From the moment he took the oath of office, Donald Trump has set a bold standard for his presidency. In his inaugural address, he declared that “we will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action,” and claimed his entrance into office to be “the hour of action.”
Trump has promised to disrupt the Washington status quo and replace the current elitism in both parties with a new populist-nationalist philosophy. He has certainly succeeded in shaking things up; it seems like the Trump administration is constantly embroiled in controversy. The president has instigated the cancellation of a meeting with the Mexican president, hung up on the Australian prime minister, authorized a raid resulting in the death of a Navy SEAL, insists that the 2016 election was rigged by illegal voters, and engaged in angry Twitter exchanges with everyone and anyone. These actions have resulted in regular protests and uprisings around the country.
Trump and his administration have embraced this turmoil, pointing to it as proof of their efforts to bring drastic change to Washington, but other government figures have shown skepticism towards this strategy. Democrat Leon Panetta, who has previously served as Secretary of Defense under Obama, expressed his uncertainty, saying “I don’t know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt…You can do hit-and-miss stuff over a period of time. But at some point, I don’t give a damn what your particular sense of change is all about, you cannot afford to have change become chaos.”
Despite all the chaos and uproar, Trump has nevertheless succeeded in some of his agenda. He has named a strongly conservative cabinet, despite large protests from Congressmen and citizens alike. In what strategist Steve Bannon called a “deconstruction of the administrative state,” Trump has appointed people like Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos who seek to dismantle the departments they manage, dialing back the federal bureaucracy. He has also named a conservative Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, whose impeccable credentials have pleased some skeptical conservatives.
While it wasn’t the full Muslim ban Trump called for on his campaign trail, he did introduce a ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, setting off global and domestic outrage. He fired the former attorney general for refusing to defend the ban, then watched as the federal courts issued a stay, halting the ban’s implementation, and thus declaring it unconstitutional. The administration was criticized on the role-out of the executive order, as travelers were held at airports for extended periods of time and officials at the Justice department were ill-informed on what exactly the order called for.
If the Trump Administration’s goal was to disrupt politics as usual, they have certainly succeeded. However, these disruptions have distracted the president from making any real legislative advances. The president has made virtually no progress on repealing and replacing Obamacare. There is no promised infrastructure bill proposed yet, nor has the President drawn any plans to overhaul the nation’s tax code. Trump is correct in maintaining that his voters want to see a change in Washington, but as senior adviser to Mitt Romney, Kevin Madden said, “if change begins to look like confusion and disruption morphs into disorder, you risk losing a certain level of confidence with voters.”
Graphics: Anika Tsapatsaris