The State of the Union

So here we are. January 31st, 2018. It’s been one year and one day since Donald J. Trump took the mantle of the presidency at 12 PM on Friday, January 20th, 2017 from Barack Obama to become the 45th president of the United States. What has happened since then? What is the actual State of the Union? This is what the media in its role as a conveyor of information should be discussing.

The standing of the United States in the world has declined. America’s influence in the world is declining, as the Trump administration abdicates its role in the international order built by post-WWII American presidents. Approval of US leadership has gone from 48% under Obama in 2016 to 30% under Trump in 2017. The 43% disapproval sets a new low, not just for the United States but for any major world power for which Gallup has asked about in the past decade, even lower than for the Bush administration in 2008. (1)

Germany has now replaced the US as the top-rated global power in the world, with 41% of approval. The United States is barely above Russia (27%) and barely on footing with China (31%), two oppressive regimes that Trump sees as rivals seeking “to challenge American influence and wealth”. It’s clear that the world does not think much of the “America First” doctrine. This decline in US approval has been accelerated by actions like withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Accord in June 2017 and threatening the North Korean dictator with nuclear weapons “with fire and fury like the world has never seen”. (1)

On the domestic front, the President has the lowest approval rating of any modern president after his first year, with an average approval rating in the high 30s. (2) He is widely seen as exacerbating racial tensions, as evidenced by his “fine people on both sides” after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. and his recent “shithole” comments towards an entire continent of Africa. His policies are seen by 60% as helping the wealthy, given the tax cut for the rich passed in December 2017 and all the pro-business deregulation cuts that may be stealing from the lower income workers. (3)

61% of people feel that he is dividing the country rather than uniting them. This has a whole variety of evidence. He has demonized minority communities, calling Mexicans rapists and Muslims terrorists. He has stoked fear and terror on the far right against these communities and against Democrats who, according to him, favor illegal immigrants who will make them unsafe. Under Donald Trump, political polarization has increased more than ever. (3)

And this disapproval of Trump comes at a time when the economy is booming. Generally, when this occurs, it correlates with a high approval rating for the President. Not for this one, apparently, due to his behavior and his lack of accomplishments legislatively. Not only does he not have any significant accomplishments besides the tax bill, any legislation he does favor is only to curry favor with the hard right. Case in point: he could have pleased some of his detractors by accepting a bipartisan immigration bill put forth by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would have guaranteed citizenship for Dreamers, young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children through no fault of their own, and would have given him money for his wall. This is an issue that has favor with almost 90% of the country, yet he chose not to do it, convinced by his staff that his far right base would not be pleased with it.

Trump has exhausted people and overloaded the news cycle with his antics. He has dismayed skeptics with his attacks on democratic institutions such as the Justice Department, the media, the judiciary, Congress etc… He has attacked fundamental principles such as the rule of law, the freedom of speech and assembly, the freedom of the press etc… He has advocated for religious freedom laws, which would allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community. He signed and tried to implement a disastrous Muslim Ban, based on his rhetoric on the campaign.

He has damaged the world’s view of America by not understanding what it is fundamentally supposed to stand for. It’s supposed to be the defender of liberty and democracy across the nation. Trump has abandoned that; he has not confronted Russia for meddling in 2016 US elections. He has not confronted Chinese President Xi over human rights issues. America is supposed to be a global force for good, leading the world in the fight against climate change. Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. America is supposed to act in coordination with their allies on key foreign policy issues. Trump abandoned that principle by decertifying the Iran Nuclear Deal after being asked not to do so by European allies, Russia & China.

All the while, with these autocratic tendencies, he has acted like no president ever has. His White House is in chaos, with an unprecedented amount of staff shake-ups in the first year. The Russia Investigation looms over him and the WH, an investigation that he has called a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” perpetrated by the Democrats for “losing an election they should have won”. Never mind the fact that the man heading the investigation, Special Counsel Mueller, is a Republican appointed by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, a Trump-appointee who is also a Republican. His family is under investigation; his son-in-law is in trouble over numerous security clearance violations. He has clear conflict-of-interests that he has not recused himself from. He is profiting off from the presidency.

His tweets generate confusion among party leaders in his own party and in his own WH. He is easily manipulated by the last person to speak. He claims to have compassion, yet chooses to always do the wrong thing. He blames the media for reporting on the truth about his chaotic presidency. He refuses to take the blame for anything; the buck always stops somewhere else. On his first anniversary as president, there is a government shutdown because he refused to accept the bipartisan Graham-Durbin deal.

The most frightening thing of all is his ability to casually spew lies. He spews lies so frequently that it is difficult to keep up with them all. According to the Washington Post, he has said at least 2000+ false claims since his inauguration, an average of 5+ misleading claims a day. The distinction between truth and false has been disintegrating every day, especially with Trump’s attacks on the “fake news” media. He keeps his supporters blindfolded to actions of his that are against their own interests.  It’s an old propaganda technique to confuse your opponent with lies and discredit the media, which is supposed to speak truth to power.

Politicizing the DOJ is another dangerous precedent that he has set. The rule of law is supposed to be upheld by the President, not denigrated. There is supposed to be equal justice for all. He has pardoned his political ally, Joe Arpaio. He has called for an investigation and prosecution of his 2016 political opponent, Hillary Clinton. He has called for the investigation into his own campaign’s activities to be shut down. When dictators across the globe see the POTUS acting this way, they are emboldened to continue because there is no America to stop them. He has disrupted the world order in a way that makes Vladimir Putin smile.

The nationalist doctrine – “America First” – has emboldened white nationalists and supremacists, frightened minority communities and led to an uptick in hate crimes against minorities. The president capitalizes on any crime committed by an immigrant to rail against immigration policies such as family-based migration (“chain migration”) and visa lotteries, while getting the facts wrong about them. When white nationalists gather though, there are “fine people” on both sides. The debate on whether or not he is a racist is over, especially after his recent comments.

The incompetence of his WH is evident by their inability to keep their own government open, which is led by members of their own party in both chambers of Congress, unlike previous shutdowns. There is no loyalty behind-the-scenes, with most people looking to leave soon. Others want to implement their agenda by manipulating the president easily. Remember: the president has no grasp of and no interest in policy details. He only cares about results.

There is too much that has happened to cover in one article. In short summary: the American people elected a grossly incompetent, narcissistic, racist, xenophobic man as President of the United States. That decision has only led to a chaotic government and a decline in US standing in the world. He has been praised for the economy by his supporters. Even if he does deserve the credit, isn’t it a heavy price to pay given of the above?

  1. Gallup Poll: http://news.gallup.com/poll/225761/world-approval-leadership-drops-new-low.aspx
  2. Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/19/poll-trump-approval-rating-2018-349306
  3. NPR/PBS/Marist Poll: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us180108_PBS_NPR/NPR_PBS%20NewsHour_Marist%20Poll_National%20Nature%20of%20the%20Sample%20and%20Tables_Trump_January%202018.pdf#page=3

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