Trump's Last Year In Office Will Define His Legacy, Historians SayHistorians in the News
tags: presidential history, Donald Trump
Historians face a daunting task when it comes time to assessing Donald Trump's presidency, during which news often moved at breakneck pace, and the ramifications of his one-term presidency have yet to be determined.
CNN spoke with nine historians who largely agreed that Trump's final year in office -- mainly, his failure to properly respond to the pandemic and his incitement of a mob of rioters at the US Capitol -- has done more to cement Trump's legacy than the first three years of his presidency. In addition to his Covid-19 response and the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Trump's handling of his first impeachment Senate trial, racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans and his challenge to the 2020 election represents his time in office boiled down to a year, they said.
Trump has set himself apart for his style of communication, including freewheeling speeches and speaking off the cuff in an informal manner. He threw out personal insults, cursed publicly, and regularly repeated mistruths. He used Twitter to govern and issue directives, appeal directly to his supporters, and spread conspiracies. He amplified the cultural wars, stoked racial divisions, and emboldened right wing extremism.
He vilified judges and courts for rulings he disliked, railed against the "deep state" and worked to undermine US intelligence agencies, attacked his own Cabinet members, and waged war against the oversight of his own administration by firing agency watchdogs. A recent directive from Trump makes it easier to push out career officials from the federal government and replace them with loyal political appointees.
"The Trump legacy is an exhausted, divided, bruised country with strained institutions," Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian for CNN, said.
Jeff Engel, a presidential historian and author of "Impeachment: An American History," told CNN that he doesn't "think that anything that President Trump did this year surprised anyone -- either his supporters, or his detractors, or neutral critics."
"What he managed to do over the first three years was to genuinely reveal who he was and everything the last year has just deepened the color palette for that portrait," Engel said.
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