Richard Nixon was, by all measures, a raging narcissist. He was paranoid, constantly lashing out against political enemies and the press for perceived slights. He played on racial animosities. His political sleight-of-hand was legendary, as when he sabotaged peace talks by convincing the Vietnam government to put off negotiations with LBJ in Paris in 1968 until after the election.
And yet, Nixon was never unfaithful to his wife. He used his unique position as a conservative to engage in talks with China’s Maoist government in an attempt to stop the spread of Soviet Communism. He created the Environmental Protection Agency and tried to pass Nixoncare – The analog to both Romneycare and Obamacare. Despite his obvious personal racism, Nixon met with Southern Governors to advocate against school segregation. He even proposed a guaranteed basic income, in which each citizen of the United States would receive a flat rate of $1,600 a year ($15,300 in today’s dollars).
This isn’t an attempt to venerate Nixon, but it is to say that there were many moments in which he honestly attempted to change the country for the better. Were these measures a selfish attempt to improve his own legacy? Almost certainly. But motive is irrelevant when good policy gets passed. It doesn’t matter why the EPA was created, it matters that we we’ve cleaned up smog in the air and depolluted water systems.
Donald Trump has the same awful personality as Nixon without any of the good policy to go along with it. He’s vindictive, short-tempered, and cares about nobody but himself. He’s also a plutocrat, intent on using the office of the Presidency to enrich himself and his billionaire friends. During the campaign, he made populist promises to be another Richard Nixon. We all knew he was a loudmouth bigot who had no problems labelling immigrants as rapists, women he disliked as “fat pigs,” and calling the entire continent of Africa a “shithole.”
But he also promised to raise taxes on the wealthy and stop companies from storing their profits overseas. He promised to be an ally of the LGBT community. He said he would make college more affordable and allow middle class families to deduct child care from their taxes.
Not only has he not followed through on these promises, he’s made all of them demonstrably worse. He lowered taxes on the wealthy and the tax bill does nothing to punish companies who offshore profits. He’s attempted to ban transgender troops from serving in the military through Executive Order. His proposed budget made deep cuts to funding for first-generation college students and the tax bill did not expand child care tax deductions.
What’s left is the most immoral President in American history who also happens to have an awful political agenda. Former porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playmate Karen McDougal have come forward with similar and reputable stories about how Trump slept with them while his wife was at home with their newborn son. During those sexual encounters, he compared the looks of both women to his daughter Ivanka. After the affairs, his lawyers made both women sign nondisclosure agreements. According to Stormy Daniels, she did so because she was threatened with physical harm to her and her family.
This makes Trump awful on two fronts. Not only is he a bigot who has no problem cheating on his wife while she’s at home with his newborn baby, he has no interest in governing for working people. Even his infrastructure planning, the one populist promise the President has stuck to in the Oval Office, is geared toward enriching private companies by awarding them multibillion dollar contracts. The original promise of committing more than $1 trillion to infrastructure now sits at somewhere around $250 billion, with the private sector tasked with making up the rest of the money.
Trump conned the American public into believing he was a populist representative of the working man who would ignore all the identity politics and invest in communities left behind by globalization. Instead, he’s an immoral plutocrat hell bent on settling perceived slights with political enemies while governing for the wealthy.