DONALD TRUMP′S term in office ends on January 20th 2021. The story of his presidency has been deeply unpredictable in many ways, starting with the fact that it happened at all. But the nature of his administration should not have surprised anyone: chaos and disruption characterised both his candidacy and his time as commander-in-chief. Mr Trump has made our cover many times in the past five-and-a-bit years; this selection reflects the drama and the essence of his tenure.
September 5th 2015: Washington, we have a problem
When Mr Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in June 2015, sophisticates scoffed. Even after leading the polls for the Republican nomination for weeks, many found it hard to take him seriously. But the possibility that he might win the presidency was no longer a joke. “Demagogues in other countries sometimes win elections,” we wrote in our first cover devoted to Mr Trump, “and there is no compelling reason why America should always be immune.”
November 12th 2016: The Trump era
Mr Trump won the presidency on November 9th 2016. A campaign that flouted the rules of electioneering had ended in triumph, and flummoxed pollsters in the process. An era of uncertainty beckoned, for America’s allies as well as its adversaries. In our cover leader in that week’s issue, we mulled whether America’s 45th president might become a more emollient figure in office than he had been on the trail. Our conclusion was pessimistic. “We are deeply sceptical that he will make a good president—because of his policies, his temperament and the demands of political office.”
February 4th 2017: An insurgent in the White House
When Mr Trump was inaugurated on January 20th 2017, the question was whether normal politics would be replaced by something different. Two weeks later, the answer was clear. The new administration had barred citizens of seven mostly Muslim nations from entering America for 90 days, It had quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement, and was demanding a renegotiation of NAFTA. Chaos was not something to be avoided. It was a governing principle.
May 13th 2017: Trumponomics
In May 2017 The Economist interviewed Mr Trump about his economic credo. Some of his policies looked like supply-side staples: a blend of tax cuts and deregulation promised to juice up growth and stockmarkets alike. But in its embrace of economic nationalism, Trumponomics was anything but familiar.
August 19th 2017: After Charlottesville
Three months later, white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heather Heyer, a protester, was killed when a white supremacist, since imprisoned for life, drove his car into her. Mr Trump, though he criticised neo-Nazis and the murder, found blame “on both sides”. The extreme right felt encouraged. Unusually, we added no words to our cover image.
March 10th 2018: The threat to world trade
Every president since Jimmy Carter has resorted to imposing protectionist tariffs on imports. But unlike his predecessors Mr Trump was a long-standing sceptic of free trade. His slapping of tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, supposedly on national-security grounds, risked an escalating trade war with close allies. Mr Trump also hobbled the World Trade Organisation’s system of settling disputes. He didn’t manage to blow up the multilateral trading system. But he put it in peril.
April 21st 2018: What has become of the Republican Party?
In April 2018 we lamented Mr Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. The party’s organising principle, we wrote, had become loyalty—not to an ideal or a legislative programme, but to one man and the rage of its voter base. The consequences were government by impulse, trashing of political convention and the denouncing of opponents as traitors. The best rebuke, we said, would be defeat at the ballot box; but responsibility also lay with Republicans who knew Mr Trump was bad for America.
June 9th 2018: America’s foreign policy
Mr Trump headed to Singapore in June 2018 for a meeting with Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, seeking a deal to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. All presidents try to exploit America’s immense power, but Mr Trump’s highly transactional approach—sometimes, as with Mr Kim, cajoling foreign powers, often trying to bully them—was a marked (and dangerous) departure.
August 28th 2018: Above the law?
The conviction of Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, for tax and bank fraud came on August 21st 2018, the same day that Michael Cohen, his erstwhile lawyer, pleaded guilty to violations of campaign-finance laws, among other things. With Robert Mueller still investigating allegations of collusion with Russia, a simple question hung in the air: is the president above the law?
June 8th 2019: Weapons of mass disruption
America’s superpower status conjures up images of warheads and aircraft-carriers. But the Trump administration brought home the country’s economic might. By threatening tariffs, imposing sanctions and issuing blacklists, Mr Trump showed just how America’s role as the nerve centre of the global economy could be exploited.
October 29th 2020: Why it has to be Joe Biden
Our endorsement cover, in the week before last November’s election, came out in favour of Joe Biden. But Mr Trump’s presence was inescapable. His image occupies the negative space around the fraying edges of the flag. And his record in office was on the ballot paper. “The country that elected Donald Trump in 2016 was unhappy and divided,” we wrote. “The country he is asking to re-elect him is more unhappy and more divided.”
January 9th 2021: Trump’s legacy
With Mr Trump’s departure from the Oval Office only a fortnight away, an invasion of the Capitol Building by his supporters, whipped up by his own fury to stop a fictitious “steal” of the election, sealed his legacy. For Republicans, we wrote, “the cost of the cursed deal that their party did with Mr Trump had never been clearer”.
January 16th 2021: The reckoning
In the wake of the insurrection at the Capitol, Mr Trump became the first president to be impeached twice and was banned from his favourite social-media platforms. He faces the prospect of trial in the Senate even after leaving office, to say nothing of numerous other legal threats. A reckoning, indeed.