Let’s dispense with any polite notion or talking point that seeks to minimize the magnitude of the last four years. On that single point, the left and right agree. But that is where the full stop comes in.
One side viewed Donald J. Trump as evil incarnate and considered the man and his administration both a fluke and a vile chapter in American history that should close with his prosecution and a purge of all who supported him.
In the starkest contrast imaginable, many or most of those who backed Trump’s re-election believe the nation has been robbed of one of its greatest presidents. And, yes, some of them would even say he belongs on Mount Rushmore.
Welcome to the Divided States of America.
But facts are stubborn things, unbending, unyielding at every turn. So a truly objective examination of the record of the Donald John Trump presidency — free of the media’s endemic bias — leaves one with two immediate responses: awe at the breadth of reform promised and delivered, and wonder at how he was able to get it all done while under constant investigation every single day of his one term in office.
The 45th president, ever the businessman and showman, proposed a wildly ambitious agenda and pursued it with reckless abandon, sparing none who stood in his way. He presided over the country as if the clock was ticking, and he would have precious little time to fulfill his lengthy and brazen agenda. Few believed it could all be done.
But consider the border wall. It will forever stand — literally and figuratively — as both a signature accomplishment of the man and the single most instructive example of what he was able to accomplish through the sheer force of his will. Think of what he was up against. He was called every name in the book by the open-border left, was bitterly opposed at every turn, and had scant support even from Republicans in Congress fearful of the racist label, one that has lost its meaning from overuse on Trump and all who would champion him. And yet, as he leaves the White House, an impressive 452 miles of wall have been built, almost half of the full project.
Trump came roaring out of the starting gate four years ago, a man on a mission, a speed horse unconcerned with distance, intent on accomplishing things considered untouchable by conventional politicians. And he succeeded on a grand scale, unbeknownst to those tuned in to the blackout-minded elite media.
The list of ways he made a lasting difference is long: a flurry of Mideast peace treaties after moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, destruction of the ISIS caliphate, repatriation of profits held overseas, new and improved trade deals, de-escalation of long-running foreign conflicts, accountability for our NATO allies, and a radically different approach to North Korea.
The CEO president knitted those populist/nationalist initiatives together with the universal conservative principles of lower taxes, achieved in his second year, and less regulation. He promised that two regulations would be eliminated for every new one imposed — and it turned out to be more like ten to one, deregulation on a massive scale. Put it all together, and Trump was sending forth the unmistakable message that America was once again open for business. And this led to his greatest accomplishments: genuine energy independence — a goal long articulated in the empty rhetoric of career politicians — and a roaring economy with full employment – until the pandemic brought him and the country low.
And lest we forget, his impact on the federal judiciary is certain to be felt for years, even decades, to come. While pushing through three conservative Supreme Court justices under duress and creating a constitutionalist majority for perhaps a generation or more, he also named lower court judges at record speed, filling some 280 vacancies, roughly a third of the federal judiciary. All in one drama-filled term.
An election that still defies logical explanation, and that will forever be the source of explosive controversy, finally brought the bombastic billionaire to heel. His one-man crusade against the world, fought with precious few allies in his foxhole, was finally derailed, despite the widely held belief that the victory of his opponent was illegitimate.
In the end, the Trump presidency seemed destined to end in turmoil, just as it started. He will be viewed as the force of nature who planned and executed the most radical — and successful — frontal assault on the status quo in modern American history. He is a man with no historic parallel. And as we bid him farewell as president, we carry with us a deeply sobering lesson learned over the last four years, one we shall never forget. When one man dares to threaten the established order, he does so at his own great peril.
Many will say Joe Biden has an easy act to follow, that by being his old boring and somnambulistic self, people will appreciate that, simply by not being Trump, he will lower the temperature of a country clearly in need of a break from unceasing upheaval. But as soon as he moves to reverse everything associated with Trump, just as Trump did with Barack Obama, the new president will find that Trump the president, apart from Trump the man, may in fact be one of history’s hardest acts to follow.
Read more from Tim Donner.