Is it time yet for writing the post mortem on the Trump presidency? When is it really over? Is it the day after the election, the day each of the states certify their elections, the day the electors meet and proclaim the winner, the day that Congress accepts the decision of the Electoral College, after the 10-day audit of disputed electoral votes is in, the day that Joe Biden puts his hand on a Bible and is sworn into office by Chief Justice John Roberts? It would be nice to have clear parameters.
Without the clear guidelines of past elections to go on I'm just going to declare the Trump presidency over and get on with my personal post mortem.
First of all, it feels kind of nice to say this particular drama is over. I don't have any false hope that drama on the national stage is over, or even that Donald Trump will not be playing his usual disruptive role in it, it's just that he'll be forever on the periphery, and different figures will be creating the drama from the center. That's not much of a trade, but I'll take it.
It would be wonderful to think that Trump's exit and Biden's presidency will mark a new golden age of peace and stability, but that's not likely. We've entered an era of ultra-divided politics and culture and more Democratic victories at polling places are not the pathway out of this deep division anymore than Republican victories. The problems are fundamental. Solutions must be equally fundamental.
Donald Trump didn't get us here. He didn't create division. He made himself the target of it. It would have attached itself to anyone, but he is uniquely gifted at inspiring the ire of opponents. Ronald Reagan was despised by his opponents, as was George Bush, as was Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Even Mitt Romney was demonized, although he was one of the most upstanding, charitable, and conscientious people to run for president in the last 50 years. He's still demonized. Only, lately, all his criticism comes from the right.
Demonization and the derangement of fans and foes alike comes with the job of president. Social media plays a part in driving this phenomenon beyond anything we've seen since Lincoln, but also much of the media and entertainment community, which have become increasingly strident in their contempt for opinions other than their own.
Donald Trump didn't inspire anyone to prevent invited speakers from speaking on college campuses. That trend preceded his term. He didn't inspire activists to show up at the homes of elected officials to scream epithets through bull horns, chant and terrorize, or leave spray painted graffiti behind. He didn't inspire people to harass public figures, or drive them from restaurants, or throw fists and bicycles at the police attempting to protect them. All that would be happening today even if he never existed. These tactics are even employed against figures on the left when they're not considered left enough.
Donald Trump is divisive, but he didn't create the highly polarized and intolerant atmosphere we're all up to our necks in.
What evaluation of the Trump administration could leave out its major accomplishments? Before Covid, joblessness was at historically low levels, and wages were rising, particularly for lower wage earners. Unlike his predecessors, Trump was clear about the role China plays in decreasing American wages and stealing proprietary technology to promote their own Gross Domestic Product and depress ours. He was clear-sighted on the role Iran plays in financing and arming bad actors throughout the Middle East to ensure a state of perpetual war there. By identifying Iran as the principle bad actor in the Middle East, Trump was able to form a wall around it and coalesce the unlikely alliance of Israel with Arab nations that share an interest in containing Iran's harmful influence.
That's just three accomplishments and trends among many. Many don't like Trump's personality. I've never hidden my own dislike. It's been a theme in these columns since 2015 when he entered the race for president. One reaction to this problematic figure has been to toss him out of the White House and give the Democratic party complete control of Congress. Democrats now have all the marbles in Washington. There is nothing to prevent them from expanding federal power. Nothing stands in the way of the Green New Deal, or government serving the interests of big tech or any of the well-funded industries or interest groups that pay for, and own today's Democratic party. Social justice and critical race theory will become the state-sponsored religion for all. Now everything Trump accomplished, both the good and the bad, are subject to reversal. In years to come there will be no statues of Trump. No schools will be named after him. Donald Trump has been cancelled. Soon he'll be erased.