The legacy of Donald Trump could easily be summarized by the two words that stood out in his 2017 inaugural address: American carnage.
In the 4 years since he spoke those words, we saw America become less safe and less respected. Whether it was the multiple occasions when he downplayed a deadly pandemic or the day in Washington when he incited a terrorist insurrection, Donald Trump never once understood the awesome power of the presidency. When you are the most powerful man in the world, your words matter. And his decision to use those words to inflame hate and division was both deliberate and insidious.
And to my Republican colleagues who wish to engage in historical revisionism, let’s not mince words. No matter how well the stock market did or what gains you were able to make on the Supreme Court, none of that will be remembered when this presidency is inscribed in our textbooks. The Trump era will be remembered as one in which fear and division consumed this nation.
As I write this article, NBC News has reported that the United States has just surpassed 400,000 deaths due to COVID-19. Every single one of those lives mattered. And every single one of their deaths was preventable. In a time where Americans desperately needed leadership, we were left abandoned. Instead, we were met with “it’s going to be fine” and “it is what it is”. Even after Trump knew this deadly virus was airborne, he lied to us, and he continued to hold super-spreader rallies around the nation.
But even before his history-making second impeachment in 2021 and the collapse of the economy in 2020, Donald Trump was already on track to become an astoundingly bad commander-in-chief. This was, in part, due to being fundamentally misguided about what policies were necessary to meet the moment. Trying to strip healthcare away from millions of people was not a recipe for making America great again. Neither was turning our back on NATO and the WHO. Neither was cutting taxes for the ultra-wealthy.
Trump’s priorities in the last 4 years never revolved around “draining the swamp”. It was a period of lawlessness and corruption never before seen since Watergate. He obstructed justice and tried to weaponize the DOJ. According to ProPublica in 2019, he selected 1 lobbyist for every 14 political appointments he made, a staggering increase from previous administrations. Not to mention the death of the Emoluments Clause and the Hatch Act under his tenure. The swamp never got drained; it simply welcomed a new gator.
While we can be thankful to have survived the Trump presidency, we must also remember that so many of us did not. There are numerous people whose families have been torn apart and whose lives have been disrupted due to his carelessness. We were lucky that this proto-fascist was as incompetent as he was. But another Trump-like figure could soon come along, less brash and more strategic. It is all of our responsibilities to remember the horrors of the past four years, to mend the wounds of our republic, and to ensure it can never happen again.