Mention the President of the United States in day-to-day conversation and you’ll get the inevitable; a sigh, a shake of the head, a brief eulogy on how Donald Trump is unfit to be president. I’m no different. I’m the first to criticise Trump. I wouldn’t have voted for him if you’d paid me, and think he’s got some pretty damaging, regressive points of view.
But during a recent, daily grumble about The Donald, I got thinking; if you look past the ridiculous Twitter pronouncements, and the President’s general veneer – what has he actually done? How bad has the 45th President of the United States actually been for the country?
The answer, it might surprise you, is not that bad at all.
Stock market up, unemployment down. After plateauing for much of 2015 and 2016, numbers of manufacturing jobs have been on the rise since Trump’s inauguration. While Trump has perhaps taken more credit than he’s due in these areas, it would be ignorant to deny him at least some – business confidence has steadily grown under Trump’s presidency, a direct effect of tax cuts; the most comprehensive simplification of the US tax code in 30 years; and a staunch refusal to regulate the economy to the same extent as during Obama’s tenure. Through 2016-2018, regulations have grown by only 0.6 per cent, in comparison to the 1.6 per cent per annum under Obama.
Despite Trump’s administration succeeding in getting major corporations to pay their tax bills (amounting to £339bn for the economy over the next nine years), Apple are still going through with plans to invest billions into the United States. I barely knew about Trump’s win-win on multinational corporations – most people seem more focussed on waspish gossip from around the White House than they do on promising figures coming out of it.
On foreign policy, he’s been brash and unpredictable, but successful. He can’t take full credit for the defeat of Isis in their traditional strongholds, but they have been defeated. He can’t take full credit for defusing tensions with North Korea – but under President Trump, Kim Jong-un is becoming more receptive to talks with South Korea, and even sent a team to the Winter Olympics. His “quirky” style of diplomacy has led to, in the past few days, talk on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the closest thing to a peaceful North Korea we’ve seen in years. On Friday it was even announced that Trump will be meeting with Kim Jong-un.
On gun control – where previously Trump was a fierce proponent of the Second Amendment, he’s proven more willing to listen than anybody thought possible – recently signing a memo directing the proposition of regulations to ban all gun accessories. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless against the United States’ incomprehensible gun policy.
Could it be that, provided checks against the President’s more skewed policies hold firm, that Trump hasn’t actually been half-bad? Attempts to repeal Obamacare fell through due to opposition, and the Supreme Court held out against the worst of the Republicans’ travel ban plans. It’s why the Founding Fathers made so certain of checks between the different branches of government – so that the least thought-out policy proposals didn’t have a chance of passing. It’s what a lot of people forgot about, in the months after Trump was elected – presidents are unable to act rashly, impulsively. The political system is wired towards something which at least slightly resembles sense.
So why are Trump’s approval ratings so low? The answer is unprecedented levels of political polarisation in America, and the general unwillingness of either side to acknowledge anything of worth on the opposite side.
I’m wary of making any major proclamations too early. Recent threats of trade war could seriously hurt global markets, and Trump’s administration has still been the most divisive in recent memory. More action on gun control is needed, and the President’s protectionism will always be a worry – but whisper it; maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump isn’t the devil we all thought he’d be.
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