On Saturday’s edition of MSNBC’s “Weekends,” Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore suggested that President Donald Trump could ultimately meet the same political fate as Herbert Hoover — and take down the rest of the Republican Party in the process.
“You write that both Republican presidents, Hoover and Trump, are similar, in that both came to the White House never serving in the military, never have been elected to office, both possessing great personal wealth, holding themselves in high esteem, but their family backgrounds and their personal character are quite different,” said host Alex Witt. “Explain the differences.”
“Well, President Trump is a man of great inherited privilege and wealth, you know, who did become a national celebrity but through a career of real estate and resort development, and then reality television,” said Kilgore. “Herbert Hoover was an orphan, very much a self-made multimillionaire, considered the world’s most brilliant engineer and manager, and he rose to national celebrity through several extraordinary acts of emergency management. He fed starving Europeans early in and after World War I. He was in charge of food supplies during World War I. Later as Secretary of Commerce, he led an enormous relief effort after a huge flood. He became known as the Great Humanitarian. He was very much a celebrity for different reasons than Donald Trump.”
“That great humanitarian, it made him feel somewhat vulnerable because of the these incredible accomplishments, right?” said Witt. “He was worried about an unreasonable expectation for what he could accomplish. Was it only the Depression that derailed that president?”
“It’s hard to tell,” said Kilgore. “We didn’t have that much public opinion research back then. The Republican Party had been losing support among farmers and in urban areas where immigrants were beginning to develop political power. It wasn’t just the Depression. On the other hand, he anticipated that a great calamity could collide with those high expectations and that’s exactly what happened. And his management of the Great Depression really in the last three and a half years of his presidency, made him totally non-reelectable. I think even he understood that.”
“There was a New York Times piece, Ed, which says Republicans are getting nervous that Trump could sink the presidency and the Senate,” said Witt. “If history is our guide, Ed, with a potential Joe Biden win, how long might be it take for the GOP to recover?”
“Well, it’s really hard to tell,” said Kilgore. “The president’s approval rating has been mediocre throughout his presidency. It’s lower than that of people who normally get reelected, but his approval rating for managing the economy has actually been higher, and has sort of sustained him. Today it remains that high with unemployment rising as of yesterday, and no real end in sight to economic calamity, it’s hard to imagine he will keep getting the high grades as an economic manager, even though nobody blames him for the pandemic itself.”
“But right now he’s in some serious trouble and so is his party, which is in danger of losing control of the Senate along with the White House,” continued Kilgore. “I wouldn’t predict a 30-year drought for Republicans if that does happen. The American people are a bit more polarized between parties right now, so party allegiance is more stable than it was then, and on top of that, you know, there’s certain built-in strengths Republicans have in the Senate and the Electoral College which make it possible for them to be more powerful than their popular support.”
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