In the whirlwind of the last week, when you found yourself committed to a job you do not want and did not expect, perhaps you have not considered the personal cost of what you have just accomplished. Your legacy, everything you have worked for up until last Tuesday, is now guaranteed to be utterly forgotten.
Only academic historians remember the words and deeds of 19th century tycoons. But schoolchildren can name Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan. You are now playing on a stage where legacy is measured in decades and centuries. From the moment you take the oath of office, everything you have done to get to that position becomes completely irrelevant. You become a president, and that is all history will remember about you.
Already, history is watching. It will be recorded that you ran a campaign not seen by Americans in decades, and even then, always by fringe and losing candidates. History’s first draft, indicating that you had no idea what the job entailed until your meeting with the current president, is already written.
Perhaps you believe you will be able to control what is said about you, and maybe that is true within your lifetime. But history has a long memory. Eventually, your closest aides and confidantes will talk to the media, or to historians. Your every misstep will be dissected. Your every mistake will be magnified. And when it becomes clear what the outcome of your presidency will be for the future of the nation, your legacy will be written long after you are dead, when you have no control over what it says.
The most likely result of this does not look good for you. You have no experience at this job. The world is dangerous, complex, and vulnerable. A plurality of Americans already believe you are the worst man in history for this position. Your putative allies, the Republican party, has deep fissures and strong political traditions which run in opposition to what you hope to accomplish. Even people who voted for you have deep doubts about your ability.
The open question now is whether you will be remembered in history as a laughingstock, or whether you will actually supplant Buchanan as America’s worst president.
But the crucial point is this: regardless of what you achieve or fail, your legacy is erased. Everything you have built is ashes. You are going to be judged purely based on what you do, or fail to do, starting January 20th. All else is irrelevant.
Everything that has been written about you indicates that you are deeply concerned with what people think about you. Fill as many rallies as you like with your adoring fans; their numbers will be utterly meaningless next to the generations of Americans who will learn your name, possibly alongside the historical verdict of “worst in history.”
There is one thing you can do to avoid this, and your deadline is December 19th. Simply take the stage at Trump Tower, the place that will be forgotten, and announce that you do not want the job.
The immediate result will be a crisis; five hundred and thirty-eight nonentities from around the country will suddenly have the power to appoint the next president. It could be Mike Pence. It could be Hillary Clinton. In fact, it could be any native-born American who has lived here for the past fourteen years, is at least thirty-five years old, and who has not already served two terms.
It will be a crisis, but one that will be less severe than any number that may occur once you take responsibility for the nation. Let’s talk about what it does for you.
Instead of being history’s greatest failure, you get to continue doing exactly what gave you the most pleasure during the campaign. You will still have the support of millions. You will have a position of power and influence for the rest of your life. Most importantly, you can spend the remainder of your days saying what you would have done in office, criticizing the office holder, and have no actual events proving you wrong.
By all indications, it is the outcome you wanted: the title without the responsibility. You will still have won the election. You will still have mortified your enemies. The story of your life will still matter to history. If anything, being the first person in the history of the republic to turn down the job will ensure that you are remembered well by posterity.
You have just under five weeks to decide. This is your last chance to go out as America’s greatest winner. Take it.