I would humbly suggest that this presidency has been one of the most disruptive and unique in our history — cheered by a committed one-third of the citizens, and jeered by a majority of Americans. It all began with President Donald Trump getting elected as the most unpopular candidate to win in modern times, receiving more electoral votes than any Republican since 1988, but losing the popular vote by an astounding three million votes.
In assessing the Trump presidency so far, I have a top ten list of highlights (or by some accounts lowlights) of year one:
President Trump began his first year with the lowest starting job approval of any president in modern times, and he finishes with the lowest ending job approval in modern times in the first year of a presidency. This is an amazing feat and it points to an administration that has been incredibly polarizing without a vision or message that a majority of citizens support.
Further, over the last few years, we have been seeing a disconnect between a rising economy and presidential approval numbers.
President Trump ended his first year where it began with crises in the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and an antagonistic relationship with Russia.
For all the talk of President Trump bringing more respect for America in the world, international polling shows a dramatic drop in confidence in American leadership from that in President Obama—a drop in every single country but two — Russia and Israel. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, supported by nearly every nation around the globe, was not helpful in demonstrating America’s international leadership.
President Trump’s White House has had the greatest senior staff turnover in its first year of any in the last 50 years. He also has a staff embroiled in legal difficulties and facing a second year of likely continued investigation. For a candidate who said he hires only the “best people,” President Trump has set new records in human relations problems internally.
Legislative accomplishments: President Trump was able to pass his signature tax bill which was a big legislative victory (though not a political victory since this bill is widely unpopular and has not helped his approval numbers). Outside of this legislative win, other victories have been few and far between. In fact, he had fewer legislative victories than any president in the last fifty years. The “deal maker” still has to show he can make deals, and that will only get more difficult in a mid-term election year and its aftermath.
When President Trump was elected, and as he began his presidency, there were many questions concerning his temperament and his emotional ability to lead. In fact, nearly 25 percent of voters who supported him in November 2016 had questions about his temperament, and they hoped his time in office would reassure them.
And he ends his first year embroiled in more questions about his temperament and mental acuity, highlighted by senior staff wondering out loud about this in the New York Times bestseller “Fire and Fury.”
Base vs. Resistance
President Trump started his term with a solid base who helped bring him into office, and a rather large resistance group who opposed him at every turn. In the course of the year, his base, while solid has shrunk and today only 24 percent of Americans strongly approve of his job performance. The resistance to him has grown bigger and more vehement in opposition — today 49 percent of Americans strongly disapprove of his job performance, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.
This is going to create many problems in the rest of his term - legislatively and politically.
So we end year one with some answers on what a Trump presidency would look and act like, but we have many more questions about what is ahead for this administration, which seems to wear disruption and divisiveness as a badge of honor.
I remain hopeful that at some point President Trump will adjust his presidency and represent all Americans, but my doubts of that happening have increased dramatically through year one.
This story is the final part of a weeklong series examining the first year of the Trump administration.