Historians share perspectives on Trump presidency in viral Ken Burns series

Donald Trump is a businessman, a reality television star and a master of self-promotion. Trump announced June 16, 2015 he will run in the Republican presidential primary. Trump will be required to release a personal financial disclosure that would reveal intimate details about his personal finances. The disclosure would include his net worth, sources of income, liabilities and assets. He will have to reveal the same information for his wife and dependent children. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MEDIA GENERAL)—Americans expect to hear from historians when talking about past presidential campaigns, but now some experts want to comment on the current election.

Filmmaker Ken Burns, along with award-winning historian David McCullough, did what anyone wanting to share their opinion does today—started posting to Facebook. They created “Historians on Donald Trump,” allowing top historians from across the United States to offer their perspectives on the current election.

Online Opinions

The page’s short description reads: “Historians share their perspectives on why Donald Trump’s campaign is so troubling.”

It’s no surprise most of these historians speak on the dangers they see in Trump’s possible election.

Some, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff, use the platform to offer perspective, highlighting that Donald Trump is not an entirely original figure.

“Does he know that the words ‘America First’ also have a past? That the slogan was used by isolationists [to] lobby against our entry into World War II in 1940?” Schiff asks in one of the videos.

“I’m not cynical enough to believe that he means to align himself with Nazi sympathizers and that he intended that echo,” she adds.

Others, like David McCullough, bluntly advocate for the American people to reconsider Trump’s candidacy.

“He’s unwise; he’s plainly unprepared, unqualified and often-times seems unhinged,” McCullough says in his own video. “How could we possibly put our future in the hands of such a man?”


A regular mention in the videos is the commonality between Trump’s campaign and an anti-immigration party during the 1850s called the American Party, or unofficially, the Know-Nothings. They grew to prominence after German immigrants began settling in the Midwest and the Irish showed up in large numbers on the East Coast.

Kai Bird, also a Pulitzer Price-winning author, refers to the Republican nominee’s campaign as, “the Know-Nothing candidacy of real-estate huckster Donald Trump.”

Never Again

Bird also uses his video to focus on the old adage, ‘history repeats itself.’

“[History repeats itself] first as tragedy, then as farce,” Bird explains.

In his argument, Trump is the farce, and the hunt for communist sympathizers in the 1950s led by former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., is the tragedy.

“Yes, ‘The Donald’ is farce—he has no facts, no understanding, no philosophy,” Bird says. “Because Mr. Trump is so clearly a clown, some people may conclude that he’s essentially harmless.”

“But farce can also be dangerous,” Bird warns. “Farce can also be national disaster. Don’t let history repeat itself—even as farce.”

Comments are closed.