The Trump Presidency was an unmitigated disaster for the United States of America’s republic. By far, Trump’s Presidential Administration presented the most drastic failures of the United States government.
Trump inherited a country that was failing to answer the legitimate pain of millions of his supporters – on a far right platform that blamed other groups: China, the Muslims, the Latinx, and the liberals. This politics of division may have been politically expedient in 2016, but Trump’s inability to unite the country in times of crisis directly led to his repeated failure. Worse yet, Trump’s focus on dividing the country undermined our economy, our health, and key institutions for our republic.
Domestic Politics: F
Donald Trump appears to have instigated a failed coup via a domestic terrorist attack. Trump organized a political rally on January 6, 2020, and commanded the crowd to go fight at the Capitol. White Christian nationalists stormed and sacked the building while Congress was certifying Trump’s 2020 electoral loss, chanting death threats for the Vice President and Speaker of the House. Trump has been impeached by the House, and it appears that the Senate may convict him of insurrection at press time. The Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to arrest participants in this violent assault on the republic.
The Capitol coup is the grand finale of Trump’s four year assault on key tenets of the republic. Constant attacks on the press, willful spread of disinformation, and dereliction of duty set a new low — and enabled some of the worst parts of American society to rise to prominence. Trump called white nationalists and neoNazis “very fine people” after Charlottesville (2017), and he instructed chauvanist neo-fascists to “stand back and stand by” during a debate (2020).
White nationalists stormed the Michigan capitol building in April 2020, and later similar groups plotted the kidnapping and murder of Michigan’s Governor.
Trump presided over major failures, like botched natural disaster relief in Texas (Hurricane Harvey, 2017), Florida (Hurricane Irma, 2017), Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria, 2017), California (wildfires, 2020), Iowa (corn derecho, 2020), and Alabama (Hurricane Zeta, 2020). Despite the horror of each of those failures, the Coronavirus Pandemic is by far Trump’s greatest failure.
Public Health: F
Coronavirus revealed the abject failure of the United States public health system. The federal government had a plan when Trump took office; he dismantled it, failed to replace it, and botched any semblance of a response.
Trump’s initial response to the Coronavirus pandemic was to close borders with China – echoing a trope dating back to his 2016 campaign. Trump revealed to members in the press that the plague was deadly and easily spread in February, but focused more on keeping the economy open while making the pandemic worse rather than stopping the spread. Worse yet, Trump refused to follow basic public health suggestions – most notably wearing a facemask. Trump’s defiance of these requests led to large swaths of his movement refusing to comply with basic public health measures aimed at stopping the pandemic. Bodies in New York City piled up so quickly that meat delivery trucks substituted as morgues expansions in the streets.
Trump abdicated federal responsibility for public health, inappropriately devolving authority to state governments. Lack of coordination led to bidding wars across states for critical supplies – leading to hundreds of unnecessary deaths early in the pandemic. Lack of cohesion across state lines has led to mass confusion about who can travel where, when, and how to travel safely. Even travel itself remains mostly confused, with private airlines setting more regulations than the government.
Trump pressured drug manufacturers to provide a vaccine almost as much as he pressured college football to return in the fall. Regardless, the creation of multiple vaccines is a remarkable development. Unfortunately, when the Trump administration did attempt to help navigate vaccine distribution the results have been disastrously slow as the number of coronavirus related deaths continue to climb exponentially.
Trump’s mismanagement has produced the greatest infection and death rates for most of the crisis. For several weeks, the United States has suffered a similar number of daily casualties to Coronavirus as it suffered on September 11, 2001.
Trump prefers to blame state and local leaders – helping encourage his supporters to ignore public health initiatives in order to score political points rather than prevent the plague.
In 2017, Trump led the charge to disband the pandemic team, a Bush-era restructuring aimed at providing more efficient communication across government departments. Investigations about the September 11 Attacks motivated the creation of these teams, as officials feared that a global pandemic could bring the country to its knees. Trump used the savings to partially fund a tax cut. In short, Trump cut $150B a year, but it enabled a virus to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and wrecked the US economy — costing the federal government over $2T in relief spending.
The Economy: F
For the first few years of his administration, Trump routinely pointed to the economy as his greatest success. Looking only at top line numbers, including GDP growth, unemployment, and the stock market, these claims were somewhat reasonable. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details.
