Back in May 2016, I predicted Trump would win the presidency. You can read my prediction here. If I do say so myself, my prediction was spot on, not only the prediction that Trump would win but the reasons he would win.
The other point I made in the article was that when it came to policy Trump is not that much different than Mitt Romney. And, again, that prediction has pretty much come true (with important caveats — keep on reading).
I have to admit, I love being right.
So, here we are nearly at the end of 2017, and the question is: how has Trump done?
To summarize: when it comes to policy, he gets a solid B. When it comes to demeanor, personal moral leadership and generally being presidential, Trump gets an F.
I am of the school that policy is more important than demeanor and personal moral leadership, so I must say I am mostly happy with Trump’s first year. (Note the word “mostly.”)
Here are the specific grades:
Demeanor. Trump is rude and unpresidential. His personality is almost the exact opposite of the politicians I generally favor, like Ron Paul, who was unfailingly polite to everybody around him. Ron Paul is an old fashioned gentleman, and Trump is an old fashioned neighborhood bully. Trump “grab them by the p—-” remark may be one of the grossest things ever said by a presidential candidate, and it was on tape! So, don’t spend your time reminding me about these things about Trump — I already know and I already agree with you!
Economy. The stock market is booming, unemployment is down and we get tax cuts in 2018! And, to add to the Christmas presents, the bill Trump signed includes the end of the Obamacare mandate! There is a general sense of optimism about the economy that I have not seen since 1999. The single most important job of a president is to help create the environment for businesses to flourish so people can get jobs with promising prospects. Trump has done that. To be quite frank, the economy is doing much better than I ever would have predicted, so Trump gets very high marks.
Spending. Trump’s proposed budget, which was not adopted by Congress, called for some important cuts in discretionary spending. But meanwhile, Congress keeps on spending and spending, and Trump has done very little to stop this. I would have liked to see him veto some spending bills and decrease spending on the military. (Instead, Trump nonsensically calls for an increase in defense spending). I would like to see some plans for entitlement reform. Republicans are promising entitlement reform in 2018 — but don’t hold your breath that they will actually pass anything. Trump gets some credit for proposing some small cuts, but overall he gets a failing grade.
Foreign policy: I am in favor of a noninterventionist foreign policy, and Trump has done better than many people predicted. He has successfully avoided war with Russia, North Korea and Syria, which were all possibilities under a Hillary Clinton presidency. I love his disdain for the useless UN. Trump will get credit from many people for taking the battle to ISIS, but my perspective is that the U.S. created ISIS in the first place by intervening in an area of the world that is none of our business. He has basically maintained the warmongering policies of Bush and Obama in the Middle East, so it is difficult for me to give Trump a passing grade in this area, even though I think he deserves some credit for at least not being a completely crazy neocon.
Religious liberty and policy on abortion: I am pretty sure that Trump has no understanding of the beliefs of conservative religious people, but he had the political instincts to support policies we favor. He has been strong on religious liberty issues, and has favored restrictions on abortion access. He has sent strong cultural messages about the importance of traditional values in society, and I think that is important, even if Trump himself is not a very good moral example. Remember, policy is the important thing.
Federal courts: One of the most important jobs of a president is appointing judges who will uphold the Constitution. Unfortunately, the last 80 years or so have mostly involved Democrats and Republicans appointing people who ignore the intent of the Founders and who couldn’t care less about what the Constitution actually says. Trump has been a huge success when it comes to appointing originalist and textualist judges. Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is a massive win, and Trump set a record for the number of federal judges appointed in his first term. It is difficult to imagine a better result.
Political correctness: Trump gets huge credit, in my opinion, by ignoring politically correct opinion and having disdain for the sour hypocrites who tut-tut every utterance that doesn’t fit on the 3×5 card of acceptable opinion. The institution of political correctness may be one of the worst developments of the modern era because it shuts down out-of-the-box thinking on important issues. There is a fine line between ignoring and attacking political correctness (which is awesome) and just being rude. Trump often crosses that line, unfortunately. In any case, we need many more politicians willing to take on political correctness, and I am happy that Trump has done this.
Climate and energy policy: One of Trump’s greatest accomplishments is to see that the energy sector provides high-paying, stable jobs to people who desperately need them. Meanwhile, he generally opposes the politically correct approach on climate policy that has turned the Democratic party into the party that hates high-paying jobs for the middle class. The day that Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accords was one of the happiest days ever for me in terms of politics.
Immigration and Trade: I am generally pro-immigration and pro-free trade. So, you can imagine that I don’t like Trump’s rhetoric on these issues. But in terms of actual policy results, Trump has done surprisingly little to disrupt world trade. He opposed the TPP, which was not a free trade deal but instead a crony capitalist protection scheme for big agriculture and many specific businesses whose lobbyists paid off the right people. Trump has made very little progress in building the wall, which is also good news. All in all, on immigration and trade, Trump has done less damage than I imagined he would do.
Appointments: Trump had the smarts to appoint a bevy of really good Cabinet picks, from Betsy Devos (education) to Scott Pruitt (EPA) to Ryan Zinke (Interior). Yes, he also appointed a number of complete loser advisors, like Steve Bannon. But Bannon is gone, and a lot of the winners remain. (I would like to point out that I am not a big fan of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, however). Overall, Trump gets passing grades for his Cabinet picks.
Taking on the federal bureaucracy: Another huge Trump success. He has cut regulations significantly, with many more cuts to come. He has also done his best to starve the DC bureaucracy by refusing to appoint many people to key positions. Overall, he gets a good grade.
When it comes to policy, Trump turns out in many ways to be a pretty conventional Republican, except that I would argue he is even more conservative than many recent Republicans. I of course like that. But when you look at the grand arc of his first year, it is pretty similar to what Republicans hoped they would get from Mitt Romney. So, when it comes to policy, it is simply nonsensical for Republican/conservative Mormons to hate Trump.
When it comes to demeanor, Trump is the opposite of what Mormons should want, and hating Trump’s demeanor is certainly to be expected. At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves what is more important: demeanor or policy results? I am firmly in the camp that policy results are what matter most.
So, I am pleasantly surprised to report that overall Trump has done better than I ever expected he would do in his first year. Let’s hope I can still say that in the years to come.