Year One of Trump is over. Here’s what changed
One year after Donald Trump upended the political world, 10 experts assess his presidency.
Select an option below to read each essay.
The Constitution created three coequal branches of government, but President Trump repeatedly demeans the judiciary. Before he was president, the Justice Department charged Donald Trump’s company with violations of the Fair Housing Act. Black “testers” were denied apartments when similar white testers were offered apartments in the same buildings managed in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Trump settled.
Just after he was elected, Trump repeatedly questioned the fairness of federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel who presided over a fraud suit against Trump University because Curiel is “Mexican” and because Trump planned a border wall. Trump settled.
Consider his travel ban. Last year Trump signed an executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. A federal judge issued an injunction against the ban. After a second federal court suspended the ban, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates declined to defend it. Trump fired her. A third federal judge temporarily blocked a revised version of the ban. Trump tweeted: “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into US?”
Three appellate judges upheld the injunction. Trump issued a new version of the ban. A federal judge suspended enforcement. Trump called the decision an “unprecedented judicial overreach.” Five more judges ruled to suspend the ban. The Supreme Court announced it would permit enforcement of the new ban, pending full review.
In September, Trump signed a third travel ban. A federal judge issued a restraining order. Over two dissenting votes, the Supreme Court approved enforcement, pending ongoing challenges. Meanwhile, several appellate judges questioned whether Trump’s tweets show unconstitutional racial animus affecting the ban’s lawfulness.
After a terrorist attack in Manhattan in October, Trump attacked the courts as “a joke” and stated, “no wonder so much” terrorism takes place.
Meanwhile, Trump has largely turned the judicial selection process over to the conservative Federalist Society, which has generated a record-setting rate of appointments, including selection of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, but also produced problematic nominees who have withdrawn on the advice of Republican Senate leadership.
Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio erased his contempt conviction, issued when he detained suspected undocumented immigrants through racial profiling in violation of a court order. Senator John McCain said the pardon “undermined the president’s claim for the respect of rule of law.” The same could be said of many other aspects of the president’s conduct.
Martha Minow is a professor and former dean at Harvard Law School.
From the moment he came down the escalator in June 2015, to his administration’s year-one policy decisions, President Trump has built a case that immigrants and refugees are economic and security threats to American families.
While there are concrete opportunities for him to change his ways, the president is leading the nation down a slippery slope of economic and cultural isolation.
The question is, how do we reverse this troubling trajectory?
By meeting people where they are, but not leaving them there.
Over the last seven years, by working with conservative and moderate faith, law enforcement, and business leaders across the country, both conservative and moderate, I have gained a deeper appreciation for how conservative America grapples with the question of immigration.
From Idaho dairymen, to Iowa sheriffs, to South Carolina pastors, people want their concerns to be heard. Yes, they have come to love the Jose, Maria, or Mohammed they know. But they are afraid of the ones they don’t. That is the gap we need to bridge.
The path to meaningful immigration reform runs through Republican-leaning districts and states across the country. Demographics is not destiny in these parts of America.
Trusted messengers such as the pastor, the police chief, or the business owner are the ones who must make the case to conservative Americans that while their fears are understood, immigrants are actually contributing to the economy, serving our nation, and becoming American.
In the end, regardless of what Trump may say or do about immigrants and refugees, we are a welcoming people who want to live in a nation of laws, and a nation of grace.
How we regain that balance is up to us.
Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
One year ago, the nation installed a president who was taped bragging about his own sexual predation. Yet lately, after a few weeks of women women revealing their stories of sexual violations in the workplace, pundits are warning of public exhaustion from the exposure. The specter of backlash against victims understandably has sympathizers calling for a clearer standard for defining sexual harassment and for zero-tolerance policies. But fatigue and frustration should not divert us from bearing witness to the horrors that far too many routinely experience nor derail the difficult work of altering abusive conduct and dismantling the cultures and structures that enable it.
