The Trump legacy? It can be summed up in one horrific, staggering number: 400,000. A number that approaches the number of American lives lost during the Second World War.

On the evening of Jan. 19, Doug Emhoff, left, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden look down the National Mall as lamps are lit at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honor the nearly 400,000 American victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via TNS

Tuesday’s ceremony on the National Mall was stark, solemn and beautiful. As 400 lights symbolizing each thousand who have perished to date from COVID came on in a rolling sequence from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, our collective path forward was illuminated.

Beyond the Reflecting Pool, in all of its majesty, was the Capitol Building. While memory of the Jan. 6 desecration of that shrine to democratic republicanism is still fresh and will remain forever indelible, it still stands as a beacon of hope, its inspiring presence radiates yet.

The essential civics lesson from these past four years? Never again. Never again can we fall for the demagoguery of a narcissistic sociopath promising a reactionary return to an idealized past that never was. The “special providence” (in modern terms, abundant luck) that Bismarck said protected this country will expire when we do not actively maintain our inherited gift of self-determination and allow the most corrosive forces in human nature, ignorance and neglect, to erode its foundations.

Joe Wagner

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