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Donald Trump is ending his pres­id­en­tial term as he began it: with disdain for the insti­tu­tions of Amer­ican demo­cracy. He star­ted with an inaug­ural address that did not mention the Consti­tu­tion. He is finish­ing by refus­ing to abide by the core demo­cratic prin­ciple of a peace­ful trans­fer of power and respect for the will of the voters. 

From the Muslim travel ban in the first days of his term, to his refusal to comply with any lawful congres­sional over­sight, to his abuse of emer­gency powers, to the enrich­ment of his family, to his inter­fer­ence with law enforce­ment, to his use of federal forces in Lafay­ette Square against peace­ful protest­ers for racial justice, he has abused the power of the pres­id­ency. The checks and balances held, but barely.

He used the pres­id­en­tial pulpit to bully, to incite bigotry and racial divi­sion. That, too, will be a legacy that the coun­try must work to over­come. 

In recent weeks, and espe­cially since voters cast their ballots against him, he has waged an outrageous attack on free and fair elec­tions, the heart of Amer­ican demo­cracy. His lies about the vote will under­mine trust in our system of self-govern­ment for years to come, if we let it. 

Through­out Amer­ican history, abuse is often, but not always, followed by reform. In the coming year, both parties should prior­it­ize restor­ing the rule of law and strength­en­ing checks and balances. Trump’s slop­pi­ness and incom­pet­ence saved us. Next time the coun­try may not be so lucky.