What Does it All Mean? Rookery Writers Tackle the Trump Presidency
Liya Johnson, 10th grade
People have found different meanings in Trump’s presidency. For one, we have seen how far the Republican Party is willing to go to keep power, and we’ve also seen the consequences of Trump’s own decisions, most recently in his inaction on COVID-19 and incitement of the assault on the Capitol.
But over the last four years, conservative Christian groups have remained some of Trump’s most vocal supporters. And as a result, American Christians have become targets for the judgement, even hatred, of anti-Trump groups, simply because these groups assume that all Christians support him.
In other words, the actions of conservative Christians over the past four years have painted Christians as uniformly Trump supporters, even though they aren’t. This helps perpetuate a general view of Christians as homophobic, transphobic, racist, and conservative. But this view is stereotypical, judgmental, and not fair to those who don’t fit these assumptions.
What can we do to stop the cycle? We can all start by not judging our peers, as well as intervening when others do. Because people’s beliefs shouldn’t be assumed just from their identity.
Mia Johnson, 10th grade
During Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans witnessed behavior that they shouldn’t have had to witness, from the White House and from all over the country. Never before has an American president been impeached twice or instigated a violent insurrection against his own government. But the scandals, crises, and catastrophes of his presidency were all predictable results of someone as racist, homophobic, and bigoted as Trump being elected to office.
Trump’s presidency also showed what happens when the American people are duped into electing a wannabe dictator: We wind up without leadership in crisis. In the past year, Trump has allowed a deadly virus to spread unfettered throughout the US, opposed protests against white supremacy, and supported domestic terrorist organizations, causing widespread death and destruction.
I believe that in the future, voters will remember the most important lesson of the Trump presidency: The president you elect is the one you get. I hope that America will not allow another selfish and cruel person to lead us away from our values, our morals, and our freedoms.
Tess Buckley, 10th grade
Donald Trump revolutionized presidential communications, using the virtual megaphone of @realdonaldtrump for everything from random thoughts (“covfefe”) to threats to “Totally destroy North Korea.”
He bypassed filters by speaking directly to the digital public, and the media often allowed his posts to dominate the news cycle. While his conversational style horrified some Americans, it electrified his political base. Forgoing the official @potus account, Trump’s personal account became another monument to his cult of personality.
Gone was the sober, erudite, smooth prose of presidents past. As he boasted in an early Tweet, “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!” Exclamatory punctuation, poor grammar, and simplistic vocabulary (“SAD!” “TERRIBLE!”) are all characteristic of his distinctive diction.
And for all the excitement of our president conversing with us directly, Trump’s more hateful Tweets energized white-nationalist hate groups, emboldening their conspiracies and spreading toxicity. Additionally, Trump often interacted with misinformation accounts created by Russian intelligence agencies, and he spread lies frequently. The hatred and falsehoods reached a climax when, with two weeks left in his presidency, Trump incited an insurrection at our Capitol, leading to the indefinite suspension of most of his social media accounts. Given the power and controversy of this communication, Americans are left asking: Is the social-media presidency here to stay?
Trump's Tweets: By the Numbers
In Donald Trump’s four-year presidential term, he Tweeted more than 25,000 times.
In his first six months of office, Trump averaged six Tweets per day, a number which grew to 16 by 2019 and reached 35 in his final six months as President.
Trump’s single-day Tweeting record came during the peak of Black Lives Matter protests, when he sent out 200 Tweets on June 5, 2020.
Trump often ran afoul of Twitter fact-checkers, earning himself 471 flagged Tweets and 1,169 deletions.
Before his Twitter account was removed in early January 2021, it boasted more than 88 million followers.
Savannah Wright, 10th grade
The past four years of the Trump presidency have been a lot to process, and recent events have not lightened the mood. While the Trump administration has been extremely harmful to millions of people, both inside and outside of the United States, there are many problems that go beyond his presidency. He is a symptom of a collapsing system that relies on exploitation and oppression in order to survive.
