Understanding Trump: An Historical Perspective

Written by Harold McNeill on February 10th, 2017. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

Obama and Trump

NetFlix Documentary Review: The Untold History of the United States

As with many, I am (or a least was) perplexed by how the United States managed to elect a President that, in almost every way, is the polar opposite of his predecessor, Barack Obama. After reading dozens of news articles linked by various FB friends, as well as having rooted out others from various sources, I was no further ahead. Heck, no one came close to understanding how the man managed to become President.

Almost all sought to explain the troubling aspects of Donald Trump’s ascent to power, in terms of his personality and the cult surrounding him. Of course, the same explanations, from the flip side of the coin, could be applied to Barack Obama. However, none of the explanations took into account the historical aspects of America’s ascent to world domination, both militarily and economically, over the middle part of the last century (1940 – 1960). It was a time when politics flowed out much as it has over the past two decades, with the Obama Presidency being the most peaceful interlude in decades of US hegemony.

Back in the last century, what followed World War II, was a series of ongoing wars: The Cold War, Korean War, Viet Nam War, then, the back-to-back Wars on Crime, Drugs and, most recently, Terror. These wars have sustained the US position in the world over the past seven decades. But with the recent emergence of China as an economic superpower and the aggressive nature of Putin’s Russia, the current US President may easily find new wars in which to invest its collective energy. None of this background, as far as I know, has been part of the narrative in explaining the rise of Donald Trump.

It is only over the past few days of watching Oliver Stone’s epic ten-part series, The Untold History of the United States, (Season I) that I came to a better understanding of both the Obama and Trump presidencies. Trump did not suddenly appear on our doorstep in 2016; he first arrived in 1945 dressed as a Democrat and elected as the 33rd President, Harry S. Truman. (2)

Back in 1945, the person expected to become President, Henry A. Wallace, an extremely popular pacificist (not unlike Barack Obama) was cast aside, in one of the ugliest conventions in recent history when Democratic party insiders manipulated the voting process to put in place a man better suited (i.e. easily manipulated) to carry out their collective military and economic interests (1).

I won’t go further with this explanation, as you need to watch at least the first four parts of the Untold History, to gain a perspective on why the world is unfolding as it is in 2017. If you are looking for some relief from the uncertainty that has emerged within the Trump Presidency, you won’t find much. However, it may give you hope in knowing that a good percentage of the American people, now as then, carry within their DNA a gene called peace. That gene may again dominate, but I don’t think it will prevail anytime soon

Where that gene has not only survived but thrived, is within Canada, a small liberal democracy not unlike many other small, liberal democracies around the world (e.g. New Zealand, Australia, the Scandinavian countries, etc.). The challenge Canada has faced throughout our history is remaining a good friend and trading partner with the United States while at the same time maintaining our sovereignty. It helps that each of our Federal and Provincial political parties tend to be considerably left of both the Republicans and Democrats. Although we are often viewed as socialists by many in the United States, the peaceful nature of our democracy is also envied by many in that country.

The next four years will bring a number of tests to our nation as we seek to remain friends and trading partners while making clear our intention to steer away from the belligerent actions that have gained strength within the current administration. We are not alone, in that many of our friends around the world will struggle in much the same manner.  That we have managed to maintain this equilibrium over the past 150 years, gives hope we will be able to do so in the future.  Only time will tell.

Again, you are encouraged to take a few hours to view at least the first four or five parts of Oliver Stones epic series.  In viewing, that which is spoken about above will become crystal clear.

Harold McNeill

Link: The Guardian’s Review of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States

(1)  Following the 2008 Financial Crises, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, was put in place by the Obama Administration as one means of preventing a similar catastrophe in the future. The Act did not receive unanimous support, as many believed it did not go far enough to reign in unscrupulous bankers and traders (Washington Post)

It has now emerged that President Trump is intent upon trashing this legislation in a move that leaves wall street jubilant. The beneficiaries will be the Big Banks and Wall Street Traders such as Goldman Sacks, JPMorgan and dozens of others. An accompanying change proposes a reduction in the Corporate Tax from 35% to 20%, a move that provides a massive benefit to the Top 10%.

(2) As you watch the series, jot down occasional notes about key events which shaped the world following WWII and the election of Harry S. Trueman. You can then tick off many items happening today that follow a similar pattern. As for the re-writing of history, take a few minutes to review the biography of Harry Truman on Wikipedia. It is written in glowing terms and he is even credited for many actions initiated by others, as for example, the Marshall Plan.


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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.