Editor’s Note: This post was written by Elizabeth Vinal.
Similar to Hoover, Trump is coming in with no past elected positions and does not even have any political experience. In both cases, the public wanted someone outside of the political landscape to bring back power to the people, but how well will this work? Hoover could not get much done because he could not work with Congress as well as someone with experience working in the political environment. He did not want to play the political game, and was clearly against what the norm was in government, such as favors, sly tactics and pleading with others. Trump is the most separated from politics of any president in this nation, so he has an even bigger learning curve than Hoover, who had experience in Wilson’s Cabinet. Trump is beginning to understand that he cannot run the country in the same way he runs his businesses and must work within the realm of politics. Moreover, one of Hoover’s biggest setbacks is that he relied on the opinions of privately-funded firms and organizations to give him advice rather than trust his Cabinet. Trump has avoided this by surrounding himself with some political insiders and seems to be taking their advice more so than people and groups outside of his administration. Hoover and Trump both came in at a disadvantage in this regard but did have unified government, which makes it easier to get legislation passed.
Hoover’s relationship with the press got worse as his term went on, and Trump’s cries against “fake news” and calling for distrust of any media outlet that produces any negative news could lead to a bad relationship as well. Hoover would often refuse to give journalists information or would not come out with his own ideas and goals, only saying what was previously presented in the handouts given to reporters before meetings. He also forced them to present questions the day before the press conference in writing, but would ignore many of their questions. After the journalists wrote their piece, Hoover would also want stories to go through his administration so they could be cleared before publication. When Hoover responded to the Bonus Army with aggression, the press could write stories that were not fully true because the people were already against him. Trump used the news media to his advantage throughout his campaign, but now that he is in office, he is putting down nearly every news source. Trump should be concerned that attacking different outlets will hurt how he is covered and how the people view him, especially with his low approval ratings, looking at Hoover as an example of how this could hurt him.
Trump and Hoover are similar in how they came into their presidencies, but the political environment during these terms are very different. Trump should look to Hoover as what not to do, especially if the economic issues continue to worsen, but should take this information while understanding that times were different then. With the increase in social media, Trump has more to watch out for. He could worsen his relationship with Congress by tweeting something about a member, as the press and the public are always watching his tweets, sometimes using past tweets against him. With his lack of political experience, Trump could use all the advice and foresight that he can get, some of which can be gained by looking at past presidencies, specifically those most similar to his own.
Information in this post about President Hoover was taken from “Herbert Hoover: The American Presidents Series: The 31st President, 1929-1933” by William E. Leuchtenburg.