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America’s Post-Trump Reckoning

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NEW HAVEN – Whether America can restore its global standing over the next four years will depend on the American people’s ability to come together, as a nation, to lead the world in addressing global problems in a manner consistent with the rule of law. Whither America? Alex Wong/Getty Images The Danger of Deplatforming Trump Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images Saving America’s Public Pensions PS OnPoint Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images Previous Next

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NEW HAVEN – Whether America can restore its global standing over the next four years will depend on the American people’s ability to come together, as a nation, to lead the world in addressing global problems in a manner consistent with the rule of law.

During the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, America faced mostly self-inflicted crises, but the COVID-19 disaster cast Trump’s signature weaknesses in stark relief: topsy-turvy policymaking, unbridled mendacity, and conspiracy mongering. Everyone now appreciates the profound deficiencies of Trump’s obsession with “deals.” His transactional approach – marked by cascades of threats, tit-for-tat retaliations, abrupt reversals, and hollow photo-ops – has devastated longstanding relationships and alliances originally built on genuine bonds of mutual interest, affection, confidence, trust, cooperation, and sacrifice.

Worse, Trump’s contempt for relationships was paired with an equally stunning scorn for truth, diplomacy, bureaucracy, and other essential ingredients of sound administration, at both the national and the multilateral level. His startling disregard for expertise and science has resulted in the erosion and degradation of previously independent and effective national institutions such as the US Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the FBI, and the US intelligence community.

As Trump’s presidency lurched into its fourth chaotic year, his disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare his flawed overall approach to governing. His failure to implement a national plan to provide testing, protective equipment, ventilators, paycheck protections, contact tracing, or, looking ahead, vaccine delivery, intersected with his administration’s bullheaded efforts to undermine Americans’ health care through reactionary judicial appointments. And America’s complete disengagement from any coordinated global effort to tackle the pandemic all but ensured that the dual public health and economic crises would spin out of control.

The result has been a harrowing decline in America’s longstanding reputation for competence. By trashing the US tradition of constructive engagement with (admittedly imperfect) multilateral institutions, Trump has encouraged a destructive race to the bottom on key economic and climate issues, triggering a dangerous trend toward vaccine nationalism. Instead of standing for truth, justice, and the “American way,” he and his cronies have transformed America into a sad exemplar of deception, opportunism, and beggar-thy-neighbor dissembling.

Perhaps most fundamentally, as the recent election only confirmed, Trump has shown contempt for the values and institutions underpinning the rule of law. These include free and fair elections, the peaceful transfer of power, an independent judiciary and civil service, non-political prosecutions, independent media, and protections for racial, religious, and sexual minorities.

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