Less than two weeks remain in Donald Trump’s presidency – a presidency some are saying should end sooner because of the insurrection incited by Trump on Wednesday. And even if he remains in office until Inauguration Day, presidential historian Jeffrey Engel says these remaining days will likely be chaotic and marked by uncertainty.
Engel is founding director of the Center for Presidential History and is a professor at Southern Methodist University. He told Texas Standard that the president has clearly violated his oath of office to defend the Constitution.
“What President Trump has done has clearly met the common use definition of ‘sedition,’ which is inciting violence against the state,” Engel said.
Trump’s actions could also mean greater pressure on President-elect Joe Biden to unite the country. Engel says only three presidents have been considered “great” because of how they handled times of existential crisis: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. He says Wednesday’s events show that Biden is now approaching a greatness opportunity, too.
“If he succeeds in reuniting the nation, if the nation succeeds in overcoming its crises, more dramatically, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he will go down in history as one of the most influential, if not great presidents,” Engel said.
But Biden has his work cut out for him. Engel says he’ll have to overcome the unprecedented amount of “division and violence and hatred” sowed by President Trump. And though Biden doesn’t have the power to change people directly, he can set a good example.
“It’s within the president’s power to model good behavior. And while a president can’t make people be better, the president can easily make people be worse,” Engel said.
Several members of the Trump administration have resigned in the wake of Wednesday’s events.