Trump’s irreversible damage to America: In and Out of the White House


The Trump presidency began on January 20, 2017 when he was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America and will soon end on the January 20, 2021. His presidency has been described as one of the most consequential elections in U.S history. Trump’s presidential journey on the one hand was a plethora of false and misleading statements and tweets from his campaign days to the presidency. Now that the clock has ticked for him, Trump is inclined to believe that the very same electoral system that got him into power now wants him out. Both Ernesto Laclau (Author of “the creation of the ‘people’ in the theory of populism) and Chantal Mouffe (Author of “Antagonism” Antagonistic democracy) would have interesting observations about Donald Trump’s term in office and the political discourse itself.

For Laclau, stylistic features such as vague polarizing and strong emotive discourse are not merely epiphenomenal elements of populism, which proves the irrationality of its ideology. They form part of the constitutive elements of populism as they are necessary to create and maintain the division of society into two antagonistic groups.

Mouffe on the other hand would point out how the entire democratic system is in fact flawed and gravitating towards a more antagonistic form of politics. On January 6, 2021 Trump widely shared a lie to the American electorate after realizing that he had lost the elections to President Elect Joe Biden. By all means this was no random or petty lie.

First of all this lie is contingent upon a successful division of American society based on the “them” (everyone and anyone that agrees that Joe Biden won the elections free and fair) and “us” (those who believe that Trump won re-elections) trajectory- no doubt deeply rooted in populist and fascist ideals. This lie fed well into the hearts and minds of the so called America Patriots, a pack of right wing extremists, white nationalists who are Trump’s very own cardinals and commanders and who are so single and narrow minded that they essentially abused their democracy in an effort to delegitimize Biden’s victory as the next president of the United States of America.

From his early days campaigning, Trump played right into the hands of the hyper-nationalist and right-wing extremists, in his speeches he regularly promised to “Put America First” and “Making America Great Again” (the connotations found in the layers of these slogans are known to be toxically imperialistic, racist and antagonistic to others). The Trump administration changes the entire course of America foreign policy- from his stunts of building a trillion dollar wall against Mexicans in the name of putting America first was bad for America’s image in the international community. To further illustrate his disregard for foreign policy and a safe and harmonious global community, Trump further signed America out of ten international treaties including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Iran Nuclear Deal. More than anything, this signaled that the man was out of depth in terms of his leadership as the commander in chief of the most powerful nation of earth.

His failure to devise a formidable strategy to counter the rise of China in terms of trade and global visibility did not only brew detrimental results for American global trade but also created tensions between the two states that might be irreversible politically. To further deny America a chance as a proactive global leader in times of crisis, Trump went off his leadership track referring to the Covid-19 global pandemic as “the Chinese Flu”oras“the Kung-Flu” which was both un-presidential and inhumane.

In many ways, his presidency was a once-unimaginable scenarios in the evolution of political discourse, trends and transformations. Moreover, the violence that took place at the Capitol Hill was unprecedented and unheard of. In some ways, perhaps a revelation of Trump’s chaotic four years in office, and a manifestation of his ruthless attack on American democracy.

Trump’s presidency has been toxic not only to American democracy and electoral credibility. Political correctness was reduced into a mere buzz word during this administration. The evidence is found in two separate events that took place at the Capitol Hill, the primitive and unruly Trump supporters were confronted by very little police presence, stun grenades, larger ammunition apparatus and so forth as opposed to the peaceful demonstrators of the Black Lives Matter Movement who were tear gassed, brutalized and arrested in far greater numbers than the Trump anarchists.

According to the Brookings Institute, Trump’s cabinet turnover was at 91 percent by October 7, 2020. The exiting of high-ranking officials in his administration have surpassed all of his five predecessors. Donald Trump’s presidency has at large been self-intoxicated

Suffice it to say, the last two weeks of Trump’s administration are bleary. Various news networks have reported on the internal deliberations about how to deal with the outgoing president circulated in the hours following the attempted coup. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar said she would draw up new articles of impeachment. Rep. Cori Bush called on the House of Representatives to investigate whether vote-denying lawmakers had “violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution” and should face sanctions or removal. And the specter of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office loomed larger than ever, one of the clearest signs yet that Trump is an imminent threat to the country he was elected to lead. In a presidency that has prided itself in its appetite for chaos, Trump is getting what he wanted, but the long-term damage to America’s standing in the world may be costlier than anyone can quantify.

Charles Matseke
Charles Matseke
Charles Matseke studied his Masters in International Relations and Foreign Policy at the SARChI: Chair for African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg. He is currentlyProgram Manager for Africa-China in International Forums at the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg. His main areas of focus are developmental policy and developmental foreign policy. He has published on these areas in various platforms.