Four years ago, President Donald Trump entered the White House as a complete outsider lacking any political experience. He was a reality TV show host, and he quickly turned his presidency into what felt like a four-year reality TV show, political science professor Thomas Marshall said.
There was rarely a day when Trump didn’t headline daily news — for better or for worse, depending on who you ask.
Now his term has come to an end, and America has elected a new president, Joe Biden.
Before we look ahead to Biden’s next four years, let’s look back and see what Trump accomplished as president of the United States. Here’s what members of the UTA community think.
Racism and white supremacy
Much of Trump’s rhetoric has led people to believe he supports racism and white supremacy, although he has repeatedly described himself as “the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered.”
Public health sophomore Armauni Nolan said Trump opened a gateway for people to be openly racist, and it’s not getting any better.
“Whether that was his goal or not, it has definitely become a lot worse over the last four years,” she said.
Trump has continuously called COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and has described Mexican immigrants as “rapists” who bring crime and drugs to the U.S. He told the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization, to “stand back and stand by” during the first 2020 presidential debate.
Social work senior Dani Johnson said the last four years with Trump have been long and hard for her as a Black and Latina woman because of how he perpetuates racism.
“It really does feel like it’s been eight years, but it’s only been four,” Johnson said.
Even at her retail job, Johnson experiences aggressive situations from white patrons for simple things like the Black Lives Matter pin on her uniform.
While attending Black Lives Matter protests in Dallas, her eyes were opened to the severity of people’s blind aggression toward Black people, she said. While white and Latino teenagers threw rocks at police cars, she and other Black protesters received the blame and were tear-gassed at one protest, Johnson said. Later in the night, a white stranger threw fireworks at her and her sorority sisters.
Nolan said Trump’s words prove his standpoint.
“He wants to say ‘Make America Great’ and that he’s ‘for the people,’ and that’s not right,” she said. “He’s just only for the people who look like him.”
People who don’t support and advocate for all people should not be in office, Nolan said. Trump’s reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement solidified that he is one such person.
He called people of color insensitive names, denied the validity of Black Lives Matter, supported the slogan “All Lives Matter” and produced various counterarguments to the social justice movement, she said.
“But if ‘all lives matter,’ then Black lives should definitely matter, and that shouldn’t be a trigger,” Nolan said.
If Trump cared about the people of the United States, he would have backed Black people fighting for racial equality, she said. But he didn’t.
“It definitely did show that if we’re not behind him or we’re not supporting him, then [Trump] truly doesn’t care,” she said.
Marshall said Trump will be remembered for his dogged devotion to his key programs like the tax cut, filling federal judge positions, immigration and the border wall. Much of his legacy, though, will be overturned by President Biden.
Accounting sophomore Reese Surles said it’s difficult to think back to before 2020 in terms of Trump’s presidency because there were so many defining moments last year. But Trump and his actions — not words — went largely underappreciated.
Trump reduced unemployment and didn’t initiate a war, Surles said. He also accomplished 450 miles of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a move that Surles supported.
Defunding Obamacare was one of his worst actions though, chemistry freshman Fatima Al-Fadil said. Her father, a six-year cancer patient, would have fallen into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt without affordable healthcare provided by Obamacare.
“[Trump] wanting to take away Obamacare was something that was horrible for everyone with a preexisting condition; it wasn’t just my dad,” she said. “This country’s healthcare system is broken because of how much it costs.”
Biden won the popular vote, and the electoral college has certified the results. However, Trump refused to publicly admit defeat until Jan. 7, 13 days before Biden’s inauguration.
Johnson said Trump’s denial of the election results simply prove he is a sore loser. Never in the history of U.S. elections has there been a proven fraudulent election, so she doesn’t think this one could have been any different.
Surles doesn’t discredit Trump’s claims entirely but asserted that the president simply needed more evidence.
“Honestly, I have no idea if the election was rigged or not, and that’s just my POV,” he said. “At the same time, there’s definitely no evidence to say it was in a court of law, which is very unfortunate.”
Many have asserted that the denial of election results eventually culminated in an attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
What began as a Trump rally in D.C. ended with thousands of Trump supporters invading the Capitol, disrupting the process of the vote certification and forcing members of Congress and other officials to take shelter. Many have asserted that Trump directly instigated the attack through his rhetoric.
Many of Trump’s supporters argue against him having any role in the Capitol attack, but for Al-Fadil, there’s no doubt that he did.
Starting in December Trump publicly and repeatedly encouraged his supporters via Twitter to show up for a “big protest” in D.C. on Jan. 6. In a speech before the riot, he told supporters they were going to walk down to the Capitol and praised them for showing up to “save our democracy.”
Trump initially rebuffed requests to call in the National Guard to control rioters. He issued a video statement in which he again insisted the election was stolen and told the rioters “I love you.”
Trump’s reaction to the Capitol attack didn’t surprise Nolan at all.
“He said exactly what I expected him to say,” she said. “Over these four years, he showed us that’s how he felt.”
Still, some say the situation was misinterpreted.
Surles said the whole point of the march on the Capitol was to do everything legally possible to protest the election. Unfortunately though, the situation boiled out of control.
Although he disagrees that Trump instigated the Capitol situation, Surles did admit that his rhetoric didn’t help.
“I think for four years he did amazing, and then the last couple months he just threw a fit,” he said.
Marshall said one of Trump’s most defining characteristics is his rhetoric. He was a very active but negative president.
That’s not what many young people want from a president.
A Pew Research Center survey showed that 77% of registered voters ages 18 to 23 disapproved of how Trump handled his job as president.
This is only partly because of his words. Al-Fadil said Trump’s rhetoric ultimately made everything worse.
In Marshall’s political science classes, he asks his students on the first day to write a sentence or two about what they think a good president is. Many of their remarks are about warmness, sympathy and empathy, Marshall said.
“I call it the ‘give us a hug’ concept of presidency,” he said. “It has almost nothing to do with the textbook U.S. constitutional duties of presidency.”
After the Capitol riot and finally admitting defeat in the election, Trump said in a prerecorded video Jan. 7 that his “focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
However, he has not publicly announced any plans for his post-presidency life. Some say his money will take him far, though.
Because Trump has been a millionaire and has held power and status for so long, he’s used to paying his way out and getting everything he wants, Nolan said. When he wasn’t able to change the results of the election, he essentially threw a tantrum.
With that tantrum came chaos because he has such a hold on his followers, Nolan said. Even after his term ends, he’ll still keep that hold on his followers and try to keep some form of power because of his money and status.
Marshall said these last four years are unlikely to die down quickly. And Trump is unlikely to fall out of daily news just yet.
Post-presidency, Trump will likely write a book or host rallies for his faithful supporters, Marshall said.
Wherever Trump ends up, Marshall doesn’t see him fading away quietly. Four years won’t die entirely.