The trouble with Donald Trump? Inexperience

Roundup
tags: election 2016, Trump



Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of “Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

I was recently in Denver for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. I caught up with friends from graduate school, met with book editors, and talked about . . . Donald J. Trump. One big question on everyone’s lips: Have we seen anyone like him in the White House?

No.

The people we most often compare to Trump never made it to the presidency, and the presidents we liken to Trump aren’t like him at all. Put simply, we have never elected a chief executive who resembles Trump. And that might be the scariest thing about him.

To be sure, other business figures have coveted the presidency. The most prominent one was Henry Ford, who traded on his cult-hero status as a car manufacturer. Like Trump, Ford shuttled between political parties: After failing to win a Senate seat as a Democrat in 1918, he toyed with running for president as a Republican in 1924. He also engaged in vicious xenophobia, directed not at Muslims — Trump’s favorite target — but at Jews.

Computer magnate Ross Perot won almost 20 percent of the vote in 1992. Until Trump, however, that was as close as any person from business got to the White House. Herman Cain, the godfather of Godfather’s Pizza, briefly led the GOP field in 2012. Four years later, former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina made a few waves in the Republican primaries before Trump drowned her out.

But none of these modern business candidates touted their businesses as part of their candidacies. Perot and Fiorina had cashed out from the computer industry before seeking the presidency; you didn’t see them speaking from a podium that sold their wares, as Trump did with his strategically placed advertisements for his properties. ...




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