Halfway Through Trump’s Presidency: A Look Back
This month will mark two years since Donald Trump’s inauguration into the presidency of the United States. On January 20, 2017, Trump officially became president, following Barack Obama who had served two terms, or eight years, in the job. Since his inauguration, President Trump has done many controversial things as the leader of the free world.
First, it’s important to remember some of the things Trump did as president around when he first stepped into office. A memorable thing during the first year of his presidency was the authorization of a missile strike consisting of 59 tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase in 2017, which caused a lot of backlash. The attack resulted in some civilian casualties and was met with criticism from both the American and Syrian people.
Trump also signed legislation that allows states to withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood on his 84th day in office. According to Julie Hirschfeld Davis from the New York Times, the legislation passed through the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. This legislation supports Trump’s promise to try to prevent Planned Parenthood and other health service companies from performing abortions in the United States. There was also backlash on this decision from pro-choice activists across the country who support Planned Parenthood and their mission to provide reproductive health services.
Later in his first year of presidency, from August 11, 2017 to August 12, 2017, a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia became violent, and Trump addressed the nation about the event. The Unite the Right Rally was met with angry Black Lives Matter protesters, sparking violence between the two opposing groups according to the Washington Post on August 14, 2017. The president came under fire for claiming there was blame to put on “both sides” of the conflict and for failing to condemn white nationalism.
Puerto Rico, an American territory, suffered through Hurricane Maria in September of 2017. Frances Robles of the New York Times wrote about the issue, quoting the president as he claimed the response to help rebuild Puerto Rico was “one of the best” there has ever been. The article explained how electricity was not fully restored to everyone until nearly a year after the devastating event and how members of the public and the Puerto Rican government expressed concern at the president’s belief in a job well done, considering the 3,000 lives that were lost due to the incident itself and the aftermath of it.
An issue that has received a lot of attention from celebrities is federal justice and prison reform. President Trump has endorsed a bipartisan justice reform bill known as the First Step Act. The legislation would “expand rehabilitative opportunities for people in prison; ban…shackling of pregnant women; and reduce mandatory minimum sentences for a number of drug related crimes,” (the Guardian). The other part of the bill aims to introduce new programs to improve prison conditions and provide prisoners with the tools to successfully re-enter their communities after being incarcerated. It would also promote the relocation of prisoners to facilities closer to their homes. The bill is widely supported and the President has been on-board for working to help pass this legislation.
More recently, Trump has faced criticism for his family separation policy at the Mexican border. The “zero tolerance” policy caused families to be split apart in an effort to control illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico. As a result, according to the Washington Post on June 19, 2018, around 2,000 children were separated from their families in a six week period from April to May. Since the United States cannot prosecute immigrant children along with their parents, family separation was inevitable under the “zero tolerance” policy. In a Time Magazine article written by Maya Rhodan and published in June of 2018, a poll showed that a majority of 66% of Americans did not support the policy and the repercussions of it.
In October of 2018, Trump signed legislation aimed at combating the overwhelming opioid epidemic in the United States. A year earlier, Trump had declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, formally addressing the severity of the epidemic and acknowledging the need to change the culture surrounding drug addiction. The legislation, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, was met with praise from both Democrats and Republicans, and was a step in the right direction for fighting the opioid crisis in America (NBC News). The law has many benefits, but one significant one is that it allows states that meet specific requirements to use Medicaid funding “to cover up to 30 days per year of treatment in certain IMDs (Institutions for Mental Diseases) for people with an SUD (Substance Use Disorder) who are 21 to 64 years of age,” (Corey S. Davis, The New England Journal of Medicine). This will make seeking treatment for drug addictions more affordable and accessible.
Currently, the country is in the midst of the longest government shutdown in its history. Some 800,000 federal employees are not being paid due to the shutdown and in response, there have been a multitude of donations made to help those workers. The shutdown began as a consequence of Congress voting not to provide 5.7 billion U.S. dollars for the creation of the border wall that Trump promised the American people during his campaign. As the 35th day of the shutdown begins, many are worried that the government will not reopen in the near future, especially with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, asking the president to postpone his State of the Union Address until the government is no longer shutdown. On Saturday, January 19, the president proposed reinstating DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and Temporary Protected Status for 3 years in exchange for receiving the funding he needs for building the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. DACA gives protection to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by allowing them to avoid deportation for two years and become eligible for a work permit. T.P.S. is a status given to certain immigrants who came here due to conflict or national disasters in their home country. It allows them to legally live and work in America for a certain period of time. Pelosi and other members of the House have shown outrage over this offer. The compromise will need 60 votes to pass through the senate, an unlikely circumstance, and will not pass through the primarily Democratic House of Representatives.
Though some of the decisions Trump has made for the United States have been well received, like lowering taxes to stimulate the economy, and decreasing the presence of U.S. troops in Syria, many of the things he has done have been controversial and have faced criticism from not only opposing political parties, but in some cases, his own.
All of these debatable actions, the most recent of which being the extensive duration of the government shutdown, have resulted in an abnormally low presidential approval rating. Right now, according to FiveThirtyEight, a project tracking Trump’s approval rating each day, his rating from a poll of adults has dropped to 39.5%, meaning that over half of adult Americans, 55.1% to be exact, disapprove of the job Trump has done while in office. The other 5.4% were unsure either way. To compare, President Barack Obama’s approval rating at the same point in the first term of his presidency was 50%. President George W. Bush’s approval rating was around 61% halfway through his first term of presidency (gallup.com). Trump has a low approval rating amongst Americans for only being halfway through his term.
Every president faces challenges throughout their presidency, and one of the biggest adversities is trying to please the largest amount of people possible. Adjusting to being a representative of so many people has proven to be a difficult challenge for many presidents. The last two years have included much more than what is reflected on above, and the next two years will help determine how Donald Trump will be remembered in history.