Mental stability and being, like, really smart: President Trump’s first year in office
Dr Michael Goodrum assesses the American President’s first year in office.
Any discussions of political success or failure are inherently problematic; success for some is failure for others. The most objective way to consider Trump’s first year in office is therefore to hold him to his own promises, and to consider how his administration has made use of the most political power wielded by the Republicans since 1929.
While the American economy is booming and unemployment is down, which is usually an indication of success, Trump’s approval ratings have slumped to 39%. Trump is losing his base and failing to win over new supporters.
One campaign promise that has been realised, to cut the business tax rate, might be contributing to economic growth, but another Trump promise, to cut taxes for everyone, has only really resulted in benefits for the top 1% of earners, and the policy will ultimately lead to an increase in the deficit, potentially destabilising the economy. Those who felt squeezed before the election still feel squeezed now as the economic benefits of Trump’s policies are far from evenly distributed.
Illegal immigration is down but this is no thanks to the promised wall on the Mexican border, for which Mexico has refused to pay; or the travel ban on immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, which has only recently come into effect after being struck down twice by federal judges. The travel ban only operates at present pending further judicial review, and John Kelly, Trump’s current chief of staff, has also contradicted the President on the need for a wall at all, continuing the confusion that has characterised this past year.
All of this, however, must be balanced against potential collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, which is currently being considered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the swathe of Republican senators who have chosen to stand down rather than seek re-election in 2018, and most of all, Trump’s failure to denounce neo-Confederates in the Charlottesville protests last year regarding the removal of Confederate statues. Sympathy for and alignment with the alt-right, institutionalised through the presence of former Breitbart executive chairman, Steve Bannon, as chief of staff for the campaign and then the first seven months in office, goes some way to explaining Trump’s handling of Charlottesville, and also his recent alleged comments regarding the nature of Haiti and some African countries.
His support for Roy Moore, who is accused of sexual assault against underage girls and who seemed to condone slavery while campaigning for the Senate in Alabama, has also done much to discredit Trump.The President has also used and amplified discriminatory rhetoric against other minority groups, most notably the transgender community. What could be seen as a victory for some, the acknowledgment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a long-term neo-conservative aim, was done against international opinion, and has threatened to destabilise American relations with the Middle East.
Trump’s rhetoric on race, and in his nuclear confrontation with Kim Jong-un, has done tremendous injury to American global trust and prestige.
His domestic war on ‘fake news’ and his presentation of ‘alternative facts’ has seriously harmed political discourse, as has his use of Twitter to announce policy, often contradicting more conventional announcements by his party.
When taken as a whole, Trump’s first year in office can only be seen as a failure that has damaged the office he holds.