Donald Trump Is All The Worst Parts of Thomas Jefferson


 And none of the best.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about the new president, and how to relate him to the founding fathers I’ve been reading about on this trek through presidential biographies. I keep coming back to Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was an incredible person whose contributions to the United States were enormous, but he was far from perfect. He was a complicated man full of contradictions and deep flaws which make him all the more fascinating to me. But the more I thought about Donald Trump, the more I realized that he reminds me of Thomas Jefferson. Specifically, the bad parts. Actually, only the bad parts.

The forty-fifth president of the United States somehow embodies all of the worst parts of the third president, and absolutely none of the good. These are those qualities, and how they define Donald Trump.

Thomas Jefferson’s Best Qualities, Which Donald Trump Utterly Lacks

#1. Intellectual Curiosity

Jefferson is known for his brilliance – John F. Kennedy famously said at a Nobel Prize Winners dinner, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

To me, Jefferson’s intelligence is not nearly as admirable as his intellectual curiosity. A voracious reader who donated his 6,000 volume library to the Library of Congress, Jefferson became a man who “could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play a violin.”

Trump, who has said he is “like, very smart,” does not read books. “I read passages, I read areas, I’ll read chapters, I just don’t have the time.” He said his two favorite books are two he has written, and one of the only books he is known to have read is a book of Hitler’s collected speeches. 

Thomas Jefferson’s love of learning led him to found the highly-esteemed University of Virginia, which is known for its innovation. Donald Trump’s love of money led him to found the fraudulent Trump University. 

Utterly lacking the intellectual curiosity required for personal growth, Trump doesn’t seek out knowledge because facts would only get in the way of his gut instincts and narcissism. 

2. Freedom of Religion

One of Thomas Jefferson’s most prized accomplishments was authoring the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom; he wanted it listed just above “Father of the University of Virginia” on his gravestone. He was a strong proponent of the separation between church and state, and believed people should have the right to practice – or not practice – whatever they wanted. He wrote that “it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no gods. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” 

Donald Trump seems to believe only in the freedom of his own religion. He claims to be a Christian but has never asked for forgiveness,though he enjoys the cleansing feeling “when I drink my little wine and have my little cracker” at communion. Depending on his audience, he has also offered The Bible as his favorite book (“Two Corinthians” in particular). His favorite verse is “an eye for an eye,” which as a policy was explicitly repealed by Jesus who said to instead “Turn the other cheek." But Trump only reads parts and areas of books, so he probably hasn't made it to that part of his favorite book yet.

Being familiar with The Bible is not a requirement to be president, but adhering to the Constitution certainly is. Trump's blatant disregard for the Constitution’s freedom of religion should alarm everyone. His proposed ban on Muslims and Muslim registration is terrifying not only because of its moral implications, but also because it would only vindicate our terrorist enemies and increase their recruitment, making the world a far more dangerous place. He might know if he read books not written by himself or Hitler. 

3. Freedom of the Press

When a Prussian visitor to Jefferson’s White House noticed a newspaper filled with vile statements about Jefferson, he asked, “Why is not this libelous journal suppressed, or its Editor at least, fined and imprisoned?” Jefferson smiled and replied, “Put that paper in your pocket Baron, and should you hear the reality of our liberty, the freedom of the press, questioned, show this paper, and tell where you found it.” Jefferson wasn’t perfect when it came to freedom of the press, but he was proud of it as an American institution. 

Donald Trump’s relationship with the press and his abhorrence of dissent are extraordinarily un-American for someone sworn to uphold and oath to the Constitution. The first amendment clearly states “Congress shall pass no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” but Trump still wants to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue new outlets who print stories he considers hit pieces. 

Unflattering reports and dissent, to him, are libelous and those responsible must be humiliated and made to suffer, like the author who wrote a book purporting Trump was not as wealthy as he claimed. Trump tried to sue him for five billion dollars, but the case was dismissed because that’s not how the law works. Not now anyway. Imagine how much money Trump could get if he had some influence on the law.

4. Communication

Extremely non-confrontational and kind, Thomas Jefferson instantly put his conversational partners at ease with his soft voice and genuine interest in what they had to say. That disarming charm made him a skilled diplomat and dealmaker. He brought people together at intimate dinner parties one guest referred to as a “mental treat.” Senators previously opposed to his agenda were later heard saying “the President’s dinners had silenced them.”

Respect is an essential trait for an effective leader, and Jefferson knew that. Brute force and intimidation might be effective in the short-term, but it burns more bridges than it builds. The ROI on bullying is always, eventually, negative.

Donald Trump might not agree, and so far he seems to be getting ahead with his “winning temperament,” which in reality is the loud, boisterous, thin-skinned, incoherent, and impetuous behavior of a spoiled child. Words, to him, are blunt objects that are not so much chosen as they are hurled. He claims to have “the best words,” but in his writing (tweeting) and speeches, he generally employs a third-grade level vocabulary. Like a sitcom character, he has his favorite words and catchphrases (Tremendous, Sad, Losers, etc.) that lend itself to their own refrigerator poetry kit which I recommend if you’re trying to lose weight, you fat failing pig.

Thomas Jefferson’s gift with words is legendary. His love letters read like poetry, and his personal letters are master courses in the art of manipulation. Today he is best remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence

That cry for freedom is a far cry from Trump’s first foray into political writing. In a 1989 full-page ad he paid for in four New York City newspapers, he called for the execution of five teenagers accused of a horrific rape in Central Park. In it, he wrote, “Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!” The problem is they were innocent. Even after the black Latino men were exonerated based on DNA evidence, Donald Trump still, to this day, clings to the belief that they must be guilty of something even though they had no criminal records. 

That brings us to the qualities of Thomas Jefferson that Donald Trump shares – the bad ones. Starting with racism...

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