Trump is wrapping up his first year as President, and perhaps the only thing that most would agree on is that the Trump Presidency, like his election, has been a most unusual one. His core supporters still love him and see the real problem as a Washington establishment more concerned with its own problems than those of everyday people like themselves. Trump’s main goal is to clean out “the swamp.”
His opposition hates him, and yes, it is hate, often to the point of fixation as they see him destroying the country and setting up a fascist regime. While such hatred occurred to some extent with all recent Presidents, Obama, Bush, and Clinton certainly had those who hated them, there are two differences with Trump and Trump hatred.
First, with Trump it is much more mainstream. Those who hated Obama, Bush and Clinton tended to be on the fringes, but given how Trump’s election was such a surprise, many Democrats simply cannot accept that he actually won, and is the legitimate President. In addition, his detractors are not just on the left or even limited to Democrats as many Republicans, the so-called Never-Trumpers, were so opposed to Trump before the election that they are essentially in the same camp as their Democratic counterparts.
Making matter even worse, many in the media are among the haters and as a result the daily news cycle is dominated by stories on how bad Trump is and the damage he is supposedly doing. A report by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that in the first 100 days Trump had 3 times the coverage of earlier presidents, “without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”
Not only does such slanted coverage feed the hatred, it reinforces Trump’s base concerning how entrenched “the establishment” forces are, strengthening their support for Trump. As a result, the hatred is far more main stream than with previous Presidents.
The second factor is Trump himself. Trump is a fighter at heart. It is one of the reasons his base likes him. But often he is his own worst enemy, particularly when it comes to his tweets. Many a time I have been disgusted at the anti-Trump focus of the media overtaking what I believe to be more important stories, such as the looming danger of North Korea, or the recent protests in Iran. It would be easy to blame the Trump haters in the media, but often it is Trump himself causing the focus. Like two children locked in a battle of retaliation, Trump and those who hate him are locked in battle. Whenever it seems to have finally passed, one side will poke the other and it flairs up again.
While Trump and those who hate him may both be at fault, ultimately this come down as a negative mark against Trump, as he is responsible for his own actions and cannot blame other for what he does. Frankly, as President, one of his jobs is to be above all this. Before Trump can legitimately point to those who hate him as an excuse, he needs to take care of the beam in his own eye. This does not absolve those who hate him, but this is an evaluation of the Trump Presidency not those who oppose him.
Earlier in his first year I would have given Trump a failing grade, but it seems to me there has been at least some improvement, though I admit perhaps I have just become better at tuning this noise out. But whatever improvement there has been, there remain a lot of room for improvement, and so I would give him a D.
Another problematic area would be the general running of the White House. While all new presidents have their struggles, such as nominations that run into trouble, and the like, Trump is the first President where the Presidency was his first political office, and thus has had more problems than normal. One of the more positive aspects is that there does seem to be some ability to learn from mistakes and the While House seems to be running better as we come to the end of the first year, though again there is still room for improvement. Grade C.
As for the rest of his Presidency, while he got off to a very rocky start, he finished his first year reasonably well, and in terms of accomplishments better than most presidents. The tax cut was passed, including even a repeal of the Obama Care Mandate. Also passed was the National Defense Authorization Act and increasing defense spending, along with VA reform. ISIS was defeated in Iraq, he withdrew from the Paris Accords and TPP, and recognized the obvious: that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Net-Neutrality was repealed and there were new rules for Power Plants and Waters of the United States. Probably his most long-term legacy will be the courts with the appointment of Gorsuch to the Supreme court and 12 Appeals courts judges.
Many more accomplishments could be listed, and I am sure his detractors see many of these as negatives. But while Republicans did not like that Obama was able to pass ObamaCare, their dislike for the bill did not remove it as an accomplishment. Trump did fail on his promise to completely repeal ObamaCare, and has yet to fulfill his promise for plan to reach a 350 ship Navy and the Wall, so here he gets a Grade of B.
Then there are the more general things like an improved economy and the return to the rule of law. A good example of the latter would be the announcement that DACA was ending. While soundly condemned on the left, DACA was being challenged in court and it was generally expected to be found unconstitutional, leaving the Dreamer worse off than before DACA, as they had registered with the government under the program. While Trump could have just ended DACA, he instead suspended it, instantly stopping the legal challenge and giving time for Congress to pass a bill that would legalize their status, which is what should have happened in the first place.
