During the presidential debate on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Joe Biden told bluntly Donald Trump “You are the worst president America has ever had.” This is a difficult judgment to either confirm or deny. Given America’s broad history, there have been many presidents who have been bad in different ways. Twelve presidents owned enslaved people who, in the worst case scenario, are not to blame for Trump. Other presidents enabled either slavery or American apartheid.
Even so, Trump has had few equals to actually make America worse instead of just repeating its bad qualities. If he’s not the worst president ever, he’s among the worst, joining the grim rank that includes James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush.
Many political obituaries for the Trump administration attest to the extent of his failure. Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker offers what is now the standard charge: “He leaves a city and country killed since Tuesday by four hundred thousand Americans who have died from a pandemic the severity of which he has downplayed and denied. an economic crisis; and an internal political divide so great that it is worth comparing to the civil war. “
With the advent of new varieties of Covid that spread faster, Trump’s legacy looks even worse. According to Health expert Dr. Tom Peace“A terrible new projection shows that COVID-19 will reduce life expectancy in the US by 1.1 years, with the number of Black and Latinx populations falling three to four times, reversing more than 10 years of progress and closes the black and white gap in life expectancy. ”
In almost every way, Trump offers only negative lessons. He is a role model for how not to govern. It is hoped and expected that Biden will not repeat Trump’s nepotism, his appointment of corrupt and incompetent officials, his disdain for expertise, his obstruction of justice, his praise of dictators, his use of the presidential office for personal gain and political retribution, pardons of cronies who Protect him from his investigation, his racism, his lies, his incitement to violence and rioting and the thousand other mistakes that Trump made day after day for four years.
However, it would be a mistake to ignore the way Trump also offers some surprisingly positive lessons. Any full analysis of the Trump era must also come to terms with the fact that this man, uniquely unpopular By any measure of public opinion, he has won the presidency once – and almost won it again.
Of course, Trump had an advantage in the electoral college. However, that doesn’t explain the boost in reputation it enjoyed from 2016 to 2020 despite the dire economy and disastrous response to Covid. In 2016, Trump received 62,984,828 votes, or 46.1 percent of the total. In 2020, Trump received 74,223,254 votes, or 46.9 percent of the total vote. In other words, there were at least 11 million Americans who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and 2020. Thankfully, the number of Americans who voted for the Democratic candidate rose by more than 15 million. But as for the electoral college, both elections were astonishingly close. A difference of only 44,000 votes in three states (Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin) would have re-elected Donald Trump.
The painful reality is that, despite Trump’s countless horrific acts, there have been a significant number of Americans willing to give him a second chance. The question is why.
The most plausible explanation is the economy, where Trump defied the misguided mainstream consensus that has long said that 4 percent unemployment is the lowest level that can be achieved without triggering inflation. Trump successfully bullied the Federal Reserve into adopting loose money policies that brought America much closer to full employment (and rising real wages) before the pandemic.
And during the pandemic, Trump welcomed the generous increase in unemployment insurance, which dramatically improved the lives of the working poor. As Eric Levitz wrote in the new York Magazine: “With its weekly unemployment benefits of US $ 600 and US $ 1,200, the CARES Act has managed to bring the poverty rate in America to the lowest level since pandemic unemployment began. The immediate improvement in the lives of tens of millions of working class Americans did not come at any discernible cost to the wealthy: no spike in inflation undermined the value of their wealth, no tax hike to cover the cost of spending. ”
Levitz believes that Trump’s embrace of full employment, if continued by his successors, will be a “transformative” political change. His assessment is: “If US politics continues to follow its current trend, the Trump presidency will mark a crucial era in US politics in which both parties are more interested in promoting demand and full employment than in preventing inflation and.” the monitoring of deficits. ”
Trump really didn’t care about deficits, which led the Liberals to brand him a hypocrite, having previously accused the Democrats of taking over the national tab. But the accusation of hypocrisy is weak. Rather than branding Trump as a hypocrite, it would be far better to imitate him as a rugged Keynesian.
The other political lesson that Trump teaches is that there is no reason to be shy about giving people money. In previous recessions, presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama have didn’t put their names on checks. Trump’s insistence that his name appear on stimulus checks has been viewed as dry. That may be the case, but it was also an effective policy and helped strengthen that Trump had strong performance in polls Measure its management of the economy.
If you put your name on checks, or at least boast that the checks are mailed, it can be defended on democratic grounds. Most people choose not only for high ideological reasons, but because they want concrete results that will improve their lives. This is a reasonable expectation and it is justified for politicians to recognize these results.
Trump has often been denounced as a transactional politician. But there is a difference between corrupt deals like the consideration with which he tried to strike with the Ukrainian president and giving his voters what they want. The fact is, Trump did everything possible to add important items to their wish-lists for each part of the Republican coalition. For the wealthy, he gave tax cuts and deregulation. He gave evangelicals conservative judges. He gave the hawks of national security a larger military budget.
Biden would do well to emulate at least some aspects of Trump’s political approach. Biden should focus on forcing the Federal Reserve to stick to an agenda of full employment and easy money, ignoring deficit hawks in his party, giving out loud loans for generous stimulus checks, and keeping his promises to his political base. If he does, he will have learned the right lessons from the Trump era.