Donald Trump: How will we remember him in decades to come?

  • By ITV News Multimedia Producer Wedaeli Chibelushi

Within the last fortnight, a growing list of brands and organisations have been scrambling to distance themselves from Donald Trump.

The backlash comes after thousands of the President's supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6. Many have accused him of encouraging the rioters to prevent the confirmation of Joe Biden’s election victory.

Since that grave afternoon, several banks have said they will no longer lend to the company, including one of his biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank. New York City said it will end its contract with the Trump Organisation to operate the Central Park skating rink.

Shopify, Nike, the PGA and many more companies have cut ties with anything Trump-related.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle have also shattered Trump's credibility. In the wake of the Capitol violence, he became the first US president to be impeached twice.

With the conclusion to four years of apparent rancour and division, it may seem that the 45th US president will be remembered as a corporate, political and social pariah.

But is this his true legacy? A look back at Trump's defining moments gives an insight into how Trump may be perceived in decades to come.

  • Economy

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to "bring back jobs", particular ones in the faltering manufacturing sector. US job growth was strong before the pandemic hit - unemployment had plummeted to a half-century low of 3.5% in December 2019.

In February 2020, average pay was rising faster than when Trump took office in 2016. The largest percentage gains were going to lower-wage workers, too.

Job numbers and pay had risen under Trump, but what Trump called an "economic boom" was, by many measures, not all that different from the solid economy he inherited from his predecessor. Economic growth was 2.3% in 2019, matching the average pace since 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Following the rise of coronavirus, the unemployment rate is now at 6.7% and the nation has 3 million fewer jobs than it did four years earlier. The figure makes Trump the first president since the Great Depression to preside over a net loss of jobs.

All the job losses under Trump occurred after the pandemic struck. Still, Trump had pledged to create 25 million jobs in four years.

  • International relations

Trump’s overhaul of America’s international relations is one for the history books. Firstly, when he met leader Kim Jong Un in North Korea, he became the first sitting US President to enter the country.

President Trump with Kim Jong-un Credit: AP

But, despite three summits with Kim and exchanges of what Trump called “love” letters, he failed to come close to a historic goal of the States - denuclearising North Korea.

Kim recently said he would strengthen his country’s nuclear capability, as the US’ “basic nature and hostile policy will never change”.Trump also sought to improve relations with Israel during his term. His administration outlined a Middle East peace plan which allowed Israel to annex its West Bank settlements and recognised Jerusalem as "Israel's undivided capital". Palestinians furiously rejected the plan and took to the streets to protest.

China's relations with the US have long been strained, but under Trump, they crashed to their lowest levels in decades.

He ramped up penalties against Chinese officials after they imposed strict security laws on Hong Kong, signed executive orders in a bid to ban US residents from using China-owned apps and railed against China for its response to the pandemic.

The two countries also engaged in a trade war, which won the US a 15% drop in trade deficit between January-September 2020 and a year earlier. For many, striking such a belligerent position - "Make America Great Again" - was a sign of strength.

Relations with Iran also worsened under Trump. In January last year, a US airstrike killed Tehran's top general, Qassam Soleimani. The US Defence Department accused Soleimani of planning to attack American diplomats and service members in the Middle East. In response, Iran warned of “harsh retaliation”.Trump also pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, signed only three years earlier by Barack Obama. He also broke away from the Paris climate agreement, Open Skies Treaty and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

  • Immigration

Over the last four years, Trump's administration has taken extreme action to try to curb legal and illegal immigration.

Early in his presidency, the president issued an order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country. After a long legal fight, a version of the order was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote.

Trump’s campaign for the presidency focused extensively on the construction of a border wall between the States and Mexico. It remains incomplete and will likely reach an incomplete 475 miles by Inauguration Day. He also promised that Mexico would pay for the wall but so far, US taxpayers have footed the bill.

In an effort to restrict asylum, Trump introduced a raft of policies, like making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico while their claims are heard in U.S. court.

A father and son reunite after being separated during the Trump administration's wide-scale splitting of immigrant families. Credit: AP

During 2018, it was discovered that Trump’s administration was separating children from families that had been detained for crossing the US border illegally.

Images of children held in cages at border facilities were widely circulated, alongside audio recordings of young children crying for their parents. Following international outrage, the administration ended the process.

  • Equality

Throughout his term, Trump's treatment of minority groups in the US was a continual point of debate.

Most recently, Trump drew headlines by refusing to condemn the neo-fascist Proud Boys, ridiculing Black Lives Matter protesters and declining to show support for the movement.

White supremacists held a candlelit far-right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

Before that, Trump was heavily criticised for failing to condemn white supremacists after a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He has, on numerous occasions, responded to accusations of racism by pointing to economic gains for African Americans during his presidency. Black unemployment reached a record low of 5.4% during the Trump administration.

However, most of the progress came when Obama was president: black unemployment dropped from 16.8% in March 2010 to 7.8% in January 2017.

Trump has also been accused of racism for labelling Covid-19 the “China Flu” and the "Wuhan virus".

For transgender people, Trump's presidency has also meant a rollback in their rights. It was announced in 2017 that they would not be allowed to serve in the US military.

  • Ex-US Air Force Major and transgender man Dana Delgardo remembers his reaction to the ban

Trump also scrapped protections allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. In both instances, Trump reversed Obama-era rulings.

Feminists and women's rights campaigners have also criticised Trump. During his campaign, footage of Trump making lewd comments about women surfaced. He has also been accused of sexual assault on numerous occasions.UK disability charity Scope joined others in condemning Trump for appearing to mock a disabled reporter during his first presidential campaign. Scope labelled his behaviour "bullying, discriminatory and extremely damaging".

  • Justice

While in power, Trump managed to add three Justices to the Supreme Court, winning a solid 6-3 conservative majority. The newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, replaced liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death in September 2020.

Justice Barrett is a favourite of those who want to ban abortion and reverse America's tilt towards liberal ideas. It's likely she will shift the court to the right for a generation - a devastating blow for progressives. 

Lisa Montgomery was executed on January 13, making her the first female inmate to be put to death in almost seven decades. Credit: AP

In the final year of his presidency, Trump scheduled 13 federal executions. His administration resumed the death penalty after a 17-year hiatus, making Trump the most prolific president for executions in over 130 years.

Breaks from both century-old norms and newer developments are what Trump will be remembered for. Improbability fast became a defining feature of his presidency, but this has arguably been more costly than refreshing for the US.