A Life Without Consequences

Everybody knows what would happen if some kid walked up to another kid, called him a punk, and punched him in the mouth.

A fight.

We understand that to be a just and reasonable consequence to name-calling and battery.

What we have in the current president exemplifies the result of a life led without consequence. Nothing indicates that he was a particularly good student, yet he used the advantages of status to gain admission to an Ivy League school after two undistinguished years at Fordham. He dodged the draft during the Vietnam War not once but several times. He declared bankruptcy six times in two decades to stiff creditors while building his own personal brand and wealth. He made a habit of entering into contracts and then breaking them when he thought he could get away with it, or when he didn’t feel like paying. He avoids paying his fair share of income taxes–I cannot name a teacher, lawyer, or doctor who paid only $750 in federal income taxes during any fiscal year.

Trump would have people believe that he gets away with such things because he’s smarter than anyone else and because he’s a skilled negotiator. The truth seems to be that like most schoolyard bullies, he does whatever he can get away with. Nobody has been able to get him to face a fact for 74 years.

Until now.

The American people have voted him out of office. We don’t know the exact margin yet because results in some states are being recounted. What we do know is that Biden’s current advantages can be measured in the thousands in each state he won. No recount in American history has flipped more than a few hundred votes. Biden also won the election by more than 5 million votes nationwide.

Trump cannot reckon with losing because he has never had to face a consequence. Unlike his failures in business, his failures in this election cannot be wiped away in a bankruptcy court. Unlike his failed marriages, he cannot soothe discontent with alimony. The checks in his political account are starting to bounce. The damage he he has done to our American brand of democracy will not be fully articulated for years–not until the people who have supported him come to grips with his narcissistic blurring of fantasies and facts.

Historians who write about the Trump presidency will have a difficult time isolating the worst thing that he did during his term. Whatever that moment turns out to be, it will have as its root Trump’s conviction that he can do anything he wants because people will let him.

Where will American politics go from here? Biden will probably not have a majority in the Senate that will rubber stamp progressive proposals for health care and the environment–among other things. However, Biden does have five decades of experience in bringing people from different perspectives to the table to hammer out legislation that can be beneficial to all Americans. The split realignment (Dems running the White House and House of Representatives, with the GOP controlling the Senate) in Washington suggests that the people expect government to find middle ground between the left and right extremes that dominate our headlines. I hope that will be the consequence of this election.

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5 Responses to A Life Without Consequences

  1. Luke Bowles says:

    I think the brilliant Dr. Thomas Easterling approached but did not quite reach the correct conclusion. There is no concrete “worst moment” in Donald Trump’s presidency. Instead, the “worst moment” was the four years of lies and operation without fear of consequences. This scenario has created a toxic, volatile political environment for the media and everyday Americans. I also think that Biden won’t change much at all. I wish I was optimistic, but I’m not. His legacy of stance on crime and drugs that has harmed thousands of Black people has crushed all of my optimism. Trump was the problem, but Biden is not the solution.

  2. Scarlett Bedingfield says:

    I agree that the middle ground would be the optimal place for our government to be. I don’t know how probable it is that we will ever actually end up there, though. That would require people to put aside some of their beliefs in order to compromise, and a lot of people are just so selfish that they refuse to do that. I also agree with Luke that Biden is not the solution to everything wrong with America right now. Trump did so much damage to so many minorities. I don’t think that Biden will continue that behavior, but I also can’t imagine him being able to right all of those wrongs.

  3. Mason Pettit says:

    Trump has done almost irreparable damage to America and its democracy, and in the future Joe Biden’s administration will be judged strongly on whether or not he can piece America back together after Trump has deepened divisions and fractured our country through his gross rhetoric and even worse policies. 100 years down the line, Joe Biden could go down as one of the worst presidents of all time if he fails to heal the rupture in America’s populace. I don’t know if Biden has the potential to be a great president. Not only is Biden himself too uninspiring to be great, but I don’t think any president could be great in such a divided time. Biden has signed up for a thankless position where if he achieves his almost impossible goal he will still not be viewed as great, and if he fails he could go down as one of the greatest failures in American history. There’s no doubt that the Biden administration will be less of a clown show than the Trump administration, but with so many people in the cult of Trump, even if Trump’s not in office, Biden will have to continue to fight against Trump throughout his administration. Trump will use his position and his social media to control the republican party from the outside of politics, and so many people will just follow whatever he says because they know it will help them get reelected because so many people inexplicably love Trump.

  4. Michael Lu says:

    I agree, Dr. Easterling, that there is hope that the US government can pass middle-ground bipartisan legislation, but hope can be deceiving. Oftentimes, we’ve had split control in the government, and nothing has gotten done. This is especially true for Presidents who aim for more progressive changes in areas where there aren’t as many middle-ground solutions. For instance, there isn’t really a possible compromise when it comes to abortion, an idea that Biden strongly supports. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Biden; I definitely agree with his green energy policies and public options for healthcare. I just don’t think that much can get done in these four years because of a mix of the split government and his progressive policies.

  5. Dylan Griffith says:

    For the past 4 years, America has dealt with a hot-headed 4 year-old armed with a twitter and more nuclear weapons than useless facts about movies memorized by Dr. E. While Trump was certainly a disgrace to American politics, I fear just as much for Joe Biden’s term in office. Both Trump and Biden are far from spring chickens, and 79 years is way too old to start a presidential term. Although Biden doesn’t have bad health, at his age, health can change in an instant. Nonetheless, with a Republican senate, Biden will have a tough time restoring Trump’s demolition, and he will have to rely on compromise. In any event, Biden faces an enormous challenge that will take much longer than 4 years to overcome.

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