Last month, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke submitted his long-anticipated report to President Trump that recommends dismantling and looting some of America's treasured monuments and antiquities. (This was interesting timing, given that the president stood firmly behind the preservation of some other, far less-cherished monuments.)
In anticipation of the report, Theodore Roosevelt IV, the 26th president's great-grandson, wrote a letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle telling Zinke that his actions have failed to live up to the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt, whom the Secretary of the Interior claims to admire. The lifelong Republican wrote that, in stark contrast to Zinke and Trump, his great-grandfather had a "fierce determination to take on profiteers who were seeking to exploit public lands for private gains."
Picking up where Roosevelt IV left off, it is worth exploring this point a little further, as it reveals perhaps the most striking distinction between two Republican presidencies only a little more than a century apart. At first glance, a superficial comparison of Donald Trump and Teddy Roosevelt is quite easy to make. Both were wealthy, bombastic, trust fund kids from New York, helped in their elections by surprising levels of populist support from America's heartland.
But this is where the similarities end.
Teddy Roosevelt's presidency marked the zenith of the progressive reform movement. Roosevelt's Republican Party – the one that started with Lincoln and was carried on by Grant, ...