Even with the latest revelations, consensus on an open-and-shut sexual harassment definition may be a long way off. Our legal standard requires that sexual harassment must constitute a condition of employment or be severe or pervasive enough to constitute abuse, hostility, or intimidation, all subjective factors that get complicated by sexual identity, race, and class.
Moreover, a nuanced understanding harassment understanding of harassment shows it to be more than just one behavior. Media reports, #MeToo postings, and caselaw case law reveal conduct ranging from sexual extortion, to relentless unwelcome pursuits, to sexual berating, and include assorted senseless, brutal actions that defy categories. In general, people agree that demanding sex in exchange for a job, raise, or promotion should never be tolerated. But we equivocate over the harm caused by insistent, unreciprocated sexual hounding, sexist and sexual put-downs, and unwanted ogling and touching in our workplaces.
Deeply entrenched systemic harassment can persist despite multimillion-dollar settlements. Zero tolerance requires policing abuses and getting rid of the cultures and structures that embolden and protect them. More diverse and informed leadership, fair and equitable pay, and reducing other forms bias forms of bias must be achieved in order for any solutions to be lasting. Our unblinking attention and patient commitment are imperatives to ensure we don’t pass this hazard to future generations.
Anita F. Hill is a professor at Brandeis University.
We hear regularly about our divided America, that constant case of us vs. them, the NeverTrumpers vs. the LockHerUppers, the Elites vs. the Deplorables. The fringes are clearly getting the airtime.
The blame for this goes to many, including the media, Congress, the Russians, money, and our president, who often inspires his base by debasing those Americans who are not consistently with him.
Here’s the irony.
From my conversations with 400 voters every week for the last 18 months, I am certain that the majority of Americans stand on common ground. They all want a good job with fair wages, protection from unforeseen catastrophes, a peaceful world, and a sense that they are being treated fairly. They differ on certain issues, but most want to address our pressing challenges, such as fixing our crumbling infrastructure or cutting government waste. Over 70 percent of these voters want more attention paid to climate change, are open to more gun control legislation, and want a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Few want freeloaders scamming the system, and none want to deny assistance to those truly in need.
Even many Trump supporters cringe at his antics. They find little value in his tweeting, his thin skin, or the constant chaos. They see juvenile behavior and worry that our country is being run by a juvenile.
More than Trump’s recklessness, however, most voters worry about our internal war: that we don’t understand and care about each other, and that we spent 2017 expressing more animosity toward our fellow Americans than toward our real enemies.
If this is true — that the divide is more perception than reality — no one wins. A better future path would be to get out of our respective bubbles, pay less attention to the extremes, and commit to a more open dialogue in our nation.
Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, author, and chair of C Space. She has been in conversation with 400 Trump voters weekly since last December. Follow her on Twitter @DianeHessan.
President Trump achieved several foreign policy accomplishments in 2017. The US military helped defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria; the United States made the overdue decision to provide defensive arms to Ukraine; and American diplomacy helped convince persuade China and others to introduce new sanctions on North Korea in response to its nuclear and missile programs. The United States moved closer to Israel and Saudi Arabia and got off to a good start with India and Japan.
But the overall impact of Trump’s first year was to weaken US standing in much of the world. Respect for the United States fell most in Latin America (offended by presidential comments on Mexico and opposition to immigration) and in Europe (shocked by Trump’s hesitation to restate US commitment to NATO or confront Russia).
Many governments were also alienated by presidential hostility to multilateral efforts designed to contend with regional and global challenges. The Trump administration left the Paris climate pact, boycotted global talks on migration, and criticized the Iran nuclear deal. Trade agreements were either abandoned (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) or threatened (NAFTA, the US-Korean accord) by an administration that was avowedly protectionist.
To be clear, the Trump foreign policy was not isolationist. But it was largely unilateral and narrowly transactional and unpredictable. The net effect was to weaken the fabric of alliances and global institutions that had done so much to promote US security and prosperity since World War II.
