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Why Hoover is Trump's latest historical parallel

The Week logo The Week 26/10/2020 Tim O'Donnell
Herbert Hoover et al. sitting at a table: Herbert Hoover. © AP Photo/Byron Rollins Herbert Hoover.

There's been a lot of debate over who should be regarded as President Trump's most accurate historical parallel, and New York's Jonathan Chait suggested Monday that former President Herbert Hoover may be the most apt comparison, at least right now.

Hoover was in office in 1929 when the stock market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression, and his reaction to the economic catastrophe was similar to Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Chait argues.

Just as Trump has tried to assure Americans the virus will dissipate and the country has things under control, Hoover expressed unwarranted optimism that the depression was over years before the situation improved. But what really binds the two, Chait writes, is their reliance on markets to solve their respective issues. Hoover believed the economy would rebound as consumer confidence grew, and therefore he remained a proponent of maintaining the "fiscal soundness of the monetary supply and the federal budget."

Trump, on the other hand, has flirted with spending big to keep things afloat economically during the crisis, Chait notes, but he argues the president ultimately failed to "reclaim his populist identity" and gave into the GOP's "anti-spending impulse" heading into the election. Chait anticipates the Republican Party will blame Trump's "erratic and undisciplined personal behavior" if he fails to win his re-election bid, but he also said the president "sacrificed himself on the Hooverite altar of laissez-faire" economics. Read Chait's full piece at New York.

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