Donald Trump: The Most Successful President Ever?

In a press conference on Thursday, Donald Trump claimed that he had accomplished more in the 28 days since his inauguration than any other president in history had in that short time. Um, no. No that is not true.

What did Franklin Delano Roosevelt do in his first 28 days? Oh, let’s see. He first declared a bank holiday that shuttered banks for four days, and then called an emergency session of Congress and passed the Emergency Banking Act. When the banks subsequently reopened, it became clear that these two measures had ended the bank runs; Wall Street registered its biggest gains ever. FDR then wrote and passed the Economy Act, created the Farm Credit Administration by executive order, and wrote and passed a bill creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, creating 250,000 new jobs. FDR also had his first “fireside chat” with the American people. Oh, and he wrote and passed the Farm Mortgage Relief Act.

I’m not sure how anyone could look at all that and still think that Trump has done more in his first 28 days. Notice that FDR sent numerous bills to Congress during his first 28 days, and oversaw the passage of four important bills. He legislated his agenda. Has Trump done that, literally at all? Relying on executive orders isn’t a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness. Those regarded as “great” presidents (regardless of their political persuasions) are typically those who are able to craft coalitions necessary to push their agenda through Congress. When Obama began turning to executive orders, especially late in his presidency, it was because he had failed—for whatever reason—to do this. But Trump has given up before trying.

That Trump incorrectly stated that he has done more during his first four weeks than any other president has done in that time, it was perhaps not surprising. He has continually overrated his successes, and during his press conference yesterday he even forced a reporter to say that he had won the electoral college by a significant margin just so that he could hear him say it. He also incorrectly claimed that he had won the electoral college by a bigger margin than any president since Reagan, which I suppose is true if you ignore George H. W. Bush in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, Bill Clinton in 1996, Barack Obama in 2008, and Barack Obama in 2012.

But that’s ignoring most of them.

Trump has also repeatedly claimed that he won “substantially” more of the black vote then other candidates in past years. When asked to clarify—because he won only 8% of the black vote—he said he was comparing himself to other Republican candidates. Well okay then. We can make that comparison.

colored graph percentage

The percentage of the black vote Trump won is lower than that of any Republican candidate on record—with the exception of John McCain and Mitt Romney, who were running against an African American candidate.

If you compare Trump’s share of the African American vote with past Republican candidates running against white candidates, as he was, it looks like this:

colored graph number two

I’ll say it again: Donald Trump won the lowest percentage of the African American vote any Republican presidential candidate running against non-black candidate has ever received in U.S. history.

But he can’t accept that—becuase he has to be the best.

We saw this same problem with inauguration crowd size, which the White House turned to again and again in the days following the election. It had to be the biggest crowd, the best crowd. It has to be the biggest electoral vote margin, the best victory. And it must be the most wonderful first 28 days in office, the most successful ever. How insecure must a person be to constantly insist on people recognizing them as the best person, rather than putting in the hard work to be the best person?

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