FARGO — God willing, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday.
We're forced to include the qualifier because it isn't clear whether supporters of President Donald Trump will allow the inauguration to go forward. Given the presence of law enforcement and the military in Washington, D.C., the threat of assassination or domestic terrorism must be real.
This will be Trump's personal legacy: He purposefully tore at the foundation of our democracy, divided the nation more than anybody since the Civil War and left the United States a darker, much weaker place than he inherited.
Trump will be judged the worst president in history, perhaps the one who vaulted the country down the path to self-destruction once and for all.
Policy accomplishments were few and won't be long-lasting. Trump's impact on the federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court, will be his political legacy.
His biggest success, if we can call it that, might be one of the great ironies in U.S. history.
Trump revealed the truth.
Not purposely, of course. Trump is an unrepentant serial liar and that will not change.
No, Trump exposed the reality about America simply by being Trump.
And the reality of America, particularly of the modern Republican Party, is this: We are a nation with millions of people who are white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. There are millions who willingly gobble up lies about election fraud, which was almost non-existent, because that's what they choose to believe.
There are those, especially people of color, who will say, "You're just realizing this now?" There is validity to that criticism. We know there have always been racists and there have always been those with a tenuous grip on reality.
But to the degree we now know to be true? No. That part is shocking, chilling and depressing.
Trump ripped off the Band-Aid to reveal the ugliest truths about America. There was a time when being a racist, a conspiracy theorist — or someone who preferred violence over democracy — would be viewed as shameful. Those people often, though not always, lived in the shadows. They were the town cranks, the wingnuts to whom the world at large paid little attention.
Trump allowed those people to step into the light and be who they wanted to be. Whether it was on Facebook, talk-radio, Fox News, Parler or some other modern platform, Trumpism opened the door to allowing people to be exactly who they always were, publicly and without apology.
The Republican Party, by extension, has become radicalized. One poll found that 45% of Republicans supported the invasion and desecration of the U.S. Capitol.
Whether we can turn back from the damage Trump has wrought is our biggest question.
The answer might lie with whether the Republican Party and those who vote Republican even want to turn back.
But give Trump credit, if that's the proper word.
Americans now know exactly where each other stands — our friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers. What we do with the knowledge gleaned over the last four years is up to us and will determine our future.