In foreign policy as in health care, year one of the Trump administration saw much more repeal than replace. This will likely probably prove unsustainable. Trump will need to decide how to narrow the gap between his rhetoric and US policy toward Iran, North Korea, and trade. Doing so will not be easy for an administration that has downgraded diplomacy as a national security tool and has left vacant so many senior positions at home and abroad.
Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “A World in Disarray.”
President Trump has been more devastatingly effective in his war on the environment than in almost any other part of his agenda — and that’s mostly because it wasn’t really his agenda. There’s little in his record to suggest he thinks much one way or another about the earth, except for that part of it that harbors golf courses. But the Koch brothers and their ilk think a great deal about it, and responsibility for dismantling the environmental regulations that have cleaned our air and water was deputized to their veteran operatives.
Men like EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have worked steadily to carry out the longtime desires of the fossil fuel industry — ; enforcement of existing environmental laws has been gutted, and pretty much everywhere there might be oil has been opened up for drilling. (A tragicomic exception: Zinke last week said Florida’s coast would be exempted, after its Trump-supporting governor complained.)Every federal website seems to have been scrubbed of its climate content. Indeed, they’ve done their best to make the whole environmental issue disappear altogether, doing most of their work in silence. (Total silence, apparently—Pruitt spent $25k of your money on a ‘soundproof phone booth’ so no one could eavesdrop on his calls).
The great exception was Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. It was shameful in every way — the : The biggest historical producer of carbon is the only nation unwilling to join in the fight against climate change, breaking the word it had given just two years before. . But it was remarkably public, with a game-show-reveal tease in the days beforehand. That meant the whole world was watching, just as Trump liked. And it meant the whole world reacted — with revulsion, and with what seems a renewed dedication to keeping up the pressure. Other nations, happily, haven’t followed his lead, and now some in the United States are stepping up in opposition. When New York City made the epic announcement this month that it would divest its pension funds from fossil fuels and file suit against the oil companies, it was a sign that with every action comes with a reaction.
Bill McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.
With every passing day, it should become clearer to objective observers that the decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russia connection in the 2016 presidential election was a serious mistake. We know nothing more than we knew when the investigation began. This is so either because nothing significant has emerged or because of the inherent secrecy surrounding grand jury investigations.
The Special Counsel has picked some low hanging fruit, in the form of indicting several former campaign and White House officials for relatively minor crimes largely unrelated to what was supposed to be investigated. Now one of those who was indicated, Paul Manafort, has brought a law suit challenging the scope of the Special Counsel’s authority. He will lose that suit on legal grounds, but his point is well taken. As my friend and colleague Harvey Silverglate has taught us in his brilliant book entitled, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, the federal criminal law is ever expandable to cover virtually any target of a zealous prosecutor.
As I’ve said from the beginning, the appropriate response should have been the appointment of an independent, nonpartisan commission of the kind convened after 9/11. Its goal would not be prosecution, but rather investigation to determine precisely what Russia has done and to come up with ways to avoid its interference in future elections. All Americans should be concerned about Russia’s attempt to distort our democratic processes. Hence, a nonpartisan approach is preferable to a secret grand jury investigation or partisan efforts by congressional committees to score political points.
In addition, there is debate about whether President Trump can be charged with criminal conduct for merely exercising his constitutional authority under Article II by firing FBI director James Comey, asking him to stop investigating Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, or pardoning potential witnesses against him. Special counsel Robert Mueller probably knows that it would be wrong to charge a president for obstruction of justice unless he committed an independent criminal act such as bribery, witness tampering, destruction of evidence, or suborning perjury. I believe Mueller will avoid a constitutional crisis by not directly confronting this issue. If I am right, the investigation will end not with a bang but with several whimpers. Mueller will have to indict enough people to justify the vast expenditure of the people’s money, but in the end the American people will have learned little about what happened in the past or about how to prevent it in the future.
Alan M. Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “Trumped Up! How Criminalizing Politics Is Dangerous to Democracy.”
In his first speech as a presidential candidate in 2015, Donald Trump declared that Mexican immigrants entering the United States are “bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
This was not a dog whistle. This was a bullhorn.
