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H.R. McMaster and the Loneliness of the Patriot

Internal conflicts are nothing new to the American presidency. Indeed, they date to the protracted, bitter clash between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in George Washington’s administration. Seventy years later, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase conspired with Radical Republicans in Congress to undermine President Abraham Lincoln’s policies.

Although it hasn’t reached the level of Hamilton and Jefferson’s antagonism, factional strife within the Trump administration is acute, as pro-Trump advocates associated with Steve Bannon seek to “drain the swamp,” but must contend with the more conventional Republican establishment. The problem that Trump faces is similar to Lincoln’s need to maintain a working coalition between maximalists and minimalists: Republicans, who saw the war as an opportunity to end slavery; but also War Democrats, who wanted merely to restore the Union.

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