Some Very Quick Thoughts on What Historians Might Write About Trump’s Election

trump-pressJohn Lewis may be correct.  The Russian hacking controversy and the last-minute Comey/FBI revelations about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails has deligitimized Donald Trump’s presidency. Yes, the Electoral College selected him last month.  Yes, he will assume office next week. Yes, Clinton was not a perfect candidate. She probably should have offered a more compelling message to the American people and finished the campaign in a stronger fashion.  And we may never know if Putin’s hacks and Comey’s announcement had any direct effect on voting in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or elsewhere.

I am afraid that Lewis’s remarks about Trump’s legitimacy, while important, will get little traction outside of the Democratic Party.  But historians will write about all of this.  People will always wonder if Trump won fair and square.  There will always be a figurative asterisk next to Trump’s name in the history books.  Some historians will try to defend Trump, but in order to do so they will need to dredge all of this stuff up again and bring it to the attention of the American public.

And if Americans ever get around to doing away with the Electoral College, the Trump victory (and the Bush victory in 2000 and others) will be seen by many as a betrayal of democracy made possible by an antiquated and out of date electoral system.  Al Gore and Hillary Clinton will be portrayed as victims of such a system.

Of course this is all very preliminary.  Historians will also judge Trump on what happens in the next four years and beyond.  We do know, however, that Trump’s kryptonite is the idea that he is not a legitimate POTUS.

6 thoughts on “Some Very Quick Thoughts on What Historians Might Write About Trump’s Election

  1. Yes, it’ll taint Brady all the way to the Hall of Fame. ;-P

    Hey, I thought I was being pretty even-handed by assigning the Clinton impeachment similar footnote status. It’ll be mentioned, but had no measurable effect. I’d say that Trump’s 46% could have been a factor, but like Clinton’s mere 43% in 1992, his party’s control of Congress rather moots the absence of a popular vote mandate.

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  2. will be seen by many as a betrayal of democracy made possible by an antiquated and out of date electoral system

    That is a political value judgment, and of questionable propriety if historians are to offer themselves as social “scientists.” That the Constitution is a “betrayal of democracy” is a contentious phrasing, indeed rather purple: Most democratic nations employ a system of indirect election of their chief executive. The USA is by no means unique or even noteworthy to political science.

    http://www.saveourstates.com/2010/the-electoral-college-versus-the-world/

    In only 10 of these countries does a directly elected chief of state also serve as head of government. These are the national popular vote nations.

    Argentina
    Brazil
    Chile
    Columbia
    Cyprus
    Georgia
    Ghana
    Mexico
    Peru

    And how are most heads of government selected? Most–40–are chosen by legislative bodies. Another 26 are appointed by other elected officials. Hong Kong elects their “Chief Executive” at a convention. Altogether, 68 of the countries at the 2010 Olympics use other elected officials to select the head of government. These systems are similar to the original design of the Electoral College. But in practice, America’s current Electoral College system is likely the most democratic of any of these indirect methods of election.

    I would agree with that last bit because in parliamentary systems, creating coalitions with minor parties via backroom dealmaking is often necessary to achieve a majority of the parliament’s vote for PM.
    ___________________

    Al Gore and Hillary Clinton will be portrayed as victims of such a system

    Gore is already a footnote to history, and the Supreme Court’s intervention in the election at least makes 2000 noteworthy for that. 2016 has no such distinguishing characteristic. John Quincy Adams’ election over Andrew Jackson was far funkier, yet his presidency bears no asterisk.

    Even Bill Clinton’s impeachment, a far more significant constitutional event, will likely warrant barely a mention. Life goes on.

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    • Just speculating in this post, Tom. I could be wrong. After all, historians can’t predict the future.

      JQA HAS been tainted with “the corrupt bargain,” clearly a “political value judgment.” Clinton will go down in history with Johnson as the only “impeached” presidents. Students learn about these things–they read about it in their textbooks (to the degree that they actually read them) and they will be multiple choice questions on history exams. The same will probably be true for Trump.

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