The Trump presidency should be a wake-up call: There is a lot of work to be done before we live in a fair and kind world. The oppressive government we are living under will not end on January 20. Now, more than ever, is the time to act.
Aaron Scott, 12th grade
Donald Trump has been all that anyone expected. For liberals, the 45th President was the race-baiting, xenophobic, fear-mongering monster they feared, and then some. And that’s not to mention the baseless, reality-bending conspiracy theories, including those around the presidential election that incited a domestic terrorist attack on January 6th. How fitting that the reality-TV star turned commander-in-chief concluded his first season with a grand finale at the expense of American democracy.
On the other hand, the Republican Party has suffered substantially from Donald Trump’s presidency. The fracture between more radical members and traditional conservatives could result in the political obsolescence of the party as a whole. Perhaps even more shockingly, after what can only be labeled as a failed presidency, and during a global pandemic that has put millions out of work and on the verge of eviction, Trump and his supporters now essentially own the Republican Party.
As Joe Biden becomes the next President, the future of this country remains uncertain, but Donald Trump’s memorable place in its history has been cemented. And whatever comes next, he will certainly be responsible.
Adam Burch, 12th grade
Probably the single most dangerous lie told about President Trump is that he represents a new chapter in the story of America. That story, that lie, is about a unique people determined to prove the values of freedom, equality, and democracy to the rest of the world. It says that our corruptions and slaveries and genocides are, if not excusable, at least not in vain, because they are the unavoidable byproduct of imperfect human governance — the “price” of democracy — and because we learn from our mistakes. Mr. Trump’s presidency was a brief, if intense, hijacking of this inexorable improvement, and now must be studied carefully to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.
I might trace Trump’s particular brand of know-nothing fascism farther back than most (starting with McCarthy and Nixon in the 1950s, not Reagan and Bush in the ‘80s), but I am not the first or the ten-thousandth person to say that he is exactly what America has been building toward for decades. His attacks on democracy, marginalized peoples, other countries, and the environment are despicable, but they are really only slightly more explicit versions of what the Republican Party already stands for.
In fact, the most important difference between Trump and a typical Republican is not his inability to dissemble, but his inability to govern. Looking at his long list of catastrophes, I am most concerned about what will happen when a mildly-strategic Republican capable of basic planning wins the presidency — say, in a little less than four years. Trump’s presidency was a farce, an outrage, a tragedy. But it was nothing new.
Maddie Eggen, 12th grade
The Trump presidency has transformed the way that many view the United States, forcing American racism and classism into the consciousness of many long content to turn a blind eye.
For example, Trump has made it glaringly clear that the death penalty must be abolished. As of last year, federal executions had been on a 17-year hiatus. As Trump’s term began to wind down, his administration rushed to execute people, trying to beat the clock in the face of Biden’s promise to end capital punishment. In the past six months, the federal government has executed 13 people, one of the largest execution sprees in American history.
Seven of these executions were of people with severe mental illness, and four were of intellectually-disabled people. These executions seem to have violated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which prohibits the execution of intellectually-disabled people as “cruel and unusual punishment.” Moreover, one of these executions violated the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty. Additional concerns were raised by prisons’ use of the drug pentobarbital in executing prisoners, which may have violated the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act, and the last two people to be executed had COVID-19, adding another layer of unnecessary pain to their deaths.
The federal government’s ability to expedite murder to prove a political point has led many to oppose the death penalty. This is but one small aspect of a cruel and corrupt presidency, but it is one way that the Trump administration has proven the need for drastic reform.
Noa Schleifer, 12th grade
Our electoral system is flawed, and our country is flawed. That is what Donald Trump, the outgoing President, has shown us. He himself is merely part of a pattern that has been essential to America since its founding. Some might say that we are better than Trump, or that he is un-American. In fact, he is only a symptom of the hate, violence, and ignorance perpetrated by many past politicians — just more brazen. A new president will not solve what has already been done or change the foundations of this country.
This administration, though, can teach us the ways in which people in power can shirk responsibility and prioritize their own desires, over the people’s interests. I hope that we can learn not to idolize politicians, because as we have seen, the consequences can be dire.