This November’s presidential election will be, in many respects, the most consequential election of the century so far. President Donald Trump, while a highly divisive and controversial figure in current American politics, has undoubtedly made his mark on not only the nation, but the world. Win or lose, each of us individually will live with the changes and impacts brought upon by Trump’s America. Trump’s affinity for fossil fuel production and departure from the Paris Agreement has removed American leadership from an international effort to curb climate change, permanently stifling global cooperation regarding the issue. His strong-man attitude toward foreign powers such as China has led to unprecedented trade wars, dramatically affecting entire industries at home and abroad. His closure of borders, hard-line stance on immigration and proposal for a “Muslim-ban” has sparked surges of normalized xenophobic behavior among supporters. Trump has taken a unique and dramatic stance against the wider news media, labeling whole networks as “fake news” and promoting conspiracy theories to discredit opponents. He’s accused mail-in voting as furthering voter fraud and has many times suggested he will remain in office, regardless of the election outcome. Yet perhaps most importantly, his bombastic persona, disregard for presidential procedure, extreme partisan swing and ability to energize support at rallies will most certainly be read in high school history books in the years to come
It’s no surprise to most that many Americans disapprove of Trump. He has been accused of racist and xenophobic behavior, been in the midst of numerous controversies and scandals and has propelled initiatives and decisions which have been largely detrimental to American society. There is strong evidence for his mishandling of crises affecting the nation as a whole, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the ailing economy, civil uprisings and West Coast wildfires. Not only this, but in a survey conducted by the BBC in Australia, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and the UK, Trump has topped the list of the most untrusted leaders in the world, surpassing President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China. However, when analyzing and predicting the ultimate legacy the current president will leave, college students and young adults, who often sway heavily to the left side of the political spectrum, must be able to understand that while we may not like him, about half of America did at one point or the other. Obviously, there’s a reason for this. Due to the sheer change of tradition, intensity, rhetoric and unconventional leadership brought upon by the Trump administration, historians down the road may choose to see Trump in a different light than that painted by contemporaries.
Taking a stroll down American history may help us understand how future generations will judge the actions and character of Donald J. Trump. We are now able to see the ranking of past U.S. presidents as put forth by numerous historians and think tanks, taking into consideration factors such as leadership, crisis management, failures, moral authority and much more. A president whom Trump is often compared to is Andrew Jackson. This association is due to Jackson’s status as an outspoken populist, who sought to appeal to the majority of Americans while also taking part in various controversies throughout his term. While outwardly pursuing goals in reducing political corruption, Jackson became infamous for implementing a “spoils system,” which granted important political positions to inexperienced supporters, friends and family members — something quite similar to Trump’s appointment of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as advisers in the White House.
In addition to this, President Jackson continued to tarnish his legacy, which is felt even today, due to his treatment of Native Americans. His signing of the Indian Removal Act forcibly displaced and moved thousands of Natives to “Indian Territory,” causing widespread death and disease, an event known today as the Trail of Tears. This can easily be compared to Trump’s treatment undocumented immigrants through his administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which has used U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to forcibly separate families and abuse migrants. Evidently, there are quite a few similarities between the two men, yet not only in faults but in success. Andrew Jackson remains to be the one and only president able to completely pay off the national debt, a sizable and considerable achievement. One may argue that such achievements are mirrored in the Trump administration, which conducted the largest tax overhaul in three decades and placed three conservative-leaning judges to the Supreme Court, a long-lasting and crucial accomplishment for Republicans. Historians say that Jackson was the first president to advocate and fight for the common man, similar rhetoric used today to describe Trump’s “America First” policies.
Here’s the surprising part: Andrew Jackson is consistently rated as one of the finest Presidents to ever have served. Jackson was rated 15 out of 45 in a 2011 Gallup poll and in the Murray-Blessing 1982 survey, he was ranked 7th by liberal-leaning historians and 6th by conservative-leaning historians. Even worse, he’s on the $20 bill. We can conclusively say that Jackson has held quite positive ratings among a sizable portion of Americans and historians alike, regardless of political affiliation. This may point us in the right direction regarding how Trump will be received in the far future. While he has stirred up a mess in both domestic and international politics, Trump has been a powerful figure in the minds of all Americans. Not only has he been the first modern president to come from a non-political background, but the president has consistently turned a blind eye to political norms to achieve his goals. He has decisively broken the political equilibrium, and is praised by conservatives all over the country as a result. Whether he wins reelection or not, there is no evidence pointing that his figure as a political savior and Republican martyr to some will change anytime soon, and if Jackson’s presidency has anything to prove, it’s that unconventional presidents can garner powerful legacies, despite the actual substance of their policy or content of their character.
David Hatami is a junior double-majoring in political science and business administration.