What is the cost for progress that’s being made?
There are many conservatives, myself included, who never expected much from a Trump presidency. Most of us, again myself included, never actually thought he would win and, even if he did, the cost would be so great as to make us wonder if it would be worth it.
In the past year, President Trump has delivered on an arguably very conservative agenda. Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court. The regulatory burden imposed by Washington has been rolled back. Republicans have scrapped the individual mandate from Obamacare, thereby setting up the Affordable Care Act for increased destabilization, which will necessitate reform if only because of crisis.
Tax reform embraced a key goal of Barack Obama, who wanted to lower the corporate tax rate, while also embracing individual tax reform. Though the code is not as simplified as it could be, only five percent of Americans will see a tax increase. Major corporations, without federal intervention, are raising their starting salaries to $15.00 an hour because of tax reform. The political left could never deliver on this, but Donald Trump has delivered it.
Understated and overlooked, President Trump has also embarked on an overhaul of American foreign policy. Gone are the days when President Obama flirted with American enemies in hopes of wowing them to our side.
Yes, wowing, instead of wooing, is intentional. President Obama believed his own press about the force of his charm and personality, but no foreign governments believed it.
President Trump has scuttled President Obama’s “hashtag diplomacy” in favor of real diplomacy. Despite howls from the left claiming Russia stole the election, President Trump has armed the Ukrainians against Russia and taken a far firmer stance against Russian interference in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, President Trump has finally brought a grown up’s perspective to North Korea after years of American presidents coddling the regime.
In short, the American economy has rebounded beyond the anemic growth of Barack Obama’s years and American interests are again American interests instead of vague platitudes centered around global harmony.
I do wonder, though, at what cost we have gotten all these things. Again, many of us who were skeptical of the president, but are pleasantly surprised at his successes, have also wondered what the long term ramifications of his behavior would be. The left in America, suddenly clamoring about “rule of law,” really have not respected it. They were fine apologists for an Internal Revenue Service willfully targeting conservatives. They were and are fine with activist judges overruling democratic acts for leftwing values. Now they scream about Donald Trump merely taking precedents Barack Obama set and amplifying them.
Still, something is off in the American experiment and experience. The president’s behavior is not presidential. We have a president who can no longer serve as a role model for our children. And the president tends to corrupt everything he touches. People who were once strident defenders of the First Amendment now favor government controls of the press because Donald Trump says he would support it. At the opposite extreme, some long time supporters of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem now oppose it because Donald Trump did it.
There is more though. President Trump has offered no major leadership on a domestic agenda. Tax reform got passed by necessity by desperate members of Congress needing a win. They never did get Obamacare repealed. They never resolved the issue with DACA. They never built a wall. And President Trump seems to have no deep grasp of public policy. He would rather mean tweet.
The gains conservatives have seen have come from the Trump administration, but President Trump himself has been an undisciplined distraction.
The gains have come more in spite of the president than because of him. Democrats are mobilized and energized and President Trump seems unwilling or incapable of trying to mitigate what is coming. It is increasingly likely conservatives who voted Trump to save the Supreme Court could see it lost to a Democrat controlled Senate next year even though President Trump resides in the White House. Something has to give and I am afraid it will be our union that frays.
(Erickson is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.)