by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At least three times in American history, we have elected presidents with radical, revolutionary agendas: Andrew Jackson in 1828, Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and Donald Trump in 2016. The earlier two succeeded in changing American governance; Trump may or may not. Keeping control of Congress was, and is, essential to the success of such reforms.
All three were disliked by the self-appointed aristocrats of their day. …
… Clearly Trump has some unattractive manners and speaks impulsively, often using obnoxious language. He also seems to be very thin-skinned, and picks fights without ever having faced the direct physical combat, in duels or in war, that Jackson endured through his entire adult life.
Nevertheless, for better or worse, Trump too has a revolutionary agenda at odds with elite opinion. He is “a bull in a china shop”: aiming to upset the status quo as much as Jackson and FDR did. He is a “populist nationalist,” a description Jackson practically defined and Roosevelt followed in his earliest years as president. FDR had to take the wind out of the sails of more extreme nationalist populists to both his left and his right.
It is close to impossible to establish a new “business model” of a government without enacting a series of new laws and appointing enough judges, government agency heads, and military officers to see the new laws carried out effectively. The prerequisite for passing new legislation and the approval of new appointees is effective continuous control of both the House and Senate for more than two years.