As the next presidential elections near, it is necessary to take a look at the last few years and make a clear judgement about how to best proceed. Donald Trump’s presidency has been one of chaos, unease and widening divisions in the country. It is important to understand the effects of Trump’s behavior on our country and democracy and the steps we must take to re-stabilize both.

Calling Trump’s actions dictatorial is by no means a groundbreaking statement, but it is still one that should be emphasized. The president's pattern of demeaning and attacking anyone who disagrees with him has not lessened since he took office a few years ago, although its persistence has made the brash behavior predictable. 

Trump has constantly accused The New York Times of working on behalf of the Democrats. This is a controversial statement, not only because of The Times’s global standing as a trustworthy and impartial news source, but also because of the implication that all of Trump’s critics are corrupt and disloyal.

Trump convinces citizens that he is their only reliable source of information. He is attempting to convince his supporters that nobody but him can be trusted, which opposes our beliefs as a nation that an informed public is meant to be the center of politics; not a controlling leader. This threat to our democratic nation is not one that should be taken lightly, because although Trump will eventually go -- whether it be in one year or five -- the division and distrust he has caused will remain. The messages that Trump has set forth will not be erased were we to get a new president. His ideals, widely held by many of his supporters, will continue his message of distrust towards the media and politicians alike. 

We have a president using his position to demand praise and attack his critics, and a frighteningly large number of citizens, media outlets and politicians are excusing him.

This brings me to my primary concern: the 2020 presidential election. Discontent with the president among many is no secret. The majority of the presidential candidates, left and right alike, are advertising that they are the “anti-Trump.” But despite how often they may say that they are the ones who can restore peace and unity, it is difficult for a single political figure to undo the dangerous rhetoric and ideas set forth by Trump. 

Do not let the next leader speak false promises, just as Trump did, and convince us that they have the solutions to fix this country and political system. 

We must be more careful than ever and, in our desperation to see order restored in the White House, it is pertinent to not be tricked, once again, into electing a leader whose primary goal is power and praise over people and justice.

What should be learned from Trump’s reign is not that the presidency is an esteemed position that only a few are capable of filling -- although undoubtedly, we have to be careful about who gets it -- but that our votes and voices matter. 

Rather than looking for someone to swoop in and save the country, we must be diligent in holding our leaders accountable and demanding answers and information. Just because what is said sounds pretty does not mean it holds value or truth.

Democracy dies when the people give up their control and power. Trump’s presidency has, if nothing else, proven to us that our intellect and right to information cannot be violated. We must not blindly believe any political leaders, whether what they say is controversial or highly encouraged. 

Let us not allow another leader who wants to be king more than president be our representative. That is not what America stands for.

Contact columnist Reda Ansar at reda.ansar@richmond.edu. 

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