I submit another as Trump’s precedent, a man on that podium in November 1964: Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller was considered an establishment Republican, but he operated entirely, as the title of Richard Norton Smith’s magisterial and compelling biography of him says, “On His Own Terms.”
He was sometimes lavishly liberal (his Medicaid program spent one-quarter of national funds), sometimes harshly conservative (mandatory sentences for drug offenses). He spent enormous sums building Albany’s Capitol Mall and a state university system intended to rival California’s. He raised taxes so much that someone said he spends the people’s money as if it were his own.
Rockefeller was richer than Trump, a more gifted art and architecture patron and less given to boasting. He had a much longer public career, from running FDR’s Latin American desk to being Gerald Ford’s vice president. But through all that, he was regarded by insiders as an unguided missile, not subject to institutional constraint, seeking power to do whatever he wanted. Rockefeller was elected governor when Donald Trump was 12 and served until Trump was 27 and about to make his jump to Manhattan.