There Can Be No “Clean Slate” for Trump

We are not going to forget everything Donald Trump has said and done now that he is elected president.

American president Barack Obama meets his successor, Donald Trump, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, November 10
American president Barack Obama meets his successor, Donald Trump, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, November 10 (White House/Pete Souza)

Now that Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States, there will be a tendency to normalize him. Blame a combination of status quo bias and a continued refusal to take the man at his word.

There have already been calls for a “clean slate” and to keep an “open mind” as well as predictions that Trump will finally “pivot”, by which is meant: stop behaving so atrociously.

Remember how Trump similarly “pivoted” after winning the Republican presidential nomination in July?

Neither do I. Because it didn’t happen.

This is not a game

Trump has never shown a will, much less the capacity, for self-improvement. He didn’t read up on policy. He didn’t moderate his rhetoric. He didn’t unite Republicans. He didn’t unite the country.

Instead, whenever he was challenged; whenever he dropped in the polls or suffered a particularly rough media cycle (which happened a lot), Trump doubled down on his simplistic and unachievable policies. He dialed up the oratory and divided his party and the country.

There can be no “clean slate” after this. Campaigning for president is not a game. It was one thing for a Mitt Romney advisor to suggest four years ago that they could do an “etch a sketch” after the primaries and present their candidate fresh to the general electorate. It’s another to ask us to pretend the entire last seventeen months didn’t happen.

Especially when Trump, through the way he conducted his campaign, has done damage to the republic that may prove irreparable.

Damage

He undermined the Republican Party and its gatekeepers by humiliating officials who opposed him and refusing to play by their rules.

He undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of the election by insisting repeatedly, without any basis in fact whatsoever, that the vote would be rigged.

He undermined Americans’ confidence in the independence of the judiciary by alleging that judges in the many trials against him — from discrimination lawsuits to a case accusing his now-defunct Trump University of fraud — were biased against him. His most recent charge was that a federal judge whose parents were born in Mexico couldn’t possible be fair to him because of his heritage (implicitly acknowledging his own anti-Mexican prejudice).

And Trump further undermined Americans’ trust in the media by singling out critical journalists at his events and banning reporters from publications that had displeased him, neither of which a presidential candidate had ever done before.

It’s not on us to keep an “open mind” and give Trump one more chance. It’s up to him to prove himself and reverse some of the damage he’s done.