A year after the most important election: Donald Trump and a series of unfortunate events
It's been a sad & shockingly eventful year in the not-so great America, & the next three years will only make it...
Donald Trump shocked the world last November by defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential election, making him next in line to take the title of the President of the United States (POTUS).
He came into power after running an extremely negative campaign where he belittled all his competitors by calling them derogatory names, vilified the diversity America is known for, and was openly misogynistic. Nobody, not even the Republicans, expected Trump to actually win, since Clinton had been projected to win by a wide margin.
The reasons for his victory, attributed largely to racism and misogyny present in the American conservatives, are still a subject of great debate almost one year into his presidency.
Trump arrived on the back of many outlandish promises, such as putting a ban on all Muslims travelling into the US as well as building a border wall that he would make Mexico pay for. Many thought of these as empty rhetoric, but giving credit where credit is due, Trump did try to implement most of his promises, despite the pushback from the public and the system at large.
Let’s take a look at everything that’s happened in the past one year since Trump was elected president:
1) The Muslim ban
From his first day in office, Trump set off at a furious pace signing executive orders left, right and centre. Executive Orders are a weapon that the POTUS can use to bypass Congress and make decisions without requiring their approval. Trump immediately banned travel from multiple Muslim countries, but denied that this was a “Muslim ban”. This set off massive protests by liberal Americans and also made Muslims from all over the world revise their plans to visit the US. So far, various judges from across the US have contested this ruling, but the issue remains that Trump keeps reissuing this order and there is fear that it will eventually be implemented in some form or another.
Verdict: Trump is not only unabashedly anti-immigrant, he is also a business man. While he banned mostly Muslim countries, he left out Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan and Turkey – essentially all of the countries where Trump has business holdings. Immigrants are what make America a melting pot, and Trump’s rhetoric and actions against immigrants will only hurt the country.
2) The sanctions
Trump rolled back the reconciliatory approach of the Barack Obama administration towards Cuba. He stated that the deal was completely ‘one-sided’ and in favour of Cuba, and hence did not serve any purpose.
Trump also decided to decertify the Iran Deal, another diplomatic achievement of the Obama administration. This deal was geared towards gradually lifting sanctions off Iran in exchange for the country dialling back its nuclear weapons program. Trump did not recertify the deal, stating that this was also a ‘one-sided’ deal in favour of Iran.
Moreover, Trump has also been in a war of words with North Korea. North Korea is a closed-off, impoverished country with a megalomaniac leader named Kim Jong Un, whose attempt to nuclearise is being condemned on a global scale. Trump has been threatening to bomb North Korea on Twitter, and his rhetoric has many diplomats on edge, not only because he is stooping down to Jong Un’s level, but also because he is displaying a chest-banging attitude instead of opting for diplomatic channels.
Verdict: Trump thinks of himself as a macho man, the saviour of America, and hence has sought to repeal any initiative started by the Obama administration without any legitimate reason. Avoiding diplomatic channels and putting curbs on countries that are already struggling due to American sanctions will only increase anti-American sentiment and won’t resolve any issues either.
Trump also acted to ease environmental regulations. He diverted 10% of the budget from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the military. He also installed former Texas Governor, Rick Perry, a climate change denier, as the head of the EPA. Perry recently gave a statement in the wake of the latest harassment scandals out of Hollywood where he claimed that fossil fuels can prevent sexual assault. Perry was also the mastermind behind Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accord.
Interestingly, Trump’s pulling out of environmental accords and cutting the environmental budget had a direct effect on how American cities protect themselves against floods and hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey, which caused severe destruction in Houston, had a much more disastrous effect because Trump’s actions prevented the city from maintaining its flood protection infrastructure which was put in place by Obama.
Verdict: Trump is a vehement denier of climate change. He also believes that to unlock the US manufacturing potential, he needs to aggressively encourage manufacturing over climate conservation. Again, this is the kind of myopic thinking that may benefit American businesses in the short term, but would definitely harm the planet and subsequently, those very businesses, in the long run.
Trump appointed a new Supreme Court judge, Neil Gorsuch, who is a conservative. The American Supreme Court is quite influential in shaping national policy. It comprises of a panel of nine judges who are lifetime appointees, and hence a spot in the panel only opens up if a judge dies – there is no retirement and no layoffs. As such, the president who appoints a supreme court judge has the opportunity to shape long-term national policy. It remains to be seen if Gorsuch shares Trump’s brand of conservatism, but it is more likely than not.
Verdict: Most of the people appointed by Trump are and will be conservatives, and will serve to set policies in Trump’s favour for years to come. For people outside the US, this does not matter. For immigrants residing in the US, however, it could mean an ugly future.
- Sally Yates was the acting Attorney General of the US under Obama’s administration and was incumbent until Trump found a replacement. She was fired because she refused to uphold Trump’s travel ban.
