Donald Trump has now officially left the White House, and we can safely say that he’ll go down as one of the worst presidents ever. Trump used the bully pulpit to foment hatred and division, normalize racism and white supremacy, sustain the harsh evils of American imperialism, and commit fresh sins all his own.
Still, for all his genuine incompetence and downright evil, Trump will also go down as one of the funniest presidents ever. From his bizarre trick-or-treating form to redrawing the lines on an official hurricane forecast to match something dumb he said, no executive has ever produced more befuddling moments or veritably hilarious images. The man shouted at a kid he invited to cut the White House lawn, nearly pissed himself while pretending to drive a big rig truck, and stared directly into a solar eclipse. And none of those moments hold a candle to Trump’s greatest contribution to presidential lore.
Trump’s fast food buffet for the 2018 national champion Clemson Tigers football team produced this iconic photo. It’s not just the funniest moment of his presidency, but the perfect representation of it. If you were to show this to someone from five or six years ago their head might explode. From the stacks of cardboard burger containers to the luxurious candleholders and serving trays, from the president’s knowing buffoonish smile the portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Trump’s alleged hero, leaning forward and inspecting the scene, the entire image screams at you: how the did this happen? How the fuck is this possibly real?
Donald Trump infuriated a lot of people for many different reasons. He’s a con man who says he’s smartest person ever to live and the best at anything he’s ever tried, including politics; he’s an abrasive bully who lacks class and lives an objectively unhealthy lifestyle; he’s a close-minded narcissist, someone who would rather lie to his grave than admit he ever did anything wrong; he leaves no personal desire unsatisfied and is utterly devoid of empathy, so he doesn’t care who he screws over in the process.
In other words, he’s perfectly American.
Trump is an amalgam of the United States’ worst qualities and vices rolled into a single caricature of a human being. He’s television obsessed, eats cheeseburgers every other meal, lies through his teeth, doesn’t apologize for anything, is a classist, racist asshole, and is extremely dumb. No chief executive has so thoroughly embodied the depths of America’s unfettered depravity. Between that and his actual penchant for showmanship politics, it’s really no wonder he was elected president. During his first and only term in office, he used his platform to elevate conservative rage that’s been bubbling just under the surface for years. Trump’s entire political career has been centered around triggering the libs and appealing to his immigrant-fearing, flag-humping, gun-toting base. But all he really did was push the natural arc of American conservative politics a little farther, and most importantly, he did it without any shame or apology.
It’s not hard to figure out why people love Donald Trump. He’s arguably the first president who is authentically himself, even if his authentic self is an unrepentant sweaty monster. There’s no political act or thoughtfulness with Trump. He doesn’t offer up couched answers and wears his emotions and intentions on his sleeve. You can tell he’s exactly the same way he is in private as he is in front of cameras and microphones—a depraved narcissistic lunatic who thinks everyone is out to get him. What could possibly be more American than that?
Accepting that Trump is the perfect representation of American turpitude is difficult for people to hear. For years, many cried that Trump is not who we are, that America is better than this, that he doesn’t represent what this country is truly about. They pined for the Obama years and even managed to rehabilitate George W. Bush, leaning on both as examples of how a president should actually look and sound and act. All the while those people missed what was directly in front of them, either unconsciously aware of reality or in complete denial. Trump is simultaneously the worst and most American president we’ve ever had. And luckily we’ve got photo proof.