For those who worried for the republic, it finally looks as if the basic American institutions of governance will survive President Donald Trump's four years. In the end, his self-interested verbal attacks on one U.S. system after another failed to either cause irreparable damage or bring lasting or constructive reform.
The transition to Joe Biden's administration is happening. Trump’s effort to undermine trust in the electoral system didn't help him. Instead, both his supporters and his detractors took part in record numbers. False warnings about a massive fraud, one of his go-to claims, were knocked down as usual.
The worrisome prospect of Trump pulling off an Electoral College coup by effectively nullifying valid votes is abating. The departing president proved no more capable of seizing illegitimate power than of governing wisely in a federal republic.
Trump's failures and feints on this front were numerous and varied.
The real estate heir and television showman came in the door blaming a lack of national vigilance for everything he wanted Americans to find threatening — among them, radical Islamic terrorism, long-term manufacturing losses and illegal immigration.
He spoke of getting around a constitutional amendment on birthright citizenship by executive fiat. He did not dominate the Federal Reserve Board.
He wanted to squash legitimate investigations into his campaign's conduct but instead saw a claque of ex-associates indicted and convicted.
He publicly threatened the top echelons of the FBI, the CIA and the U.S. military by calling them corrupt or "deep state," but he never made reforms anyone could see.
He talked about cowing the news media and his critics with the expansion of libel laws and criminalizing whistleblowers. Nothing relevant happened.
Despite Trump's jeering, the National Football League wasn't boycotted for allowing players’ on-field protests.
The armed forces did not usurp the municipal police during disturbances. Antifa was not officially treated as a terrorist organization. Trump's impeachment did not unleash disorder.
Congressional support for Ukraine was not subverted even after Trump held up U.S. defense aid to that country.
A more conservative Supreme Court did not act as political lackeys.
Trump's bile failed to discredit Fox News as a Republican network or MSNBC as a Democratic network.
Despite misleading remarks about the coronavirus disaster, he did not destroy public health institutions in any substantive way or reduce the powers of the states.
He did not close the southern border, halt funds to sanctuary cities, change the way brush fires are controlled or complete a great border wall.
With his constant, undisciplined chatter and second-rate appointments, Trump may have damaged the credibility of the executive branch while he headed it. Governmentally, basic functions can be restored, though the deficits Trump and Congress leave Biden won't easily be dealt with.
Every new president gets some time to attribute all that is wrong to the predecessor of the other party.
Give it a year, and Trump's institutional footprints might barely be visible, except perhaps for judicial appointments that any Republican president would have made. Whether that's a good or bad thing remains to be seen.