Is it time to move on from Trump?

Trump’s stain on the presidency will only dissipate if the country stops fixating on him


Courtesy of New York Magazine

New York Attorney General Letitia James announces a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump.

Conor Metzger, Staff Columnist

New York Attorney General Letitia James recently filed a civil suit against former President Donald Trump, claiming he inflated asset prices to get better deals. This suit is just one of many to have been brought against the former president and is obviously calculated for the midterm elections, in which Democrats are projected to lose big. This has left the Democratic Party with no choice but to pivot to their old, reliable talking point to motivate their base: that the Trump presidency was a nightmare.

I’m using “nightmare” here for a specific reason — for one, I fall into the camp that  believes that Trump and his time in office will not be looked upon favorably in the annals of history. I use it to draw a lesson from the records that have already been written. I wish to preface my argument by saying that  Trump— a non-political media personality who decided to be president for reasons that remain unclear— was an anomaly in himself.  While it is difficult to compare him with any other president, there is a key point we can take away by looking at the end of President Nixon’s term.

Nixon left office in disgrace, having admitted to crimes involving break-ins, bribery and other political intrigues. It was a story that left a stain not just on him, but on the American presidency for decades to come. The American people, for the first time, did not see a leader whom they could respect, no matter what side of the aisle they were on. Instead, they saw a human with flaws. This weight has carried into our modern-day conception of the president, and it may be for the better. When Nixon resigned the presidency, people were ready to viscously attack him and try him for his crimes … but this did not come to be. 

In one of his first acts of office, President Gerald Ford made the decision to pardon Nixon for crimes committed, meaning that Nixon was legally guilty of the crimes, but did not have to stand trial or punishment. This decision upset people of both parties at the time, but it is now considered one of the most selfless acts that an American president has committed. Why did President Ford do it? In his own words, he wanted “our long national nightmare [to be] over.”

This is where we are now — with the Democrats pushing us to not forget the nightmare and the Republicans in complete denial that there ever was one. There is an in-between, though, of remembering a memory and living that memory. Right now, we are constantly living in the memory of Trump, and we have to move on.

Of course, there are differences between Trump and Nixon. For one, Nixon admitted to his wrongs, while Trump is adamant that there has been no wrongdoing. Also, Trump could still run again, justifiably worrying some conscientious voters. However, we have to accept a public view of looking ahead, not behind. Every new article about Trump either elicits unneeded hatred from Democrats or stokes the flames of hope for Republicans that their leader will come back and prove everyone wrong. 

Emotion and vanity are two qualities that can be difficult to attach to a president. I raised the point earlier that Watergate led to a complete distrust in the American Presidency, but is this good or bad? Should we place the President on a pedestal of trust? Or should we hold them accountable to their human flaws? 

I will be honest and say I am not sure of these answers. It would not necessarily be a bad thing if we moved in the realm in between these absolutes, but lately it feels like we can’t help either liking or hating whoever is in that chair. However, respect is not made up of feelings. Trump’s effect on American politics has been complicated, but maybe we were too quick to make judgments. Maybe Democrats are to blame for only seeing his weaknesses and Republicans are to blame for only seeing his strengths. Going back to the realm of respect, this involves recognizing both fault and merit within the president. 

With every new attention-grabbing headline and voter conspiracy, Trump has left his own stain on the American presidency that we will have to recognize. But most of a stain can be washed away in time, which is precisely what President Ford was doing. If we let it sit and grow, then that is where we have to look at our own failures as a people.