Trump's Presidency Is Shaping Up to Be an American Tragedy

His administration is likely to be just as bad as you think – and possibly worse

There is no reason to believe Donald Trump understands or will accept the checks on an American president's power. Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

They're already building the inaugural stand on the west side of the Capitol building. In six weeks, Donald Trump will stand on it, in front of thousands, and take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States.

What happens next is anyone's guess. But here's what we do know.

We know Trump has named as his chief counselor a man who runs a website read and appreciated by the most virulent racists in America, a man who, according to court documents, told his wife he didn't want his children going to school with Jews and who reportedly thought it would be "not such a bad thing" if fewer African-Americans voted.

We know Trump named as his national security adviser a man who, days before the election, promulgated a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and sex crimes with children. (But not "Pizzagate," yet another conspiracy theory involving Clinton and child sex crimes – it was Flynn's son and chief of staff who tweeted about that one.) We also know that national security adviser called Islam a "political ideology" and said the religion is like a "malignant cancer."

We know Trump nominated for attorney general a man the Senate refused to confirm as a federal judge for being too racist in 1986, a year when it was still openly debated whether apartheid was all that bad.

We know he appointed a secretary of housing and urban development who knows nothing about housing or urban development. We know he appointed an education secretary who has made it her life's work to dismantle her state's public school system. We know he's appointed a Treasury secretary who foreclosed on thousands of homes during the housing crisis. We know he's appointed an EPA administrator who has sued the EPA to stop it from protecting the environment and bragged that he's a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda."

We know he's inexperienced and ignorant enough to cause genuine harm to America's interests. Trump's recent call with Taiwan's leader caused a genuine international furor. He endorsed the campaign of extrajudicial murder the president of the Philippines launched against his country's drug trade. These are irresponsible actions with real consequences.

We know Trump has business interests all over the world. We know diplomats are planning events at his new Washington, D.C., hotel. We know his daughter Ivanka sat in on a meeting with Trump and the Japanese prime minister as she was wrapping up a deal with a Japanese clothing company owned in part by the state. We know his plan to "divest" himself of his business interests by giving control to his children is meaningless – foreign investors and governments will know exactly how to influence him.

We know the next president of the United States uses his powerful platform to take revenge on individual citizens. He attacked Alec Baldwin for parodying him on Saturday Night Live, threatened to cancel a contract with Boeing because its CEO questioned his trade policy and called a union leader "terrible" for pointing out Trump lied in his characterization of the Carrier deal.

We know he doesn't understand or care about the most fundamental constitutional rights, after he threatened to revoke the citizenship of anyone who burned a flag. We know he's suggested using the power of his office to go after the press for vigorously reporting on what he says and does. (Quote him, and he'll call you a liar.)

Add it all up, and what do you see? A child who reacts to the slightest perceived attack with vicious vitriol. A vengeful president who is willing to violate basic rights. A government run by incompetents, racists, bullies and conspiracy-mongers.

It's a formula for tragedy.

No one can predict the future – we learned that lesson the hard way a month ago. But if you were to imagine what impending American fascism would look like, you couldn't place the pieces on the board any more neatly than they've been placed in the last year.

There is no reason to believe Donald Trump understands or will accept the checks on an American president's power. There is no reason to believe he won't trample over the Constitution when it suits him. How far will he go? Is it impossible to imagine that the man who talked about "opening up" libel laws could start tossing journalists in jail? How about the guy who makes fun of him on SNL? Or anyone who criticizes him?

How confident can we be that a man who spreads lies about illegal voters giving his opponent the popular-vote win and talks endlessly about rigged elections will give up power in four years if he loses? Or in eight years, just because some amendment says he's supposed to?

Who will stop him from grabbing power he's not entitled to? The madmen he's surrounded himself with? The weak-willed leaders of the Republican majority in Congress who have yet to provide hardly any resistance to the things he's said and done, no matter how outrageous or un-American?

We can't guess how bad it's going to get over the next four or eight years. We don't know what America will look like. But if you think things won't change because they never have, you aren't paying close enough attention to Donald Trump.

At the very least, we're being led by an unqualified man-boy who doesn't grasp even the most basic tenets of governance.

At worst, we're headed down an extraordinarily dark road where the things that make America America simply cease to exist. A president who won on a campaign of anti-immigrant furor, who believes in casting aside freedom like litter, who craves constant validation and can't abide criticism or satire – that's a tyrant in the making.

Donald Trump's cabinet is nearly filled out. Watch here to meet his administration.