A real historical view of Donald Trump’s one term in the White House will require the passage of considerable time. Assuming intelligent history is still being written twenty years from now, not an entirely safe assumption, the emphasis will probably be on Trump’s role, positive or negative, in the degeneration of American society that is the main theme of our time.
The President was supposed to be the Chief Magistrate of the Union, responsible for administering the executive branch and enforcing the federal law, keeping up the armed forces, and being the front man for our very limited contacts with foreign governments. Like the rest of the Constitution, that President disappeared long ago, to be replaced by any number of made-up responsibilities, including Leader of the World.
But we might take a look at how Trump has performed in his actual constitutional responsibility.
*His appointments have been catastrophically bad, right up to the last weeks of the administration. He has apparently even now not realised that he needed to appoint people who support him to high executive offices. The federal branch has remained an employment bureau for Republican hacks, most of whom disdain him and his voters. Good people were available and ready, but were never called. Should he get a second term is it likely he will do any better? No, the Republican Establishment will become even stronger with a beleaguered and lame- duck President.
It is claimed that he has appointed good judges, but that remains to be seen.
*Immigration, his signal issue and vital responsibility. A few gestures, marginal, have been made in securing the border, but too little and too late. Illegal immigrants remain in the millions and continue to come. The gap between campaign promise and action is immense.
*The President should be enforcing the laws, not only in regard to defending the borders. Yet Trump has failed to pursue the obvious course of prosecuting Hillary Clinton, and even the evil men who illegally conspired inside the government against himself. We should ask ourselves why. Such prosecutions would have exposed dramatically the corruption of the Deep State. The Democrats drove Nixon out of office after he carried 48 States. Without any doubt Trump will spend his next years out of power defending himself against official charges, mostly, like his impeachment, phony. He may yet win himself personal immunity by some concession to the enemy.
*He might also have taken some preventive measures against the overwhelming election fraud that has defeated him. But he seemingly left this to the Republican Establishment, eager to get rid of him and get back to business-as-usual.
*Law enforcement rightly should be a local and State matter. But the government has never shown any hesitation in federalising law enforcement when it fit their agenda. A foreign billionaire is subsidising violent mobs in the streets. He has been busy promoting the election and appointment of local district attorneys who favour those mobs and are inimical to decent citizens. This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Nor does it fit any legitimate definition of government of, by, and for the people. The situation is ripe for RICO investigations. Trump could have made himself a champion of democracy for that.
*Another entirely lost opportunity to be the champion of democracy was to move against the internet oligarchs. These billionaires make government of the people impossible and they are the active censors of Trump and his people. A little creative statesmanship could go a long way toward curbing such illegitimate power.
*Trump’s welcome promise in foreign affairs was a wind-down in international interference. Who can forget his bold repudiation of Bush the Lesser’s illegal and catastrophic war-making and his promise of peace with Russia? All gone and forgotten. It is hard to find anything substantial Trump has done for us Deplorables, but he is certainly the best president the Likud party ever had.
*Covid. It was natural to be cautious at first when such a threat appeared, especially since its origins were in the vicinity of a Chinese poison facility. (I have yet to see any explanation of why U.S. troops were operating in the same vicinity shortly before. I doubt if many Americans even know such things are going on.) While Trump showed some personal disdain for the panic, he did nothing else. He lost a great opportunity to defy the bureaucracy and preach common sense to the public. But he let the lockdowns go on and even supported the dubious vaccination business, promising that it would be implemented by the army. He damaged the people, mostly his own supporters, economically beyond repair and left the enemy free reign to go on with the tyranny.
*The candidate might have marshalled a real re-election campaign, championing real issues and making clear to the people the evil of his opponent’s support and agenda. Instead, he never rose above the daily news cycle or effectively countered the opposition. Voters rallied to him out of fear of the other side, not because he presented them with any clear alternative.
In my first paragraph I mentioned Trump’s evaluation in the light of history. Actually that is already decided. What memorable speech or Presidential message has he left in the hearts of the people? The historical record, which only the most deep and contrary future historians will question, already has Trump down as a dangerous man and a failure from whom America was saved by the righteous and wise.
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews