January 2018 marks one full year of Trump’s presidency. Some Americans consider Trump’s first year to be a resounding success, saying that he is bringing about a restoration of American success, reinvigorating American business, and enforcing America’s laws in a way that will better our nation. Others say that Trump’s first year has been marked by scandal, corruption, cruelty, and false promises. With one year, it can be difficult to understand what Trump’s future may be, but at the very least, we can reflect on this past year to understand what has happened.
Even as a candidate, Trump has strayed from the norm. Most obviously, Trump has no direct involvement in politics; some have compared him to Ronald Reagan. Professor Andrew Moore of the history department says that this is not an accurate comparison, citing Reagan’s formal experience as governor of California and head of the Screen Actors’ Guild as well as the time he spent studying how to campaign; thus, although some categorize Reagan as the first ‘celebrity president,’ Professor Moore says that this is incorrect. Trump, on the other hand, does not have these experiences. Although he has in the past donated money to some political campaigns (on both sides of the aisle,) Trump has had no formal political ‘experience’ to speak of.
Many voters, regardless of whether they support Trump currently, found themselves supporting him in the 2016 general election because he had won the Republican primary- even if he was not their first choice. In fact, the Crier spoke with two students, Jarrod Solloway and Sean Connor (both Class of 2020,) both of whom voted for Trump in the 2016 general election, and neither of them identified Trump as their pick during the Republican primaries. Although they both gave different reasons for doing so, there was some commonality; both students said they generally disliked Hillary Clinton (as a politician at least) and both said they felt Trump’s success in business put him in a unique position to contribute something to this country- something Professor Moore asserts is also true. Moore said that, in general, “When Americans see somebody who is wealthy, there is generally the assumption that they did something right to earn that wealth- that they must be intelligent in order to have earned that money.” Solloway and Connor’s viewpoints back that assumption of American attitudes.
With regards to campaigning, once again Moore, Connor, and Solloway all noticed that Trump did something different. Professor Moore pointed out that Trump was not campaigning in the same way as other presidents- he was not out long and hard on the campaign trail as other presidents had done; “no ‘sleeping on the sofa’ like Jimmy Carter did,” but rather effectively used his ability to rally large numbers of people at key events as opposed to more ‘traditional’ methods. Connor, too, mentioned that perhaps his greatest compliment of Trump was his ability to gather the votes of the ‘silent majority;’ according to Connor, “I think his ability to mobilize the silent majority in order to win the election was perhaps his greatest victory.”
What both Connor and Solloway agreed on is that division is rife in Washington today. The statistics agree with their viewpoint- according to a study from Pew Research center, with information collected in November-December of 2017, 86% of Americans indicated that they felt there were either “strong” or “very strong” (with most Americans choosing the latter) when it came to political divides between Republicans and Democrats. The increase has been slow but steady over the past six years, and has been steadily increasing among both sides: people who identify as being Republican and Democrat voters.
Some, such as Connor, claim that Trump himself is not necessarily any more or less controversial than some of America’s other more divisive presidents; rather, he claims, “The democrats are able to organize a united front, they are able to move public opinion in a way against Trump that the Republicans have not been able to… They have a louder voice. That’s one thing I’ve always wished the Republicans would be able to do better.” He did, however, admit that Trump is more controversial than most, and that he does make statements that go too far; “Sometimes, he says these things, and you just kinda ask yourself ‘why did he do that?’” Professor Moore, while he did not give a personal opinion on Trump’s presidency, said that he certainly had put out a reputation both during his campaign and during his first year of presidency to be the “Disruptor-In-Chief”- a title which, in a day and age where many Americans have lost faith in a system which they feel does not represent them, sounds more and more appealing.
However, some who voted for Trump during the election have lost faith in him- for example, Jarrod Solloway. In his own words, Solloway feels “disenfranchised” by the actions of Trump’s first year and says that “[he] does not know what to think.” He does not feel that Trump has fully gone back on his campaign promises, but he does feel that Trump made grand promises during his campaign that proved impossible to play out during the first year of his presidency- at least so far. Solloway also expressed concern over the “absolute disregard he has shown for the environment, education, and healthcare.” He also said that he had “he’s made a complete mockery of the decorum around the presidency.” For these reasons, Solloway says, he does not think he will support Trump should he run for re-election.
Connor also expressed disappointment over Trump’s handling of the healthcare situation. Connor said “We knew that it was going to be a difficult battle, but I don’t think he knew how difficult it was going to be. It was a huge failure, especially trying to get everyone back together and to work together after the election- that was a big part of it.” He also claimed that Trump made too much reference to his victory in the election; “It’s certainly worth referencing, when appropriate. But a year later, it makes you wonder, is it appropriate? Give it a rest already.”
Both conceded, however, that Trump’s first year has not been without its successes. Both point to the general increase in fortune in the stock market- the Dow had its best year since 2013, and broke 25,000 points at the start of the year- more than 3 times what it was on the day of Obama’s inauguration (although there were multiple economic factors impacting this value other than our previous president’s inauguration, not least of which being the recession.) Connor attributed this to Trump’s business sense and his communications with American workers. Connor said he was also pleased with the fact that Trump had increased overall donations to the Republican party.
Finally, all three (Professor Moore, Sean Connor, and Jarrod Solloway,) seemed to find Trump’s use of social media, to some degree or another, inappropriate, or at the least, unsavory. All three of them mentioned the fact that some have compared it to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, a series of radio broadcasts the late president made during the 1930’s and 1940’s to the American people, updating them on policy, legislation, and, during times of war, America’s military progress. Moore and Solloway both disagreed with the connection, for different reasons; Moore says that, although the intention may have been the same (making people feel closer to their president and making them feel as though a personal connection existed, regardless of whether or not one actually did,) it was using a different medium, broadcasting different information, and is overall less scripted- sometimes with results that are not good or are controversial in ways that may further negative stereotypes or opinions about the United States. Solloway offered a simpler explanation, saying that it represented a dim future for connection between representatives and their constituents and that it was simply an opportunity for the media to report on “nearly every outrageous statement Trump says.”
What does it all mean? Professor Moore says that, after only one year, it is too difficult to make conclusive statements about who Trump is, what his style of government will be for his presidency, and what his legacy might be. When asked if this might pave the way for future ‘celebrity presidents,’ Moore said that it depends on who steps up to challenge Trump, and again said we might not know until candidates come forward in the next few years. Moore stated that part of the reason Trump was able to win was that the politicking practiced by the politicians who squared off against Trump- he named Kasich and Clinton as examples- was not as effective with voters during this cycle as it had been previously. Moore said, personally, he would prefer to see Trump become “more discipline[d]” during his next 3 years in office.
As mentioned previously, however, Moore said that the idea of a president from someone who is not purely a politician might become a reality, particularly as Americans find themselves increasingly disenfranchised with the system they perceive to be broken. Being so frustrated with politicians they feel are not listening, they may turn to others they find successful- even if this means people who are not Marco Rubio or Bernie Sanders, but rather people from outside the traditional sphere of understanding. For a position which requires money, recognition, or both, Moore says, people may look for figures who have earned these things outside of political office to represent them.
However, we will have to wait and see who emerges. Whoever it is, hopefully they show a bit more control with Twitter!