As much as Trump wants to compare himself with Andrew Jackson, he cannot help but force himself into Richard Nixon’s image. His impulsive actions, ham-fisted policy decisions, paranoia, and need to exact revenge on his political opponents, real or perceived, is as stark a comparison to the 37th President of the United States as there ever was. As with Nixon, his combination of vanity and insecurity will be his downfall. In the meantime, Trump’s lack of ability and interest to “know what he doesn’t know” is the open door to his political opponents.
There is a difference, however, between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. For all the destruction that the Watergate scandal heaved on our democracy, Nixon, it’s debatable, did some good things. He created the EPA, proposed a national healthcare plan, expanded food stamps, gave extra security to the disabled and veterans, created price controls (which also led to inflation, but provided cursory regulations), created the Council on Environmental Quality, created OSHA, signed the Clean Air Act, and many more. Trump, conversely, has tried to systematically dismantle all of these things in his first 100 days.
Another glaring difference between Trump and Nixon is the fact that, for all his flaws, Nixon new government and how the system works. He understood who to talk to, how to compromise, and how to negotiate in government, not as a business man who runs a family business. He was respected for his beliefs, if not his actions. Just like Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, Nixon may have gone on to be one of the great presidents in history if not for his one major downfall in Watergate.
Trump is in no danger of ever being great. He has no altruistic tendencies, or an ability to choose the greater good over self gratification. His constant poor decisions follow a pattern of follies of vanity and self preservation, as evidenced by his firing of James Comey. This action is the pinnacle of his self-centered decisions and absolute deafness and ignorance to what the Presidency is about and how severe the consequences can be for these to himself, but more importantly the nation. If someone with a track record of good decisions and altruistic policies like the that of Richard Nixon can have a catastrophic fall from power; Trump’s crash will be on a scale of a the Tsar Bomba 50 megaton nuclear blast.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, the destruction to our government could be irreparable. If his determined deconstruction of our democratic ideals and standards is allowed to continue much longer, the indelible mark will be even darker than the one left by Watergate. It will not be merely a history of mistrust for the government and hyper-partisanship that remains. It may fracture the foundation of our republic and change the American identity forever.