Presidential legacies are fickle things. Legacies are how we rank the importance of each president’s contributions to American life. The longer a policy or change made by a president is in place, the greater the impact on future generations. For instance, Franklin D. Roosevelt has an incredibly long-lasting legacy, as much of the New Deal is still relevant today. Abraham Lincoln has the legacy of freeing the slaves. Lyndon Johnson is tied to Medicare and Medicaid.
Of course, other presidents do not leave a lasting impact. For example, Jimmy Carter’s presidency was largely erased by his successors, and there isn’t much left of his legacy. Temporary changes like tax increases or breaks are easily wiped out by a succeeding president, whereas large, sweeping policy changes are more difficult to wipe away. Even Supreme Court Justices have a shelf life, and many don’t exactly pan out the way they were initially intended.
Former President Trump’s legacy took less than a year to completely wipe away. All of the tax breaks have been repealed. The wall’s construction has been halted, leaving it to be completed by individual states. Climate policy – erased. Immigration policy – removed (then quietly reinstated). His only real lasting legacy happens to be everything that happened in the Middle East. The deals between several Islamic nations and Israel are still intact, many that have not officially signed on are warming to Israel, including Saudi Arabia, and the American consulate is still in Jerusalem. All of Trump’s accomplishments that have lasting power are 6,000 miles away from Washington.
But the final area of the Trump legacy fell earlier this month: his negative impact on future elections. Throughout the four years of Donald Trump, all Americans heard was how lasting an impact Trump would have on an entire generation of Americans. Young voters would be completely turned off from the Republican Party for years to come. The GOP would have a difficult time recovering from the damage Trump brought.
It took one election. Not the next presidential election. Not the midterms. The next election. One year after losing the presidency. Ten months after leaving the White House. It took that short a time for the Democrats to erase this legacy of stench Donald Trump left with the younger generation. This seems to be the way of American politics these days. How long did the strong Democratic coalition built by Barack Obama take to fall? The first time he was off the ballot. This is what happened to the passionate anti-Trumpers: They vanished once he was no longer running. In what can only be seen as a rebuke to the local and national Democratic agenda, Republicans tore through reliably blue states and localities such as Virginia, New Jersey, and closer to home, Nassau County. While Democrats decided to live in the past by running against Donald Trump, Republicans chose to move on from Trump and run on issues.
The problem Democrats came to face is that they are actually quite unpopular. The only thing that kept them afloat was how much more unpopular Trump was than they were. Once the boogeyman was removed, there was nothing left to run against. Successful Republicans were able to balance the support of the former president while keeping him at arm’s length. They were able to accept Trump’s endorsement while never appearing with him in person. In fact, if Republicans play this correctly, they can use this as a blueprint for every election until Trump dies. Have him endorse every candidate, but never appear in-person with them. His followers will go along blindly, while nobody has to ever acknowledge him.
Ironically, this is how Donald Trump can have a legacy. He can be a true king-maker. By offering his endorsement but physically staying away from the candidate, he has the power to determine a generation of Republican candidates. It is yet to be determined if his ego can handle staying out of the spotlight, but if Donald Trump would like a legacy, this is the way to do it.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.