Has Trump’s first year been a sleight of hand?
THE POLLS LOOK BAD, YET CORE SUPPORT AND A BUOYANT ECONOMY KEEP TRUMP AFLOAT, WRITES SARAH BLAKE
He tweets and a lot of people hate that, but I put that aside and look at his policies, his job. Vickie Williams
First the good news for the 45th American President on the anniversary of his shock election win: almost every person who voted for Donald Trump a year ago would happily do so again and America’s economy is on a march, defying expectations to double its growth rate to 3 per cent off the back of a record-high stockmarket.
Now, the not-so-good news. With no major legislation passed, a criminal probe into the Russian ties of some of his closest confidantes, a steady stream of exiting key staff and a drubbing, just this week, for Republican candidates in local elections across the country which many have laid at the White House door, it would seem generous to say President Trump has had a good year.
Most polls show the majority of Americans don’t believe he’s delivering on his major campaign promises, including repealing Obamacare, stopping immigration from “terror-prone” Muslim majority counties and reducing taxes — none of which has eventuated. Almost twothirds of Americans don’t trust Trump to responsibly handle the growing nuclear threat from North Korea — the same amount who told an ABC poll last week that he’s accomplished “not much” to “little or nothing” as president.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal has revived attention on earlier sexist comments made by the former reality TV show host, and the sexual harassment allegations of a number of women continue to hover uncomfortably close.
Indeed, Trump has historically been the most unpopular president at several key points of the past year, with his approval rating currently hovering at about 33 to 37 per cent across most national polls.
But don’t bother telling any of this to your average Trump supporter. To these men and women — even though the President may not yet be doing what he said he would and the Republican Party is increasingly divided under his leadership — they would take him over almost anyone else. “I really don’t believe his approval ratings are that low, because I
don’t believe in the polls, because they’ve been proven to be wrong,” Dale Rawlette from Glen Allen, Virginia, said last week.
“He’s been doing a fantastic job, especially with the respect that we have around the world and with the economy, and I just think he needs more respect from his party.”
According to Laverne Jones Gore, a conservative activist and consultant from Cleveland, Ohio, Trump should be celebrated for “doing things that nobody else is doing and saying things that nobody else is saying”.
“As a Christian, I had to be quiet,” she said of America in recent years.
“You can’t talk because you may say something that’s not politically correct.
“Do you know how infuriating it is to be an American in America and be told you cannot talk, you cannot speak, because it’s not politically correct?
“He allowed that anger that had gotten inside of me — as a Christian, as a mother, as an African-American, as an American, as a taxpayer — he allowed that pressure to be released.”
And that is one reason why, despite the unfavourable opinion polls, almost a third of
Americans believe Trump is doing a great job.
Indeed, in a recent ABC poll almost every Trump voter from 2016 — or 91 per cent — said that they would vote for him again.
According to Vickie Williams, a stay-at-home mother in her 50s from Mechanicsville, Virginia, the constant focus on President Trump’s Twitter meltdowns and unpolished performances are a silly distraction.
“The economy is moving forward and I think he’s worked harder than any president I’ve ever seen, so people should just give him a break and let things get done,” she says.
“He’s getting rid of a lot of the corruption in Washington and I am not disappointed at all.
“I support a lot of the policies that Trump believes in. I know he makes comments, he tweets and a lot of people hate that, but I’m putting that aside and looking at his policies, his job.
“You have to look at what he’s doing, not his communication skills.”
Of course, the passion of Trump’s supporters is more than evenly matched by those of his critics, who come from across the country and political spectrum.
One of his most frequent sparring partners is Republican senator John McCain, who warns that after this week’s Democrat victories in governor races in New Jersey and Virginia that the 2018 midterm elections are now a genuine competition.
“Unless we get our act together, we’re going to lose heavily,” McCain says.
Many liberals have seized on victories for women and minority candidates in this week’s elections as proof that the anti-Trump forces are gathering and managing to organise.
A number of the first-time female candidates who won their races last Tuesday, only ran after taking part in January’s Women’s March, which was held a day after Trump’s inauguration and became the largest single-day protest in US history.
Whether Trump wins a second term in 2020 seems a distant question in a climate where the possibility he will face impeachment is openly discussed on each of America’s partisan 24-hour news networks.
The probe has already led to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Richard Gates facing 12 charges including money-laundering.
Meanwhile, Trump has said he welcomes former FBI chief Robert Mueller’s probe into whether his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election because it will clear his name.
President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing this week.
President Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meet on the USS Intrepid in May.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, accusations of sexual harassment hover uncomfortably close to Trump.
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands in July during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.