No presidency lasts forever. That said, a leader's political rhetoric and policies extend well beyond the duration of his or her reign. Already, you might be wondering how Donald Trump's legacy will affect politics in the long run. And considering the path he's been steering the country towards, it may not look comforting.
First off, let's consider the rights of religious minorities in the United States. During his campaign, Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration, unmistakably playing on the fears generated by Islamophobia in American society. Issued in the early weeks of his presidency, Trump's travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries is likely to affect the perception of American Muslims even after his administration and the ban is gone.
If not his Islamophobic rhetoric, consider Trump's promise to build a "big, beautiful wall" on the border of Mexico along with his demonizing rhetoric toward Mexicans. While speaking of Mexico's locals in his campaign announcement speech, Trump said, "They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
We're just getting started. Next up: Consider how Trump's legacy will impact the already-tense intersection of race and class. Trump built a powerful base of followers by speaking of the struggles of America's white blue collar workers. But even conservatives have noted that Trump exploited the grievances of America's working class in his own favor and that he will ultimately let them down. Justin Gest, an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University, explained to the Washington Post that Trump gained a following among working class white Americans by promising them a return to "prominence" in American politics.
The danger of political rhetoric that takes advantage of the all-too-real pain of the white working class is that it paints American patriotism as an whites-only club. It prioritizes white America's resentment over everything else.
Race has always been a loaded subject in the United States and racism is not a product of Trump alone, but his legacy could pit white Americans against people of color at even more extreme level. Prior to even beginning his campaign, Trump would speak of crime caused by "blacks and Hispanics" in the United States. Such debunked views like "Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and Hispanics — a tough subject — must be discussed" were picked up during the presidential campaign in 2016. Even after Trump has left the White House, such a rift could remain.
Then there's gender. For instance, by consistently threatening to defund Planned Parenthood, signing the Global Gag Rule, promising to appoint judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade, defunding the United Nations program for family planning and maternal care, revoking the Fair Pay And Safe Workplaces Order which protected working class women, and offering conditional support to Planned Parenthood only if it ceases its abortion services, Trump has demonstrated his position when it comes to ensuring women have safe and affordable access to reproductive health care.
It isn't women's reproductive rights alone that have been targeted by the administration. Trump's pre-campaign and open bragging about sexual assault — which he apologized for later on — sent a disturbing message throughout the world: A man's recorded statements on groping a woman still won't affect his chance to become the president of the world's most powerful country.
When it comes to the LGBTQ community, the upholding of rights of some of America's most marginalized groups looks challenging. From picking anti-choice and anti-gay marriage Roger Severino for the Office of Civil Rights to announcing a ban on transgender members in the American military, Trump's move sends a loud and clear message to transgender individuals about being accepted in American public life. Although it isn't clear whether the ban will be enforced, support from officials within the military has been clear. Joint chiefs of staff chairman Joseph Dunford said, "We will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."
Trump's legacy goes beyond its impact on American society. Its implications can also be spelled out in cold, hard numbers. Trump's moves to amplify defense expenditure and infrastructure along with deporting scores of people is expected to put a dent in government spending. Such aggressive deportation would leave millions of workers and their families dispersed.
The Economist issued a concerning evaluation of the effect of Trump's approach toward international institutions and wrote that it would be "difficult to imagine" new trade deals between the United States and other countries due to Trump's hostile ideas on foreign policy. By espousing such aggression, the risk of isolationism becomes even more real under Trump. For example, perhaps the most glaring incident of Trump's lack of cooperation came during the Paris climate accord. While addressing the world, Trump said that the United States would pull out of the agreement. Such a statement shows lack of commitment from Trump, which is disturbing given the superpower status of the United States of America.
Trump's relationship with the press won't exactly leave a great model to look up to for the next presidency, either. By continuously referring to news media as "fake news" and ruthlessly ridiculing members of the press, Trump's rapport — or severe lack thereof — with the press sets an incredibly negative example of government-press relations. It could widen the chasm between both institutions and produce unnecessary cynicism and vitriol against journalism, which is one of the most critical pillars of any democratic society.
Perhaps the most glaring problem produced by Trump's legacy comes from the strife within his very own administration. It is highly unlikely that Trump's presidency will be seen as an instance of a robust governmental regime. With communications director Anthony Scaramucci out, a resigned press secretary Sean Spicer, a removed chief of staff Reince Priebus, an ousted FBI director James Comey, a fired Attorney General Sally Yates, a resigned national security adviser Michael Flynn, and other figures, the Trump presidential model comes across as a flimsy, volatile, and ephemeral one.
Whether it is concerning the safety of racial and religious minorities, stoking the resentment of blue collar white workers, gloating about sexual assault, or threatening to defund reproductive rights programs for women, Trump's legacy is bound to leave a lasting mark on American politics and society.
But there may just be one positive outcome, too: Opposition to Trump has generated a new fervor and interest in progressive politics, especially among young people. This could help with mitigating the consequences of his legacy whether it is about gender right, sexuality, racial and religious minorities, press relations, budget spending, and more.
Hopefully, with the rising level of political engagement taking place among young progressives, the pending aftereffect of such a mercurial and unpredictable presidency can be effectively curtailed. It's a long battle but not an impossible one.