It won't take years of reflection for historians to judge Donald "Mango Mussolini" Trump's presidency. In fact, it's not quite over and they're already weighing in. Of course, you don't have to be a history or political science professor to see the obvious. Here are a few notables.
President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had. [snip]
As Trump prepares to leave Washington, the capital is more agitated than during any previous presidential transition since 1861, with thousands of National Guard troops deployed around the city. There have been serious threats to previous inaugurations. But for the first time in the modern era, those threats are internal. An incumbent president is being asked to discourage terrorism by supporters acting in his name.
There are many verdicts on Donald Trump still to come, from the Senate, from juries of private citizens, from scholars and historians. But as a result of his subversion of national security, his reckless endangerment of every American in the pandemic, and his failed insurrection on January 6, one thing seems abundantly clear: Trump is the worst president in the 232-year history of the United States.
“You never want to be ranked below William Henry Harrison, who was only president for one month. If you rank below him, it means you’ve harmed the country,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. “Now you’re getting into James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson territory. Trump will automatically be in that category.”
George Washington University professor Matthew Dallek (same link as above):
... “The fact that 74 million people could vote for someone who is a conspiracy theorist and a perpetual liar and encouraged violence and the Proud Boys and white supremacy — in that sense, the Trump presidency will be important for those reckoning with: ‘What does it mean to be an American?’ And also: ‘What does it mean to live in what a lot of people thought was the world’s greatest experiment in democracy, when it turns out that experiment is incredibly fragile?’ ”
Brandeis University professor Leah Wright-Rigeur (same link as above):
...Trump’s presidency has been a case study in the “naked, unadulterated pursuit of power and self-interest, at the cost of 400,000 lives and at the cost of the American union.”
She added that Trump’s four years have dramatically exposed what racial minorities and other marginalized Americans have long understood — that the nation’s democracy has always been “brutal, exclusionary and flawed” for many citizens.
The storming of the Capitol “will be the moment everybody remembers about Trump’s presidency,” Wright-Rigueur said. “It tells the story about the failures of American democracy — not just about Trump, but also the centuries-old lies we tell ourselves about who we are.”
Broadly speaking: Donald Trump, and his enablers in the Republican Party and conservative media, have put American democracy to the test in an unprecedented way. As a historian who studies the intersection of media and the presidency, it is truly striking the ways in which he has convinced millions of people that his fabricated version of events is true.
What happened on 6 January at the US Capitol is a culmination of over four years during which President Trump actively advanced misinformation.
Just as Watergate and the impeachment inquiry dominated historical interpretations of Richard Nixon's legacy for decades, I do think that this particular post-election moment will be at the forefront of historical assessments of his presidency.
"The loss of trust both domestically and internationally for the United States, for our institutions and our elections will probably be the most significant legacy, because that kind of thing takes so many decades to get back," Chervinsky said. "Our international standing has really suffered."
... "I'd put him right alongside Andrew Johnson – who laid the groundwork for the roll-back of reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow – as the worst. What he has unleashed in our politics is horrifying." [snip]
"Things that a year or two ago, Trump's defenders could have pointed to as signs of real success have evaporated. We've had the pandemic and his utter failure to deal with it as well as his unending assault on democracy."
Meanwhile, this tweet hasn't aged well:
It speaks poorly to the field of presidential scholarship that political scientists have Trump ranked as the worst president of all time **after only one year on the job**, below presidents who e.g. helped blunder us into the Civil War & Great Depression. https://t.co/QGjW2gwCU4 pic.twitter.com/VpddS46Rkb— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 19, 2018
Some people are just good at analysis and forecasting, and some aren't... Nate.
Frankly, the best assessment is from someone who's been hitting it on the head for 4 years:
Nailed it again.