How is Donald Trump spending his last 50 odd days in office? It’s getting more bizarre each day. Presidential temper tantrums. Reality-defying delusions. Daily rounds of golf in the middle of a rapidly escalating pandemic. A pardon for Michael Flynn. And lots of lies.
Did you read about Trump letting his hair turn grey? About Ivanka tweeting that she’s going to the moon and Mars? Did you see Rudy Giuliani sweat a stream of hair dye at a news conference at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping Company? Or have you been focusing on election fraud? Will Trump’s attack on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp reverse the state’s certification of Biden’s win? Will Trump run in 2024, perhaps launching his campaign on January 20, 2021?
You can’t make this stuff up. It won’t take much for Oliver Stone to produce a movie about him.
Unfortunately, there are 49 more days of this circus remaining. We want to take a large sleeping pill and wake up only after it’s over but worry too much about what might come next to do that. Our friends warn us, “the worst might be yet to come.”
We are not yet done with the Orange Menace. Will Trump blow his top and start a war?
I’m irritated. Logically, relief will come when Trump leaves DC and heads for Mar-a-Lago. Unfortunately, that won’t be the end of the Trump story. Only now are we starting to get a full appreciation for the depth of the damage done not only by his final clown acts, but by Trump’s full four-year record. Trump demonstrated to the world that American democracy can produce a president like, well, Trump.
Billions of dollars have been spent over the last 50 years by the U.S. and others in the belief that all countries benefit from constitutional democracy. We were an example of a stable, free, and successful nation. Many countries sought to follow our example, often with our encouragement. Some nations even went to war against forces that rejected democracy.
Today, faith in democracy is on the decline. Trump has contributed to this trend. Trump, to many, makes the Chinese authoritarian system look attractive. Could a Donald Trump rise to power in their system? Probably not. This, of course, doesn’t mean an authoritarian system of government is preferable to democracy, even a challenged one. One only need look to the recent history of Hong Kong and the Chinese government’s treatment of minorities to see that. Or to Putin’s Russia. But there is no denying Trump has undermined confidence in democracy as the best means of producing a government with the best interests of the people as its goal. Awareness of Trump’s racism, his denial of climate change, and his personal greed is well known across the world. He’s made the U.S. a laughingstock. Far worse, he has shattered the belief that the U.S. is the last best hope for mankind.
The long-term damage to America’s relations with its allies is also part of the Trump legacy. NATO allies logically will question the commitment of the U.S. to the organization. Asian countries, including Japan, Vietnam, and even Australia, now question whether trade agreements with the U.S. can be relied on. Even if Biden totally reverses Trump policies, allies are likely to ask what prevents another Trump-like president from reversing Biden.
One other Trump legacy is the reminder he provided the world about the state of U.S. race relations. Any perception that the U.S. was moving beyond its shameful history of racism was destroyed by Trump praising white nationalists, opposing efforts to dismantle confederate monuments, and treating immigrants as criminals.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture of children being separated from their parents and tossed into for-profit jails is hard to forget. How can America exercise moral leadership in the world with this image still fresh in the world’s collective mind?
Much more of the Trump legacy is yet to be recognized. It is likely that Trump, his family, and his cronies will be prosecuted for crimes in State and Federal courts. The world will be educated on the quality of the people who ran the country for four years. They will also get a lesson in American capitalism that, even if partially true, undermines our credibility.
Joe Biden’s work is cut out for him. With each passing day, we are learning that the mess Biden has been elected to clean up is much worse than imagined.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.