2022 Online Commentary finalist

Future-proofing the presidency

About the Project

Future-proofing the presidency is a project by the Globe editorial board, written by Abdallah Fayyad. The series details how Donald Trump exposed the weaknesses in our system of government that could be exploited by a corrupt leader with control of the White House. Fayyad outlines urgent, specific reforms needed to prevent the rise of an American tyrant — and to protect our democracy for posterity.

As Donald Trump’s term came to a close in late 2020 and early 2021, the Globe editorial board recognized that much of the American public had come to view him as an aberration, a singular threat to the Republic that had been defeated — and that this view of recent history would do no less than endanger our democracy. We saw a much more pernicious and long-term threat posed by the legal and ethical transgressions of the Trump White House in that they exposed the weak spots that could be exploited by future would-be tyrants who wanted to abuse the power of the presidency. That was the challenge of this series — to show readers that American democracy is not only threatened by Trumpism, but by the American presidency itself. The Trump presidency showed that over the course of American history, it’s often been customs and norms rather than enforceable laws that have protected the integrity of the office and preserved checks and balances among the three branches of government. I His presidency also showed that impeachment was too flaccid a tool to check a corrupt president, given that the politics of the moment could so easily supersede Congress’s willingness to remove a president from office, even after he attempted a coup.

The series was motivated by a desire to underscore that Donald Trump has left our democracy and our constitutional system vulnerable to dictators and corrupt kleptocrats who could more effectively exploit the loopholes and weak spots that have now been exposed, and to urge Congress, the Justice department, voters, and prosecutors to do what’s necessary to prevent future presidents from abusing their power in order to protect our democracy for posterity.

We used a simple yet stark color palette, bold typography, and use of black and white photos to create a sense of urgency in the presentation. The navigation and design emphasizes, but never overwhelms, the text.

On the last day of the social campaign, we flooded our channels with one simple message, displayed over and over again over photos from the series: Indict and prosecute.