Editor’s Note: This post was written by Michael Catapano.
When analyzing Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, there are important factors that need to be brought into conversation when trying to provide lessons for Trump’s administration. Being a Republican president with majority party control in Congress, it is important to utilize this time to instill a trust in the American people by having a successful first 100 days in office. A majority control in Congress usually does not last long for a president, so it is vital to set an agenda for both foreign and domestic policy that will not only create the most positive change, but also increase Trump’s approval ratings. Eisenhower used his early time in office to go head-on with the Soviet Union and make attempts to end the Cold War. Very similarly, Trump has to deal with conflict with Russia. The 34th president chose the route of peace instead of his natural military instinct of war, and while he was not very successful in finding an end to the tension, he was able to not make the situation any worse. Unfortunately for Trump, Russia remains just as stubborn of a country when it comes to any agreements and while his methods may be unorthodox, his alleged friendship with Putin has prevented any acts of aggression towards the United States.
While Eisenhower received much backlash for his hands-off approach to some domestic issues during his time, it proved to be beneficial to him as well. Trump is entering office at a very different time than Eisenhower, where the President of the United States has a more direct line of communication to the American people. Both are men who did not come with previous experience in politics, so a lot of attention was directed at social issues and the strides they make in office. Trump has chosen a much different route than Eisenhower in that he is very public with his opinions on domestic as well as foreign issues, in that he tweets his thoughts openly on different subjects. This can be an excellent way to create a better relationship with the American public. However, due to his already far below average approval ratings, the sharing of his opinions in this format seem to primarily hurt his image as president. It would be in Trump’s best interest to adopt a more laid back approach to his politics and focus on the quality of the laws he passes rather than attacking other’s opinions on policy or sharing his radical thoughts on current social issues.
The two presidents were very appealing to the public when entering office for the similar reason of not having very strong political ties to the job. Eisenhower was a five-star war hero from World War II and Donald Trump is a business tycoon who has proved himself in his ability to create a global powerhouse of a company. There are many comparisons that are made between the presidents as they were headstrong on the idea that military spending should be cut and that there were and are better and more efficient ways of solving foreign conflict than sending troops thousands of miles away. It is also fair to say that both presidents had very similar themes in their campaigns for president, with campaign themes of “improve America’s image to the rest of the world” and “Make America Great Again”. There is much speculation as to whether Trump’s presidency will mimic Eisenhower’s in that his unconventional leadership style will give the country a breath of fresh air from politics that it needs. Coming into office after a Democratic president has Trump under a magnifying glass and the American people are anxious for the great change that he promised. While Eisenhower was not as successful as he had hoped in his foreign policy, his actions in Little Rock and the construction of the interstate were major milestones to his legacy. Trump’s presidency should take those successes into great consideration while orchestrating the legacy that he wants to leave behind.
Information in this post about President Eisenhower was taken from “Dwight D. Eisenhower: The American Presidents Series: The 34th President, 1953-1961” by Tom Wicker.