Editor’s Note: This post was written by Cosimo Tangorra.
As President Donald Trump and his new administration begin to get comfortable with the ins and outs of the executive office, there is plenty to reflect on from history for President Trump, which can serve as important warnings or ideas that can be considered when faced with the very serious issues that reach the White House. One important presidential era that is ripe with lessons for President Trump is that of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who experienced world problems that can be easily connected to the many hot-button issues of the present, making his handling of specific issues very useful for the current Trump administration that is attempting to find constructive solutions in a world full of tension.
One lesson for the Trump administration that can be related to President Johnson’s actions involves the concept of unification of the country, rather than division. One of the more controversial aspects of Donald Trump’s policy agenda focuses on stricter immigration laws, which includes plans for an extensive wall across the Mexican-U.S. border and a travel ban that would prevent citizens from seven predominantly-Muslim countries from entering the country. This has led to full-throttle debates among different racial groups in the United States and has caused all sorts of racial tension and disunity within the country. This is where President Trump should look to the actions of President Johnson, who served through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s that saw some of the most intense displays of hate and anger among black and white people, that culminated in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave African-Americans equal rights and protection under the United States Constitution. In this era, President Johnson saw unity among United States citizens as the most just and acceptable solution to the country’s issues. This is what should be emphasized to President Trump, who would do well to remember that unification and tolerance were the best answers in the past, and they are still definitely the best options to the racial and religious tension that exists in the modern United States.
Another important lesson that can be taken from the Johnson administration involves getting connected to foreign conflicts. President Trump has, through both action and speech, shown his intent to become involved in the overthrow of the Assad Regime in Syria and the handling of the unstable authoritarian government in North Korea. His confidence in the U.S.’s ability is high, but that has been the case before and has ended poorly, as can be seen in the Johnson presidency. President Johnson became involved in the Vietnam War when it was concluded that the threat to United States national security was at a level worthy of intervention, while also being deemed an operation that would be efficient and swift. However, it turned into a war that involved thousands of United States soldiers, showed the weak foreign policy skill of the federal government, and resulted in a public distrust of government and war. The eventual disaster the Vietnam War ended up being for the United States is important for the Trump administration to analyze, as it can be used as a warning of what may come if all vital factors are not recognized before starting or interfering in a foreign war.
Information in this post about President Johnson was taken from “Lyndon B. Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 36th President, 1963-1969” by Charles Peters.