This will be a test for the Democrats as Republicans have been clear that there is a compromise to be made here. However, it is unclear whether Democrats (or their base) will be willing to work with Trump on anything, including even allowing the Dreamer to stay in the country. Trump’s recent public meeting to negotiate a compromise was master stroke and seems to have made such a compromise much more likely. So the rule of Law, Trump gets an A.
As for the economy, it is clearly doing better. Whether you look at the Stock Market reaching new highs, GDP growth, low unemployment, or companies moving into the country, the economy is doing much better than it has in a long time, and probably since the turn of the century.
A good indicator of how well thing are generally going came from a liberal friend of mine, who commenting on a change in leadership for a local organization, mentioned the “Obama effect” which she defined as the previous leader got everything in place and the new leader gets to take all the credit for the positive results.
While this certainly can and does happen in life, I do not think it applies here. Such arguments are valid, only when the new leadership generally continues the existing polices. For example, this is a valid argument to the success in Iraq during the first year of the Obama administration as Obama initially continued the basic plan put in place during the surge. After his first year in office things were going so well, the Obama administration was taking credit for it and Vice President Biden said Iraq would be one of the major success stories of administration. It was only after the Obama substantially changed the plan by pulling out all troops that the more recent problems arose, not the least of which was ISIS.
Now at the end of Trump’s first year ISIS has been largely defeated in Iraq, and Obama supporters are saying this was just Trump finishing out the Obama plan. Perhaps. A key difference with 2009, is that Trump did make some significant changes, primarily transferring much of the tactical decision making away from the administration and to the military commanders in the field, in short, getting out of their way and letting them do their job. But regardless, either way this still counts as a success for Trump’s first year, just as the initial success in Iraq counted as a success for Obama.
A more reasonable case for the Obama effect might be made for the economy because, at least in theory, the first year of a President is run under the last budget form the previous President, and economic forces are such that things do not change very quickly. Ultimately, we will not really be able to judge the effects of the Trump presidency on the economy for several more years. But the early indications are positive and unlikely due to any Obama effect.
Looking back, Obama years show very consistent, but very small, growth. Having inherited a very bad economy the Obama administration was able to get the economy back on track and was able to avoid any more additional upheavals. The arguments against the Obama economy were not that it was bad, per se, but that it could have been much better.
Two successes of the Trump administration directly relate to the economy. The first has been the massive shift in the focus of regulation. This has been accomplished in three ways. The first has been through the appointment of new heads of the agencies. The second the reduction in regulations, and the third, has been through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which has allowed recent regulations to be stopped.
The CRA is key, for while a future President could in theory simply appoint new agency heads who could then restore the regulations back to where they were prior to the Trump administration, any regulation stopped by the CRA, can not be reimpose, nor any similar regulation, without a bill being passed in Congress. While little used in the pass, the CRA was used extensively in Trump’s first year blocking many regulations of the Obama administration until a future Congress acts.
To detractors this deregulation is reckless, putting the public at risk. To supporters this is reducing the needless burden on business that kills jobs and harms the economy. But independent of this controversy, this deregulation has spurred economic growth.
The other major change has been the passage of the tax cut, clearly a success story for the administration, and one that would have a positive effect on the economy. Thus, the marked increase in economic growth is far more likely to be the result of these changes in policy than the ideal that after 8 years of very consistent slow growth, for some reason, the economy would suddenly take off in the 9th year. For the economy Trump gets an A.
In summary, Trump’s first year is very mixed. I guess it is not surprising that his presidency is one of extremes. One moment is success, the next is a face palm. At times it is tempting to separate Trump from his administration, but Trump appointed the administration, and does set the general direction. Part of the real problem is that given the overwhelming negative coverage, it is often difficult to tell what happening. Even when positive things do happen either the coverage will be so baised in its attempt to find a negative slant, or Trump will divert the news cycle with one of his inflammatory tweets. Thus, at the end of year one I will give the President two grades. On policy I will give him a B, if not a B+. Generally, pretty good, but some room for improvement. The other I will call performance, the job of being president. There I give him a D, as he often is his own worst enemy and I hope for continued improvement in year two.
by Elgin Hushbeck, Jr., Engineer, teacher, Christian apologist, and author of Preserving Democracy, What is Wrong with Social Justice?, A Short Critique of Climate Change, Christianity and Secularism, and Evidence for the Bible.