- National Security Advisor Mike Flynn was forced to resign within the first 24 days of the Trump administration, setting a new record for the shortest time in that respective office. Flynn was a retired military general who was handpicked by Trump for the job, but was forced to resign as he was found to have colluded with Russian diplomats without notifying his bosses. The conspiracy theory is that he took the fall for Trump so that Trump would not be accused of any connection with Russia.
- FBI Director James Comey was appointed by the Obama administration, and had been asked by Trump to continue in his cabinet. Even so, Comey was heading the investigation into Trump’s alleged ties with Russia and was fired because he had seemingly gotten too close to the truth.
- Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was brought in by Trump to streamline communications and plug any leaks in the administration. Scaramucci was a Wall Street banker with minimal experience for the job that he was hired for. He openly badmouthed other White House communications officials and was directly responsible for the resignation of the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Scaramucci himself was fired after only 10 days in office.
- Senior Advisor Steve Bannon was responsible for running Trump’s election campaign in its final stretch and is credited for awakening the voter base that elected Trump. A career banker who ran an ultra-conservative news website, Bannon was openly racist and a proponent of white supremacy. Ultimately, he stepped on too many toes and was forced to resign. He is now back at the helm of his news website, Brietbart News.
Verdict: Trump is a fan of alpha males, as most of his picks are either top bankers, military generals or career bureaucrats. The issue is that these alpha males think along the same lines as Trump – that a macho attitude always wins. The only thing that attitude produces is resentment among those who are less fortunate.
6) The Mother of All Bombs (MOAB)
Trump also has the ignominious distinction of using the 21,600-pound, GBU-43 (Guided Bomb Unit), $16 million bomb, affectionately known as the MOAB. It had never been used before, but Trump dropped it on an alleged network of tunnels utilised by the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan.
Verdict: Remember George Bush and his claims of ‘smoking out the terrorists’? MOAB literally does that by igniting all the oxygen in the air. Yet, even Bush didn’t use the MOAB and Trump did so within the first six months of his administration.
Ever since Trump came into power, he has been trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. This act served to bring a wider swathe of society under a government-mandated medical insurance system. As ridiculous as it is, Trump’s multiple attempts at repealing Obamacare have more to do with increasing competition between health insurers. Again, this stems from the business-friendly leanings of the Republican Party.
Verdict: A popular theory making rounds is that Trump wants to repeal Obamacare only because it has the word Obama in it. In actuality, Obamacare was a robust piece of legislation that intended to compel people to sign up for health insurance irrespective of their economic strata. The Republican Party is against it since it represents government overreach into people’s lives. If Trump is able to repeal it, it will have to be replaced by something similar like ‘Trumpcare’, which may be equally conflicted.
Trump signed a bill into law that withholds funding from organisations that facilitate abortion. Trump is a conservative and one of the key beliefs that conservatives in the US hold is that abortion should be outlawed. Even though most of this funding goes into the provision of preventative healthcare such as pregnancy tests and birth control pills, it is still a blow to a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to have a baby or not.
Verdict: Again, this was a rollback of a controversial scheme under the Obama administration, restricting states from withholding funding to organisations facilitating family planning. Birth rights have been a subject of debate in American politics for over 100 years. While it is debatable if they address the moral responsibility of society, the issue has been used as a lightning rod in politics. Trump’s angle may be religious and political, but nonetheless, it highlights his brand of ultra-conservatism.
9) The mass shootings
- Charlottesville saw a white supremacist rally spin out of control, resulting in violence and death. It was a protest against the removal of a local confederate statue.
- Las Vegas experienced a lone white shooter, hiding out in one of the hotel towers, opening fire on the audience of a live, open air concert below. Apparently, the shooter was able to carry heavy artillery to his room without being checked.
- In downtown New York, a bearded fellow rammed a truck into pedestrians and had to be shot down by the police. The man was immediately branded a ‘terrorist’ and termed as a major factor in Trump’s opposition of immigration.
- In Texas, a white man walked into a church and started shooting, massacring 26 people and injuring several others.
Verdict: Trump has lionised his base – the lower-income, less educated, white people living in Middle America. In the past, they would think twice before participating in a white supremacist rally or carrying around guns in the open. With Trump in power, they feel they now have tacit permission to be openly racist.
Trump is a pompous macho man, prone to making outlandish statements – it got him the votes he needed to become the 45th POTUS. Even though he won the election and is the leader of the free world now, he is still acting as if he’s running an election campaign. He needs to ease up on his hatred of diversity, stop focusing on Obama and Clinton, and develop a diplomatic approach to world affairs.
Unfortunately, he has surrounded himself with conservative military generals and politicians who have encouraged his views rather than talk sense into him. It has been a sad and shockingly eventful year for the not-so-great-anymore America, and the next three years might just be a series of unfortunate events, but in the long run, his policies will surely alter our world in a negative way.