincompoop.” In another incident, the Tribune wrote that Truman “had as low an opinion of the Tribune as it did of him.”
Moreover, polls along with general public consensus predicted an easy victory for Dewey. As a result of this misplaced confidence, the Tribune prematurely released the now iconic headline: DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.
In hindsight, of course, that didn’t happen. Truman actually defeated Dewey by a healthy margin. In turn, Truman delighted in mocking the media, essentially becoming one of the world’s first high-level trolls.
But this dynamic also sets up a worrying proposition: if Presidential cycles repeat themselves, what does the Trump administration say about future events?
From what I can tell, Trump may act as a “gatekeeper.” Among other Presidents, and certainly compared to FDR, Truman cut a forgettable figure. He may as well have been important, but history will remember FDR.
In the same way, President Trump doesn’t appear to have done anything substantive. Instead, we’re still talking about Obama, and we may start talking soon about Trump’s successor. But without any knowledge of who that might be, you’ll forgive me for being a little pensive.