3 lessons from America’s first year without a real president
It seems like forever, but it was just one year ago that Donald Trump was elected president. What have we learned?
1. The first big thing we’ve learned is that Trump is not really the president of the United States — because he’s not governing.
A president who’s governing doesn’t blast his attorney general for doing his duty and recusing himself from an FBI investigation of the president.
A president who’s governing doesn’t leave empty the top echelons of departments and agencies.
He doesn’t publicly tell his secretary of state he’s wasting time trying to open relations with North Korea. He would already know and approve of what his secretary of state was doing.
He doesn’t fire half his key White House staff in the first nine months, creating chaos.
A president who is governing works with his Cabinet and staff to develop policy. He doesn’t just tweet new public policy out of the blue — for example, that transgender people can’t serve in the military. His secretary of defense is likely to have some thoughts on the matter — and if not consulted might decide to ignore the tweet.
He doesn’t just punt to Congress hard decisions — as he did with the Iran nuclear deal, insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, and details of his tax plan.
Instead of governing, Donald Trump has been insulting, throwing tantrums and getting even:
Equating white supremacists with people who protest against them. Questioning the patriotism of NFL players who are peacefully protesting police violence and racism.
Making nasty remarks about journalists, about his predecessor as president, his political opponent in the last election, national heroes like Rep. John Lewis and Sen. John McCain.
Or he’s busy lying and then covering up the lies. Claiming he would have won the popular vote if millions hadn’t voted fraudulently for his opponent — without a shred of evidence to support his claim.
Or firing the head of the FBI who wouldn’t promise to be more loyal to him than to the American public.
A president’s job is to govern. Trump doesn’t know how to govern, or apparently doesn’t care. So, logically, he’s not president.
2. The second thing we’ve learned is that Trump’s influence is waning.
One year in, Trump is the least popular president in history, with only 37 percent of Americans behind him. Most Republicans still approve of him, but that may not be for long.
He couldn’t get his pick elected in a Senate primary in Alabama, a state bulging with Trump voters.
Republican senators refused to go along with his repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And they’re taking increased interest in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Business leaders deserted him over his remarks over Charlottesville. They vacated his business advisory councils.
NFL owners have turned on him over his remarks about players.
3. The third big thing we’ve learned is where the governing of the country is actually occur- ring.
Much is being done by lobbyists for big business, who swarm over the Trump administration like honey bees on hollyhocks.
But the real leadership of America is coming from outside the Trump administration.
Leadership on the environment is now coming from California — whose rules every automaker and many other corporations have to meet in order to sell in a state that’s home to one out of eight Americans.
Leadership on civil rights is coming from the federal courts, which have struck down three different versions of Trump’s travel ban, told states their voter ID laws are unconstitutional and pushed police departments to stop profiling and harassing minorities.
Leadership on the economy is coming from the Federal Reserve Board, whose decisions on interest rates are more important than ever now that the country lacks a fiscal policy guided by the White House.
Most of the rest of leadership in America is now coming from the grass roots — from people all over the country who are determined to reclaim our democracy and make the economy work for the many rather than the few.
They stopped Congress from repealing the Affordable Care Act.
They’re fighting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to spend taxpayer money on for- profit schools and colleges that cheat their students.
They’re fighting EPA director Scott Pruitt’s crusade against climate science.
They’re fighting against the biggest tax cut for the wealthy in American history — that will be paid for by draconian cuts in services and dangerous levels of federal debt.
They’re fighting against the bigotry, racism, and xenophobia that Trump has unleashed.
And they’re fighting for a Congress that, starting with next year’s midterm elections, will reverse everything Trump is doing to America.
But their most important effort — your effort, our effort — is not just resisting Trump. It’s laying the groundwork for a new politics in America, a new era of decency and social justice, a reassertion of the common good.
Millions are already mobilizing and organizing. It’s the one good thing that’s happened since Election Day last year — the silver lining on the dark Trump cloud.
If you’re not yet part of it, join up.
One year in, Trump is the least popular president in history, with only 37 percent of Americans behind him.
President Donald Trump
| NICHOLAS KAMM/ AFP/ GETTY IMAGES