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Taking Encouragement from Under-Rated Presidents

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Can a new president with a tenuous mandate and a balky Congress, held in contempt by “enlightened” opinion, nonetheless preside over dynamic years of peace and prosperity? History answers with a ringing “yes!” and Donald Trump should feel encouraged by that record.

Between 1868 and 1896, six presidents occupied the White House—Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland and Harrison. All of them disgusted contemporary intellectuals and subsequent historians, and none of them (except the war hero Grant) ever won a popular vote majority.

But America thrived as never before—conquering the frontier, building great cities, developing mighty industries, absorbing tens of millions of immigrants and rising to world power. Despite political divisions and presidential leadership dismissed as weak and unworthy, the nation flourished, with a minimum of government interference.

The most hopeful sign in Trump’s first half-year is that this combination of frustration in Washington and dynamic growth in the country at large, could very well characterize his presidency.

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