Feb 26, 2018

Donald Trump, a 1950s man

Photo: Olivier Douliery, Pool / Getty Images

In this era of drones and driverless cars, President Trump often sounds and feels like a man from the bygone days of station wagons and smokestacks.

"He feels he’s the personification of the American dream. ... That means building things, going back to the era of his dad. He assumes the rest of the country pines for that. "
— A source close to President Trump

The source added: "He's not necessarily saying we need to go back to the past. He's saying we need ... the principles that made us successful in the past."

  • We see it in a "Mad Men" mentality that infuses his rhetoric, policies and personal life. 
  • We see it in his attention to coal over forward-looking international trade.
  • We see it in testosterone-tinged chest thumping, in person and on Twitter.
  • We see it in his focus on steel and aluminum, when the next great war may be cyber- and satellite-driven.
  • We see it in his push for a Pennsylvania Avenue military parade (with "a lot of plane fly-overs"), expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.
  • We see it in his response to #MeToo.
  • We heard it in Trump's wistful remarks about Route 66 when speaking last summer in Springfield, Mo., birthplace of the now-outmoded Mother Road: "For many decades, Route 66 captured the American spirit. The communities along this historic route were a vivid symbol of America’s booming industry."

Even his diet and health routine are retro: golfing as exercise (with a cart), and a diet heavy on burgers and thick steaks.

Be smart: Trump's instincts and measures of success look back, while our most fearsome competitor, China, is projecting ahead with an emphasis on artificial intelligence and globalization. 

  • But the nostalgia Trump evokes is a key part of his hold on his electorate —tapping into a lingering fear about a changing America that leaves many in his base feeling like strangers in their own land. 

P.S. The White House says President Trump will attend Friday's funeral for the Rev. Billy Graham in Charlotte, N.C.

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