Trump's most damning legacy
"Vice President Gore and I put our hearts and hopes into our campaigns; we both gave it our all," Bush said. "We shared similar emotions. I understand how difficult this moment must be for Vice President Gore and his family. He has a distinguished record of service to our country as a congressman, a senator and a vice president."
Many voters continued to doubt the legitimacy of Bush's victory, but there was no social unrest, no civil war. Americans didn't retreat into warring tribes.
Think of what might have occurred if Gore had bitterly accused Bush of winning fraudulently and blamed five of the Republican appointees on the Supreme Court for siding with Bush for partisan reasons.
Think of what might have happened if, during his campaign, Bush had vowed to put Gore in jail for various improprieties, and then, after he won, called on the Justice Department and the FBI to launch a criminal investigation of Gore.
Such statements -- close to ones that Trump has actually made -- might have imperiled the political stability of the nation.
Instead, Gore and Bush made the same moral choice their predecessors made after every previous American presidential election, and for the same reason.
They understood that the demonstrations of respect for each other and for the Constitution confirmed the nation's commitment to our system of government. This was far more important than their own losses or wins.
Donald Trump has no such concern.
This is the essence of Trump's failure as president -- not that he has chosen one set of policies over another, or that he has lied repeatedly and chronically, or even that he has behaved in childish and vindictive ways unbecoming a president.
It is that he has sacrificed the processes and institutions of American democracy to achieve his own selfish ends.
By saying and doing whatever he believes it takes for him to come out on top, Trump has abused the trust we place in a president to preserve and protect the nation's capacity for self-government.
This will be his most damaging and most damning legacy.
(Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," now available in paperback. His new film, "Inequality for All," is now out on Amazon, DVD and On Demand. His daily blog is at www.facebook.com/RBReich/.)