Republicans, was it worth it? The question as the Trump term comes to a close
Almost everything Trump did in four years can be undone. What can’t be undone is his stain on the party.
As a new president is sworn in, the outgoing one, Donald Trump, joins a kind of losers club, becoming one of only five presidents since 1900 to fail in his reelection bid. Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, whatever we think of their presidencies now, were all given the boot by voters who said, erm ... one term is quite enough.
Trump’s legacy was in tatters before he lost to Joe Biden, but in the ensuing months, he really managed to burn it to the ground. Historians, even without the benefit of hindsight, have already declared him the worst president in American history.
Let’s not forget, Trump also leaves a big stink-bomb of a parting gift to the GOP — Democratic control of both houses of Congress.
This all raises the question: Was it worth it, Republicans? Was carrying Trump’s fetid water around for four years worth the baggage, the guilt by association or, in some cases, the actual guilt of doing Trump’s dirty work?
Was it worth the impeachments — plural — the current and sure-to-come lawsuits, the resignations, the revolving door of users, losers and grifters?
Was it worth the domestic terrorism — a rise during Trump’s tenure of white supremacy and anti-Semitic attacks, and a revolt at the Capitol that left five people dead?
Was it worth the near-constant embarrassments of an ignorant, dishonest, petulant and puerile president who humiliated our country on the world stage with his gross incompetence and undignified antics?
Was it worth losing any moral or ethical high ground the party could once claim by ignoring or defending a whole catalog of terrible behavior, from multiple allegations of rape to orphaning migrant children, interfering in U.S. elections to inciting violence at the Capitol?
Republicans long ago made the Faustian bargain to put up with all of that in exchange for things they insisted were worth Trump’s many troubles, including tax cuts, conservative judges, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and more.
But now, as Biden takes office and Democrats take control of Congress, most of those things appear to have been fleeting. Indeed, the short-term sugar high of Trump’s perceived accomplishments is about to come crashing down.
In just the first 10 days of his presidency, Biden has already promised to undo a long list of Trump acts, according to chief of staff Ron Klain.
Remember how excited Republicans got when Trump unceremoniously pulled out of the Paris climate accord? Biden rejoined it without much ceremony.
He can also rejoin the Iran nuclear deal that Trump quit in 2017, a move Republicans applauded at the time.
Biden can reverse Trump’s travel ban, which prohibited travel to and from some Muslim-majority countries, a policy Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz insisted had nothing to do with religion or ethnicity but was merely in the “interest of national security.”
As part of his COVID-19 relief plan, Biden can rejoin the World Health Organization, and plans to extend eviction and foreclosure restrictions and increase the federal minimum wage.
He’ll overhaul many of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies like family separation, and restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He can relax the process of applying for extending visas.
Trump was unable to repeal and replace Obamacare, as he promised, but he did manage to chip away at some of its provisions. Biden can restore and strengthen many of those via executive actions.
Biden can reimplement discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act for people who are transgender, and he can reverse Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military.
As for reproductive rights, Biden can undo a number of Trump’s efforts to restrict abortions and abortion funding even without Congress.
What about those vaunted tax cuts? Biden has promised to repeal them. The conservative judges Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed? Biden can appoint scores of liberal judges all over the country. He may even get the chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice in the case that the court’s oldest member, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
The infinite wisdom of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution was such that no one president could, without the help of Congress and often the courts, irrevocably change America. Almost everything Trump did in four years can be undone, either immediately or over time.
What can’t be undone is his stain on the party.
That’s what makes the Republican bargain so inexplicable. It wasn’t much of a bargain at all. They got short-term but mostly reversible wins that were, in many cases, unpopular with the electorate and ultimately damaging to the party, resulting in huge midterm losses in the House, then the presidency.
Now, I didn’t write “The Art of the Deal,” but that sounds like a very, very bad one for Republicans.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.