There was never a reason to believe that such inflammatory rhetoric was just a campaign tactic to attract a certain rabid demographic. Or that Trump, once he entered the White House, would temper the racism he has openly displayed throughout his public life.
Trump’s presidency has emboldened white supremacists. When a neo-Nazi sympathizer at a racist rally in Charlottesville, Va., allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman, Trump claimed “many sides” were to blame. That earned him wide condemnation — but also praise from former Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. At a press conference later, Trump was still propping up racists, saying that at the rally there were “very fine people” on both sides.
Again, white supremacists applauded their man in the White House.
Trump profanely suggested firing NFL players — the majority of them black — for kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice; he pushed for a black
ESPN anchor to be let go for calling him “a white supremacist”; he publicly argued with a black congresswoman, representing the family of a young African-American soldier killed in Niger over his brusque comments during a condolence call to the soldier’s widow. And then, asked to consider restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, he referred to them as “shithole countries.”
Make America Great Again was always a thinly veiled way of saying “Make America White Again.” From his Muslim travel ban to his stated wish for more Norwegian immigrants, Trump has sliced open old racial wounds and inflicted new, deeper ones.
Trump is the worst thing to happen to American race relations since the Jim Crow era.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the president’s signature legislative accomplishment for 2017. It is long-overdue reform to business taxation in the United States and a route to more rapidly rising standards of living for the middle class.
The old tax code had undercut the nation’s economic growth for decades. Its incentives made the United States a less attractive place to do business. Overseas earnings stayed trapped offshore and were unable to help the domestic economy; some intellectual property and production moved outside US borders; and a steady stream of US headquarters migrated to more competitive economic climates.
The consequences were widespread. Investment in the United States has been weak since the economic recovery began in 2009. Productivity growth disappeared. And the standard of living for workers stagnated: In 2016, those who worked full time saw a zero increase in their real incomes, according to the Census.
The new tax reform law encourages businesses to innovate in the United States, to invest more, and to keep their headquarters here. It also combines several features that should raise the availability and sophistication of technologies for workers, encouraging higher real wages for the middle class. These include preferential treatment for intellectual property in the United States that generates global returns; a shift to the global standard of territorial taxation; a lower, internationally competitive corporate rate; and strong investment incentives.
Paired with these corporate reforms are similar changes to the taxation of pass-through income —, a necessary leveling of the tax playing field for more than half of US businesses.
Combined, these reforms provide a foundation for better long-term growth in productivity and wages, the single most important way to improve the economic lives of the middle class.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum.
While the stimulating virtues of tax reform have received high marks for their potential impact on economic growth, the more consequential policy of the Trump administration thus far has been the systematic pushback on suffocating government regulations.
Wayne Crews, director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, recently reported that the Trump administration is exceeding even former president Reagan’s record of cutting government red tape. Crews estimates that the cost of federal regulations to the US economy (including the thousands of largely unnoticed executive branch and independent agency actions, which he calls “regulatory dark matter”) is nearly $2 trillion per year. This amount includes $400 billion for market entry restrictions and price support, $386 billion for environmental regulations, and $316 billion for complying with the (pre-2018) tax code.
Technological innovation is one notable casualty of imprudent regulation. For example, the Trump administration recently revised a set of rigorous rules for unmanned drones, developed in 2016 by the Federal Aviation Administration, that included line-of-sight restrictions and stringent operator exams. The new regulations include an innovative pilot program that pairs state and local governments with private businesses to experiment with regulations that maintain safety but still permit development of this promising technology.
Despite criticisms from the left, the objective of the administration is not one of wantonly cancelling any and all regulations. Public policy imperatives like safety and equal justice can overrule unbridled market freedom. But public policy is hardly public when it is carried out by fourth-tier bureaucrats writing thousands of rules that no one sees, let alone gets to debate, until they show up in your business strictures, your health care choices, or your tax code. So the main beneficiary of the administration’s deregulation initiatives is in fact representative democracy. The economy, meanwhile, also likes what it sees.
Mike Stopa is a nanophysicist who served as a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016.