Before COVID-19, the Trump years were a wash for most American families. The continued shift towards the gig economy, corporate recoding employees as independent contractors, and service sector jobs outpacing manufacturing all undermined the middle class and working class’ earning potential. By 2020, two thirds of American families were living paycheck to paycheck — and number dramatically increased by job instability during the Coronoavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the weaknesses of the United States economy. A “K-shaped” recovery has emerged, where white-collar and wealthy households have generally recovered economically yet blue-collar and service industry workers continue to languish. Worse yet – many of these service industry workers were dubbed “essential workers,” placing them in harms way during the plague.
Trump instigated a trade war with China without proper leverage. When China decreased American soy purchases, the already hamstrung agricultural industry. Trump renegotiated existing trade deals – earning no distinguishable gains from the new North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump scuttled existing deals – from a potential new market Iran and multilateral deals aimed at sidelining China.
Foreign Policy: F
Trump systematically undermined American foreign policy initiatives, from limiting China’s expanding economic footprint through the Trans-Pacific Partnership or retooling Iran’s nuclear program through trade to slowing Putin’s growing influence through NATO and G7.
Worse yet, Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson essentially purged the State Department. Relationships built over decades terminated. Trump and Congressional allies routinely attempted to “unmask” various sources – potentially putting American espionage assets at risk.
Instead of working with allies, Trump consistently sided with undemocratic autocrats – from Kim in North Korea to Erdoğan in Turkey to Putin in Russia. These decisions have left critical allies – Canada, Germany, the UK, and Japan, among others – in the lurch.
Trump doubled down on the wrong side of the Middle East, working with Salman’s Saudi Arabia despite killing members of the free press and Netanyahu’s Israel despite imposing de facto apartheid in Palestine.
Trump’s appearance at the 2018 G7 meetings highlights the greatest example of Trump’s failed foreign policy. Nicknamed the “G6+1,” the gathering of leaders from the world’s largest economies found a defiant Trump demanding two of Russia’s biggest goals: joining the G7 and foreign acknowledgement of the Crimean annexation.
Trump’s infatuation and paralleling Putin’s behavior led to Trump’s first impeachment. In 2019, Trump attempted to extort Ukrainian leadership, demanding information about political opponents’ children in exchange for Congressionally approved aid to combat Russian aggression. Considering similar demands that Russia look into previous political candidates — and a 448 page investigation showing that Russia did intervene in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf — this demand was wildly reckless. In 2020, Mitt Romney became the first Senator to vote for impeachment conviction of a President of the same party.
Russian cyberattacks continued throughout the Trump years. Russian hackers appear to have breached several high profile information security companies, several federal government departments, and a significant share of prominent United States businesses. In total, the United States may be at its weakest point in foreign policy since 1945. At a minimum, the United States is at its most vulnerable.
Trump identified immigration as one of the largest threats to the United States – ignoring military and diplomatic leaders. Trump failed to complete his big initiative: replacing a metal border fence with a poured concrete border fence. Unsurprisingly, Mexico has not paid for the wall. As a result, Trump raided various funds – including the defense budget – to pay for his wall.
Trump promised to pack the courts full of conservative justices. He delivered three presumed conservative justices to the United States Supreme Court, although how they will behave remains to be seen. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have appeared relatively centrist in rulings thus far.
Trump promised massive tax cuts. Trump delivered tax cuts for the rich, which expanded the federal deficit. The United States added over $3,300,000,000,000.00 in debt – or roughly 16% of the entire GDP. In one year.
Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. Despite complaining about Obama’s signature law for six years, Republicans failed to produce an alternative bill – despite having majorities necessary to get almost any bill out of office.
Trump promised limit immigration to the United States. Part of Trump’s policy suite involved separating children from their parents at detention centers. Little planning occurred, and hundreds of children are still not reunited with their families. This plan was intended to work based on its cruelty rather than its merits.
Final Grade: F
Trump’s largest failed promise was to Make America Great Again. Instead of greatness, Trump’s America ripped children from their mother’s breasts and warehoused them on concrete floors in cages. Instead of greatness, Trump’s America abandoned allies and kept company with the world’s most dangerous autocrats. Instead of greatness, Trump’s America left the majority to suffer financially – putting untold strain on tenants, landlords, and small businesses across the country. Instead of greatness, Trump’s America let 400,000 people die due to incompetence and inappropriate priorities.
Instead of greatness, Trump’s America pushed the republic’s stability to its breaking point.
Trump noted American Carnage during his inaugural speech. He unleashed it for four years. Mercifully, the long American Nightmare is over.