Trump's first 500 days: success or failure?

25 Jun 2018

On 8 November 2016, Americans went to the polls to elect the 45th President of the United States. The consensus view was that the country was about to pick its first female leader, however, the result which came through the following morning was very different to what anyone, including the subsequent winner, had predicted. Donald Trump, the brash and blunt businessman from New York, beat Hillary Clinton, and from the very beginning, he broke with convention. He defied protocol meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe while still president-elect. Additionally, his incoming National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, met the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a violation of the Logan Act.  These discretions were just a taste of what was to come. 


Just a few days after taking the oath of office, Trump signed into law an act barring travel from seven Muslim majority countries.  The law was signed into force at the weekend, as choreographed by Steve Bannon, so the maximum effect could be felt across the country.  Many turned out at airports to protest what they felt was a racially-motivated piece of legislation.  We are now just over 500 days into this presidency and so far, it appears President Trump is no different to Candidate Trump, with his off-script speeches, Twitter tirades, and hounding of those with whom he disagrees. But beneath all this, there have been some genuine successes for the administration that has been, without a doubt, one of the most controversial in the history of the United States.  So, has this administration been a success or a failure?  I will be assessing Trump’s record so far based on three factors: the economy, foreign policy, and his general popularity.


The economy has been one of the successes under President Trump.  Back in the campaign trail, voters were often told the Stock Market would be thrown into dismay should Trump win. However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has reached record highs, while low unemployment rates for African – Americans and Hispanics continue to be maintained.  The latest Jobs Report shows a constant growth in the number of jobs becoming available, with unemployment falling to an 18 year low of 3.8%.  Trump’s tax reforms have arguably put more money back in the pockets of the American people and increased his support within the Republican Party. 


However, while the American economy is looking great, it isn’t looking so good to be an ally of America, with 25% tariffs being placed on Chinese goods including steel and aluminium. China has since retaliated by putting 25% tariffs on many American goods including Soy Beans.  It is a similarly bleak picture for the EU, with 15% tariffs being slapped on European steel and aluminium – a particularly massive blow for Britain as they look to further trade relationships with America after Brexit.  From a British perspective, this is a failure for the President.  But many Americans see this as a success; a fulfilment of their President’s promise to put ‘America First.’ However, they have failed to grasp that America first does not mean America alone, as Trump seems to believe. The trade war that has started with China and the US’s allies have seriously overshadowed many successes that this administration has had over the past 500 days.


When negotiating with another country, whether it be ally or enemy, the President has had a very different approach to the one his predecessors adopted. Yet it appears to be working.  The President operates through a maximum pressure policy, in which he antagonises his diplomatic opponents by giving them nicknames, hurling insults and belittling them.  But he has convinced China to step up in their sanctions towards North Korea, ensured countries are contributing more fairly towards the NATO budget, and of course, has brought Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table.  Kim Jong Un, his father, and his grandfather had spent decades brainwashing their citizens into hating America, so for Trump to convince the North Koreans to change course is a testament to Trump’s unorthodox methods. Although only time will tell if the meeting was a success, it was historic that it even took place to begin with.
In terms of popularity, this current Presidency is by far one of the most unpopular in the history of the United States.  He went into the job with a record low of 22% approval, and at this present time, it is looking like it is around 45%.  This is not good at all. Although support within his party is in the 80s, his unpopularity amongst the wider electorate throws doubt on his chances of winning a second term. Trump’s inability to move from campaigner to President has been one of the more obvious failures of the last five hundred days and is partly why his popularity remains low. 


So, taking these three factors into account, a conclusion must be drawn.  The economy is continuing to grow as is the relationship with North Korea, however, Trump has effectively started a trade war and his disapproval ratings suggest his presidency has been a failure so far. However, I disagree. I believe that what we have seen so far has been a success and that the media and the people need to give him the benefit of the doubt. He certainly needs to improve to win re-election but there are ways this can be done. He must surround himself with better advisors (ones of different political leanings), re-set his relationship with the media and the Democrats, and most importantly reduce his excessive use of Twitter. If he does his next five-hundred days may see even greater success.

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