Trump has changed America
North America reporter
@awzurcher on Twitter
January 12, 2018
It's a quarter of the way through Donald Trump's presidential term - long
enough to judge his performance so far. There have been promises kept, promises broken and promises ignored. But
how much have his policies changed things? A business tycoon with no political experience, he said he came to Washington
to make waves. Has he succeeded?
① The Trump administration tackled the immigration issue pretty much
right out of the gate, with its ill-fated executive order closing the US border
to entrants from a handful of majority-Muslim nations.
② Implementation of that effort led to chaos at US airports and a quick
suspension at the hands of US courts. Since then, the White House has rolled
out two new border orders, adding a few countries to the banned list and
removing one (Sudan).
③ The latest measures have, at least so far, largely withstood legal challenge.
Immigration enforcement has also been ramped up - 143,470 arrests for
violations for the year ending in October - a 30% increase.
④ Mr Trump also announced an end to the Obama-era Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, which granted normalised residency status
to roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the US when they were
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(The order has been temporarily suspended by the court, and is the subject
of ongoing negotiations in Congress. About 200,000 Salvadoreans face an
uncertain future because the White House has brought their temporary protected
status (TPS) to an end.)
Mr Trump is pushing for sweeping changes to the US immigration
system, including reductions in the total number of entrants, the termination
of the visa lottery system and greatly reducing the ability of current US
residents to bring relatives into the country. Those measures will be strongly
opposed by Democrats, however.As for the Mexican border wall, perhaps the most memorable of Mr Trump's
campaign promises, funding is still in doubt and - and the money to pay
for it will almost certainly come from US taxpayers, not Mexico.
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⑤ Making waves? The
president has sweeping authority on immigration and border issues - and he's
used it, even if some lower courts have tried to clip his wings. Still, there's
nothing Mr Trump would like more than to stand in front of a shiny, new border
⑥ In his inaugural address, Mr Trump
outlined an ambitious new programme of US infrastructure investment. "We
will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels, and
railways, all across our wonderful nation," he said.
⑦ "We will get our people off of
welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and
⑧ Since then, Mr Trump's big
infrastructure plan has always been just around the next bend of the road.
Instead, Congress and the administration first focused on healthcare reform, an
effort that ended in a string of disappointments. Then they turned their gaze
on tax reform, which had a much happier ending.
⑨ Aside from a few press events, such as a
June announcement of an air traffic control initiative that has since gone
nowhere, infrastructure talk has been little more than empty words.
Making waves? Where would Mr Trump be today if he had led with a bipartisan
infrastructure programme that was met with overwhelming public approval,
instead of travel bans and an extended, acrimonious fight over healthcare?
⑩ At the end of 2017, Mr Trump boasted
that he had signed more legislation than any previous president. While that
claim was clearly not true - the 94 bills that reached his desk rank well
behind John F Kennedy's 684 and trail all modern presidents - he did close out
the year with one major legislative accomplishment.
Making waves? Mr Trump can lay claim to the most substantive change to US tax law
in 16 years, enacting the kind of massive corporate tax cut that Republicans
have been after for decades.
A change of tone
⑪ There's never been an American president
quite like Donald Trump. No one has ever held the office with no prior elective
or military leadership experience. No one, in modern times at least, has been
as blunt or as disruptive a force on the national and international stage.
⑫ For many of the president's supporters,
this is exactly what they wanted. They supported the candidate who told them
the system was broken, the other politicians on the stage with him were phony
and the process was a joke. They asked for different, and different is what
⑬ Mr Trump has said he is defining
"modern day presidential" with his free-form use of social media, his
continued practice of giving unscripted campaign-style rally speeches and his
willingness to disregard many of the time-honoured traditions of politics.
⑭ In some ways his has been a conventional
presidency. His court appointments are largely in keeping with conservative
desires, his tax package was a longtime Republican wish-list and his efforts at
deregulation are out of the party's anti-big-government playbook.
⑮ But the way Mr Trump has operated, and
the way he has talked about how he is going about running the nation, has been
Making waves? It remains to be seen whether Donald Trump is permanently changing
the way politics is conducted in the US. A quarter of the way through his term
in office, however, it should be quite clear that US politics isn't changing