The presidency under Trump
The understanding of politics of a whole generation of Americans has become more toxic with Donald Trump: like no other American president of the past, he has told numerous lies – more than 22 thousand according to the Washington Post –, he has spread conspiracy theories, he has taken important political decisions impulsively, he has surrounded himself with loyal rather than competent persons. And again: he has been accused of molesting tens of women and of evading taxes for many years, he has supported neo-Nazi groups of the extreme right, and he has come across as racist, misogynous, or xenophobic in several occasions.
And if many had predicted that he would be an atypical president right after his victory at the presidential elections in 2016, not everyone would have expected him to maintain such a broad consensus among Republicans during his office. As far as the historical demands of the Republican Party are concerned, Trump did lower taxes for high-income citizens and companies, he appointed hundreds of conservative judges, and he made access into the US more difficult for migrants.
Still, Trump did not keep at least half of the promises made during his election campaign – whereas the average for a president is around one third – even though his party has controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate for two of the four years of Trump’s office. For instance, as far as the construction of the wall at the border with Mexico is concerned – perhaps his best known promise – the New York Times wrote that only a sort of fence of 700 kilometres has been built (definitely less than the announced 1.600 kilometres). It was paid by American tax-payers and not by Mexico, as he had declared. Yet, the fencing, the freedom guaranteed to ICE (the federal agency in charge of irregular entries), and the adoption of controversial practices against migrants – separating kids from their parents at the border – have reduced illegal entries to figures that were last seen in the Seventies.
Another half-kept promise, quoted by many Trump supporters, involves the 2017 tax cut: allegedly, approximately 60 per cent of the money thus spared were withheld by the richest Americans and by big companies. Some small and medium-sized businesses did benefit from the reform, at least partially. But contrary to what Trump had said, public debt has grown enormously (he had promised to nullify it), even before the pandemic and the extraordinary expenses related to it.
In 2017, the Trump administration chose to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, claiming that it would damage the economy of the country, and that it was unjust – at the time only two states were not part of it: Syria and Nicaragua. A survey has reckoned that the aims set by Obama can be hardly achieved due to Trump’s policies: by 2025 emissions could decrease by only the 15-19 per cent compared to the 2005 levels, instead of the 26-28 per cent as planned when the Agreement was subscribed.
Trump has also started a commercial war with China, which is far from a resolution. Today, it is unclear whether the potential benefits for the electorate will exceed the present disadvantages, but this war has significantly affected the global economy. In this way, Trump has annulled the commercial agreements that exposed US industries to foreign competition, and this is exactly what was expected from a conservative president.
But, more than everything, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, played down from the start, will take its toll on his administration. Trump’s refusal to promote informed behaviours, such as the use of the most common protective devices, and his criticism towards the lockdown imposed by single states have caused the USA to be – to this day – the country with the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the world.