In November, Covid-19 permitting, there will be an election in America. Many are now convinced that Biden will break the tradition of a president getting two terms and win the election. However, this does not mean that the legacy of Trump will be easy to erase.
What exactly is Trump’s legacy?
Well in the short term, it will be a badly handled crisis that caused thousands of deaths. An administration that advocated violence against those protesting Institutional racism. And a country with a faltering economy. However, long after the protests die down and the American economy recovers, his longer-term legacy will be one of discord, resentment, and polarisation. People will look back on this time, as one where the press was no longer trusted by anyone and where politics came before anything else, even the truth.
There are many ways in which this will manifest itself in the American political system, and there is a danger to the legislative and political process within America itself. The clearest and most obvious way is through the judiciary. Trump has appointed two justices, one of which replaced a more liberal-leaning judge. This means that all decisions relating to constitutional issues must be put before a far more conservative Supreme Court. This would mean even a democratic president with all the backing of the house and the senate would struggle to get any gun control law passed, and we can say goodbye to Medicare or changes to abortion laws. Moreover, if he does win four more years, he will likely get another pick at a justice which could mean a conservative-leaning judiciary for 20 more years to come. However, outside of the external threat to liberal values, he has also made a tear in the fabric of American politics. One that may be impossible to repair.
Trust in the media has hit an all-time low and Trump has both driven and profited off of this. In discrediting any news source that comes out about him, he now has a band of loyal followers who refuse to believe anything other than what Trump and Fox News says. This has also had the opposite effect as well; those who dislike Trump are tending to not believe anything other than CNN and agreeable politicians. This has, by many, been classed as a culture war.
People live in an echo chamber of their own ideas, Trump has pushed this and legitimised the dangerous idea that you do not have to discuss things with people you disagree with. This has also led to one of the most significant things that can happen in a political system: polarisation. One side cannot talk to the other and when they do, they become irritated and entrench themselves further. This trickles down into legislation that does not listen to other points of view and culminates in government shutdowns and worse legislation for it.
Now, no-one is claiming that America was the land of the respectful political debate before Trump. Polarisation in America has been around since the start of democracy in America — the system has a lot to answer for. Despite this, it seems obvious to spectators that he has turned up the volume on polarisation to the max, in an attempt to gain more political power. People that vote for Trump are angry. Polarisation gives that anger a political avenue and pushes polarisation further. But then again, this might just be ‘fake news’!
When voters come to the polls in November, I believe that they will elect Trump once again. But even if the Democrats manage to make Joe Biden an attractive option for president (no small feat in itself), the trace of Trump and so-called Trumpism will live on in American politics for years to come. Bitterness and divisiveness, where the economy takes a backseat and cultural issues are thrust forward will be the new normal. To misquote Bill Clinton: ‘it’s not the economy stupid’. Because cultural issues are far less likely to be won by facts and debate but by shouting the loudest.
Polarisation is okay and populism is good, but only when you win of course. When the left win again in America, they will be harder left and more aggressive than ever before because of Trump. As many Trump supporters will soon find out, popularism swings both ways. Trump may have just about found a way of removing the centre-ground and bipartisanship from American politics forever.
Trump has ultimately pulled the right away from the centre and pushed the left away at every opportunity. His weapons of choice are anger and divisiveness. The result means less compromise, less pragmatism and fundamentally meaner politics. Every president has a legacy and changes America forever. However, Trump will have changed America more than most, and this new style of politics is bad for it, bad for legislation and ultimately bad for the people. This will not change come Novemeber.