It has been just over one month since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, and I can think of no better way to “celebrate” that milestone than by officially kicking off this blog with a post discussing just that. There has been an abundance of political news over the course of the last month, much of it filled with tears, drama and heartache, but our goal is to cut through the clutter and focus on the big picture through a more analytic lens by identifying the essential takeaways from Trump’s presidency so far. The three takeaways identified, which will be elaborated upon in subsequent entries this week, are what I believe to be the recurring themes that will continue to inform how Trump’s presidency will develop over the next four years. With that being said, let’s get started…
TAKEAWAY #1: TRUMP INTENDS TO KEEP HIS CAMPAIGN PROMISES:
Given Trump’s penchant for ambiguity, grandiose rhetoric, and mercurial political beliefs, many on both the Left and the Right seriously questioned the extent to which Trump intended to follow up on his campaign promises as president. One month in, I think it is safe to say that Trump has every intention of doing so and no intention of moderating his campaign positions to appeal to those outside of his original support base. This is most evident in Trump’s pursuit of two of his most oft-repeated and controversial campaign promises, cracking down on illegal immigration and instituting a “Muslim ban.”
In respect to cracking down on illegal immigration, Trump seems to be proceeding full steam ahead with his proposed Mexican border wall, despite continued concerns over its cost (assumed to be at least $21.6 billion) and implementation. On January 25, 2016, Trump signed an executive order to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall…to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.” While Trump’s border wall is projected to take over three years to build and is unlikely to move forward until Congress secures funding for its construction, the executive order represents a significant and concrete step in Trump’s effort to uphold one of his central campaign promises. Additionally, Trump is pledging to strip sanctuary cities of their federal funding, beefing up border security through additional personnel and resources, and expanding the criteria for the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants.
A similar pattern can be seen with Trump’s actions to implement the promised “Muslim ban.” On January 27, Trump indefinitely suspended the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States and temporarily banned individuals from seven predominantly Muslim nations (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen) from entering the U.S. for a 90-day period. While the temporary travel restrictions were not strictly speaking a “Muslim ban,” seeing as there were over 40 other Muslim-majority nations exempt from the restrictions, they were a clear evolution of Trump’s campaign promise and were designed with the same purported intention of establishing an “extreme vetting” procedure to keep “bad dudes” out. In fact, former mayor of New York City Rudi Giuliani, a frequent Trump supporter who was involved in the original drafting of the executive order, said the equivalent in an interview on Fox News, stating that the intention behind the executive order was finding “the right way to do [the Muslim ban] legally.” While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against reinstating the executive order, which has been temporarily blocked by the lower courts, Trump has been steadfast in declaring that his administration is looking into issuing a revised executive order that addresses the legal challenges while still maintaining the same general travel restrictions
The crackdown on illegal immigration and the “Muslim ban” are not outliers when it comes to Trump acting on his campaign promises. Even beyond these two examples, Trump has employed a “shotgun approach” in an effort to check off, or at least give the appearance of checking off, the majority of his campaign promises in the quickest way possible. Out of the eighteen measures he listed in his 100-day action plan, Trump has already made significant progress in 12 measures: 1) a hiring freeze on federal employees; 2) a requirement that for every new federal regulation two existing regulations be eliminated; 3) a five-year ban on lobbyists; 4) a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government; 5) announcing an intention to renegotiate NAFTA; 6) withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership; 7) lifting Obama-Clinton roadblocks on energy infrastructure projects; 8) picking a replacement for Justice Scalia; 9) canceling funding for sanctuary cities; 10) expanding deportation of illegal immigrants; 11) suspending immigration from “terror-prone” regions; and 12) directing the Secretary of Commerce to identify all foreign trading abuses.
Trump’s apparent commitment to following through on his campaign promises is a reflection of the broader idea that what you see is what you get when it comes to Trump, and it is about time we take the implications of that seriously. The Trump we are seeing as president, and that we will continue to see as President, is the exact same Trump we saw in the campaign trail, with all the same populist, nativist appeal, all the same character faults, and all the same political divisiveness.