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Analysis

Trump’s Shameful Legacy

As the Trump presidency sputters to a conclusion, America must prioritize restoring the rule of law and strengthening democracy.

November 25, 2020
Donald Trump
Tasos Katopodis/Getty

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.