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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14 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.

  6. Colin Gordy says:

    I definitely agree that Trump has tainted our country’s image over the last four years. A middle ground in politics is ideal, but I don’t think it’s possible. Our country is more divided than ever, and it’s going to take more than Joe and Kamala to fix it. I am optimistic about Biden’s presidency, but I don’t think Biden is going to fix all of the problems we’re hoping he will. The best thing to hope for, in my opinion, is for the Biden administration to bring actual change and seem less foolish, but even that is uncertain.

  7. Chloe Sharp says:

    I agree with Dr. Easterling in that the American people needed to get Trump out of office. Period. I am still unsure if Joe Biden was the best person to do that job, but for now, we need to take it one step at a time and let the country heal. I feel that this was the main goal of the Democratic party as well when they nominated Joe Biden. Many people don’t agree with a lot of his policies, myself included, and because he works across the aisle so much I don’t believe he will pass most of the progressive policy that he has promised. However, the goal in this election was to get a wildly unqualified, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, narcissistic orange man out of the presidential office, and Joe Biden proved to be the man to do this. Will he get everything done that he has promised? I personally don’t believe he will. However, I do believe that he will put an end to the damage the last administration caused so that we can pave the way towards a more progressive future.

  8. Vineel Vanga says:

    Biden is definitely going to have a hard time in office because of the political gridlock in the senate and senate and House interactions. Our current system is so polarized to where it can be hard for future leaders to enact change because we people rely on party line voting rather than personal interest. However, if we lived in an ideal place where we were free from this discord and corruption in the government then I still don’t think Biden is going to lead the way to success. Between Trump and Biden, Biden is better than Trump, but is he necessarily the best candidate in my opinion. No! I honestly think that other democrats are better suited for enacting change better than Biden. When we see experience, true that experience is good but there are other factors that can hinder experience to being the forefront to change.

  9. Vineeth Vanga says:

    I think Luke put this in the best possible way. While it’s pretty obvious that Trump has tainted the ideals of America with his presidency. Saying that there is one root to his problems is the wrong way to approach it because there is a plethora of things that Donald Trump has done wrong during his presidency that doesn’t just stem from one particular field. Donald Trump got into a whole scandal with Ukraine which lead to him literally being impeached and also decided to go against the people in the BLM movement by ordering violence against them. It is clear that there is no way that these 2 things can find a common ground together, and it’s more likely that they stem from 2 different places of hate in Donald Trump’s places. As much as I’m happy that a Democrat won this election, I don’t think that Joe Biden is the entire solution to the problem that’s been created. Biden is heavily centrist, and while that’s not always a bad thing it’s not the best for trying to alleviate the scars left behind by the Trump Presidency. It honestly all depends on the amount of power he gives Kamala, because while one may not agree with her political statements, there is a common consensus that she is definitely subject to be more radical with her changes as vice president.

  10. Zaria Cooper says:

    I definitely agree with Luke in most of his points, however, I feel I am optimistic for what Biden will do in these upcoming 4 years. I also, stand on the fact that he will have to clean up the mess that Trump has left for him. I can’t imagine any of that being easy, but Trump leaving office vs. staying in for another 4 years is what America needed. Besides, a more equal government would be ideal but with what Biden has to work with I feel his ability to create a new perspective can help America move forward in the right direction.

  11. Carolena Graham says:

    At the beginning of the election, when finding out who the candidates were, I was disappointed. I had a very pessimistic view. Trump was horrible but my concern was if Biden would be any better. When it came to the final draw Biden was the better candidate. I’m trying my hardest to be optimistic, but it’s hard when Biden has a history of harming black people with his views on crime and drugs. I do agree with your statement about how he can bring people from different perspectives to the table, which can be beneficial to America. To speak on Trump living a life without consequences. I totally agree. The facts are present and his attitude speaks for itself.

  12. Balee Wilson says:

    I will agree that Trump hasn’t done the greatest job while in office, but like others, I will also have to agree that Biden is not the solution to this problem. I don’t think that there is a great chance Biden’s policies will pass through legislation due to the balance of power in Washington. This split could mean one of two things: Legislation will not lean towards one particular way and be able to pass things that bring America back to the “good ole days”, OR legislation will get absolutely nothing done because no one can agree. I honestly believe that the latter will occur. Politics have been so divisive recently and the middle ground is shrinking from day to day. People are choosing sides left and right and sticking to their side’s political beliefs no matter what these particular beliefs consist of. Instead of being respectful of political views, Americans have begun to disrespect people for choosing the opposite side, and I fear that this will be a long lasting negative issue for America. I’m not sure that we will ever get out of this hole we have created because parents now are raising their children to only believe what one party says and completely deny everything that leaves the mouths of people in the opposite party, thus rendering the days where people could just agree to disagree and move on gone for good! There is hardly any agreement present when both parties are involved in the situation, which diminishes any hope that Biden will be able to do much to have a positive impact on America.

  13. Lauren Hood says:

    I personally do not like Trump as a person. However, I do think he deserves credit for being a good businessman. Right now, America is in debt and I think it is important for us to get out of that. I personally think investing in more programs like free healthcare and free college is not the way to go. I think that they would mess up both systems that are in place. I also do not agree with Biden’s approach to environmental issues. I have a friend whose dad works in a coal mine and I have seen the effect it has on their family when a more democratic candidate wins office. I do think that preventing global warming is important. However, I do not agree with the loss of jobs until there are other alternative energy sources in place.

  14. Keyan Rahimi says:

    The most interesting thing about The Trump way and his lack of consequences is how easily he spread his views across Washington and the country. He has caused a deep and rooted divide in the country that may not be fixed for decades. There is no single moment that can be described as the worst in the Trump presidency. For goodness sake, he got impeached, acquitted, and no one batted an eye. What he did was erode at our countries very base, and sew the seeds for a Trump Republican party and a divided nation for years to come.

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