One American historian does not believe that the greatest threat posed by President Donald Trump comes from the authoritarian behavior that is often displayed by the chief executive. Instead, he believes that the greatest threat is related to Trump’s ignorance of everything from the U.S. Constitution and the American political process to the nation’s history. This ignorance was illustrated by a recent comment made by Trump about the War Between the States and a president who served and died many years before the conflict.
David Blight, a Yale University professor, was stunned by statements made by Trump on a recent radio program, comments that included a questioning of why the Civil War took place and an opinion that the conflict could have been resolved had Andrew Jackson been the president. Despite Trump’s assertion that Jackson was somehow “angry” about “what was happening” during the Civil War and could have even prevented the conflict, there is in fact no evidence that the nation’s seventh president ever envisioned the precipitating factors while he served as the nation’s chief executive during the years 1829 to 1837. Furthermore, Jackson would after leaving office criticize Martin Van Buren, who had previously served for one term as president but would in a subsequent candidacy oppose the admission of any new slave states. Instead, he favored James K. Polk, who like Jackson owned slaves.
According to Blight, the opinion he expressed shows how Trump believes in the concept of a powerful leader and how such a president can personally shape history. Equally shocking to Blight was Trump’s belief that the leaders of the country at the time could easily have “worked out” the issues related to Civil War, the biggest of course being the desire of the states in the South to continue slavery.
Blight described this belief system as a “fifth grade understanding” of U.S. history and questioned whether the current chief executive had learned anything about the subject beyond elementary school. Blight further stated that while a proper understanding of American history might not be a requirement for a real estate magnate, everyone should “pay attention” when the president lacks such knowledge. Rather than being humorous, however, Blight found Trump’s ignorance to be a “deeply disturbing” matter, suggesting that the president spend some time at one of his retreats for the purpose of receiving additional education. Vice President Mike Pence could serve as chief executive during this period of “ignorance relief,” which according to Blight would also give the United States time to regain some of the confidence and respect it has lost since the 2016 election.