Trump's presidency: a year in review
Just over a year ago, Donald Trump officially became the 45th President of the United States. Since then, America has witnessed a president unlike any other. A reality star who “spoke his mind,” who seemed to be unafraid of hitting the “tweet” button, would soon “have a nuclear button” that he proudly admitted “works.” A man without any prior political experience had defied all odds, going against polls and predictions. Regardless of the results from the general election, the free world saw a new chapter in its history thanks to its new leader.
Trump made his objectives of his presidency clear since the campaign, best summarized by his iconic slogan “Make America Great Again:” putting “America first.” To help fulfill the goals of his first term, Trump released his "Contract with the American Voter" in which he set up tasks for his first 100 days in office. He may not have been able to check off every box on his list, but he made significant strides towards establishing “law and order,” protecting American workers, and “draining the swamp” in Washington. As of today, he has signed nearly sixty executive orders, more than any preceding president had this far in his respective presidency.
There have been immediate and positive results from the Trump administration. The stock market continues to go up, and a sample of economists selected by The Wall Street Journal almost unanimously reported that job creation and gross domestic product growth may be due to Trump's small-government approach. However, these results cannot override the tumultuousness of the administration.
Trump may have been praised by some economists for his tax cut plan, but he is still far from being traditionally conservative. Trade, often supported by small-government ideals, was now a topic targeted by conservative criticism. Trump broke the old tradition of conservatism by pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) altogether, just as he promised during his campaign. He is continuing this trend by seeking negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), if not a termination of the United States' involvement altogether. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demonstrated confidence in the deal, aiming to exemplify NAFTA's benefits to the Canadian economy to "show [to] our neighbor to the south." Trump's Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, shows confidence that Trump will not completely pull out of NAFTA due to the fact that ending a trade agreement with Canada, the U.S.'s largest trade partner, would have significant consequences and wipe out jobs. However, it is uncertain that he will not ultimately decide to end trade deals in an attempt to create more domestic jobs.
The TPP and NAFTA are not the only trade agreements that Trump has been wrestling with. To attack the U.S. trade deficit, Trump turned to Korea and threatened to end the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) despite the fact that Korea, as of 2017, contributes $21 billion out of the $724 billion total trade deficit, which amounts to not even three percent of the total trade deficit, thus taking away jobs created by Korean plants in the U.S. For instance, Hyundai's contribution in Alabama and Kia's in Georgia would both be negatively impacted by the withdrawal of the KORUS FTA but may not be able to generate the domestic jobs that Trump has promised to compensate for the damage. However, as President Moon Jae-In and Trump are in talks of renegotiating the KORUS FTA, we may successfully avert a possible economic damage.
Perhaps his most memorable campaign promise was building the wall and "have Mexico pay for it." However, construction remains stalled to this day. Although he seems to be hard-set on the wall, which has been suggested to be both economically demanding and possibly ineffective, Trump is willing to compromise by offering citizenship for dreamers so that his wall can be built. This has received criticism from some on the left; Senator Kamala Harris noted that Trump was quick to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) but also quick to provide citizenship for dreamers in exchange for a border wall. However, prominent voices of the right, such as former congressman Joe Walsh, also showed disappointment in Trump's plan for compromise. Like a significant portion of other supporters of the wall, Walsh wanted the wall to be built at the expense of Mexico, not at the expense of providing "a pathway for providing citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. This compromise, he argues, is "not what [Trump] said during the campaign."
Politics has never been a topic in which clean and clear solutions are made; the saying "never discuss politics or religion in polite company" has existed for as long as it has for a reason. However, given Trump's disapproval rating is below 40 percent — low for a president in office for a relatively short amount of time — it is clear that the trend of a more distinct clash between political ideologies burgeoning is continuing.
The day after election night, one sentiment was widely spread: "give Donald Trump a chance." Although there's still a good three-quarter of his first term left, we have now been given a peek at what is to come.