Friday, March 31, 2017

Trump and FDR

How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see
--Bob Dylan

One thing in common between Donald Trump and Franklin Roosevelt appears to be lack of guiding ideology.

As superbly recounted by John T. Flynn, FDR built his political career on saying one thing and doing another. His campaign platform in 1932 was planked in promises to reduce the size of government, balance the budget, and keep the US out of war.

Subsequently, of course, FDR did the opposite. His New Deal programs made all previous government interventions in private affairs seem small. His spending resulted in the greatest non-war federal debt levels that the country had yet experienced. His provocations sparked US involvement in a world war that made the previous Great War seem tiny.

Trump's behavior also blows with the wind. Like FDR, he is prone to quickly changing his mind. A person that Trump publicly welcomes as an ally today might be chastised as an enemy tomorrow. His positions are often inconsistent, sometimes channeling getting government out of people's lives while at other times fostering more government intrusion.

Rather than shaping his actions according to an ideological framework, Trump's actions, like FDRs, appear grounded in political expedience.

This is not to say that ideologies might not play roles in administrations where the president possesses no core principles himself. FDR populated his 'braintrust' with ideologues--many of them with communist or fascist socialist leanings. Many believe that Trump has also inserted ideologues into his administration, some of whom lean toward the fascist end of the socialist spectrum.

It came to pass that policies of FDR's administrations were shaped by the socialist beliefs of his brain trust. Those beliefs filled the ideological vacuum inside the Oval Office at the time.

If a similar vacuum is created inside the Trump White House, what ideologies might rush in to fill the void?

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