Trump’s Loose Ends

Alan Zendell, January 18, 2021

On the penultimate day of the Trump administration, this is the state of the Union:

The Pandemic – By far, the most stunning and disturbing loose end of the Trump administration is the number of Americans who died from the COVID virus. When Trump boards Air Force One for the last time, more than 400,000 American deaths will have been recorded, with the number still rising at more than 3,000 per day because of Trump’s refusal to mandate CDC and NIH recommended preventive measures.

The pandemic has been with us for eleven months, with an initial peak in cases in April. Despite warnings from virtually every epidemiologist and health care professional, Trump’s misinformation campaign and his demands to open the economy resulted in one shocking fact. Instead of slowing down, the COVID infection rate steadily increased. More than half of all infections in the United States have occurred since Election Day, seventy-five days in which the President has totally ignored the pandemic and spent all his energy trying to subvert the election.

Unemployment – Notwithstanding that the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics computes the unemployment rate is seriously flawed – for example, it ignores jobless people whose unemployment benefits have run out – the rate was 4.8% when Trump took office, 3.6% a year ago, and 6.7% as he departs. Reducing unemployment was touted as one of Trump’s two crowning achievements, the other being the change in the tax code that enriched the wealthiest Americans and added three trillion dollars to our deficit.

For perspective, consider that Barack Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8% which ballooned to 10.0% in the aftermath of the banking crisis that occupied the final year of Bush-43’s term. From its peak in October 2009, the Obama administration reduced unemployment by an average of 0.385% per year. In its first three years, the Trump administration decreased it by 0.4% per year, which supports the idea that Trump’s policies simply continued the progress Obama made. Omitting the 2009 peak, Trump’s failure to contain the pandemic left the nation with the highest unemployment rate in twenty-nine years.

Elections – Every recount, audit, and review; every court that was asked to determine whether there was evidence of fraud; every state elections administrator from both parties all agreed that the 2020 was the most accurate and secure election we’ve ever had. That was because unfounded predictions of fraudulent or incorrect vote counts caused many states to completely overhaul their voting rules and systems during the pandemic. Yet, false claims of a stolen election have left millions of Americans wrongly believing that Joe Biden’s victory wasn’t legitimate. They have also widened and exacerbated the schisms in our country, leaving us with an explosive situation as anarchists and other extremists continue to threaten the violent overthrow of the government.

But even after the demonstrations and insurrections calm down, we will be left with an election process that was badly flawed before 2020. Billionaires have been trying to buy elections ever since the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, and in most cases, it’s impossible to identify who the actual donors were. Gerrymandering still causes legislative election results to incorrectly represent popular vote totals, and this cements one-party control in many states. Finally, there is the Electoral College. Enough said.

Climate Change and the Environment – Using Executive Orders and the Executive Branch’s power to change regulations, Trump has done everything possible to subvert attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change. He withdrew from the Paris Accords, and the New York Times reported in November 2020, that over four years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled major climate policies and rolled back more than 100 rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals.” Fortunately, President Elect Biden will reverse most of those on his first day in office.

Trade, Diplomacy, Immigration, and International Relations – Trump has shaken our allies’ confidence in the United States to a degree that most experts fear has done permanent damage to NATO and our influence throughout the world. His administration and he personally have been an object of ridicule in almost every foreign capital, friends and adversaries alike.

The renegotiation of NAFTA and renaming it USMCA strengthened the agreement, but in every other respect, Trump’s trade wars have been a disaster. Promised incentives to force American corporations to bring jobs back from overseas labor markets never materialized.

There has been no progress in formulating a new immigration policy, and the status of 643,000 DACA recipients is as uncertain as the day Trump took office. The worst stain on Trump’s record is the separation of thousands of refugee children from their parents at our southern border. The children aren’t in cages anymore, but more than 500 of them have parents whose whereabouts are unknown because immigration authorities “can’t locate them.”

Our Military – Trump’s autocratic tendencies have caused an unprecedented number of current and former military leaders to condemn his policies and publicly describe him as unstable and unfit to lead the country.

Moral Leadership – The lack of moral leadership has been the single overriding constant of the Trump administration. Trump’s incitement of insurrection was only the final act in his disgraceful performance as president.

The Worst President – The debate over whether Trump was the worst president in American history may never be resolved, but since he’s competing with Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge for that dishonor, the bar is pretty low.

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