Debra J. White –
How did Donald Trump end up as the 45th president of the USA? Despite claims to the contrary, Trump isn’t the consummate businessman. A history of bankruptcies and numerous lawsuits trails him. He has no government experience whatsoever. Crude and vulgar, he once boasted of groping a woman’s genitals. He avoided military service. He doesn’t uphold Christian values in the way that other presidents, such as George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, have. Yet he was elected. How did this happen?
Trump campaigned about the U.S. government not working for the average person. This resonated with many voters because Congress serves the needs of special interests through well-paid lobbyists who descend daily on the capital with specific agendas of bills they want passed or voted down. Among the most well-heeled special interest groups are the gun lobby, big pharma and the defense industry. Lobbyists lavish members of Congress with campaign donations in exchange for a vote on certain issues. It’s worked that way for ages, even at the local level.
Trump also capitalized on the outsourcing of U.S. jobs. Largely due to automation, thousands of jobs, especially in the country’s Rust Belt, were lost to robots. Tens of thousands of other manufacturing jobs shifted overseas because of cheaper labor. Do the math. If a company can find people willing to work for $50 a month rather than $25 per hour, where do you think the jobs will end up?
Foreign nations such as Mexico, China, Bangladesh and Cambodia often lack clean air standards, labor laws and company benefits. It is more cost effective for businesses to set up shop in such countries. Left behind are unskilled American men and women who cannot find decent-paying jobs once a factory closes. Meanwhile Congress remains totally deaf to their needs. After a company like General Motors closes a factory, the community often withers away. Secondary businesses including restaurants, gas stations, clothing stores and real estate are suddenly without clients. The local tax base diminishes. The shuttered factory eventually becomes covered with graffiti. People move away in search of employment. Schools shut down due to dwindling enrollment. Even churches close because the congregation is too small to support the ministry.
Coal country, better known as Appalachia (West Virginia and parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania) is affected too. A dirty form of energy, coal has slowly been replaced by cleaner-burning natural gas, solar power and wind turbines. Dangerous and unhealthy, coal mining once provided a steady income for generations of men and their families in Appalachia.
Times changed long before Trump ran for president. But Trump fed into people’s desperation and anger. He promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., and bring back factory and mining jobs. Spreading ignorance and fear, he slammed immigrants, particularly Latinos and Muslims, for stealing American jobs. And his supporters, desperate for a savior, rallied behind Trump.
At almost every opportunity on the campaign trail, candidate Trump teased cheering crowds with promises to build a “big beautiful” wall between the USA and Mexico. Mexico would pay for construction that would begin on day one of his presidency. Trump also insisted that he would deport every single undocumented immigrant as soon as he took office. He proposed a ban on Muslims too but calls for their deportation fell short.
Against pollsters’ widespread predictions, Trump won the 2016 presidential election. Since he took office, lots of his campaign promises are unmet. Coal jobs have not returned. The wall is not built. Only the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, had been repealed as of January 2018. Business leaders say a border tax will not bring back factory jobs but rather will harm trade with other countries and hurt Americans by raising prices on goods from produce to electronics.
Meanwhile, Trump’s administration is embroiled in turmoil about Russian meddling in the election. There has been much shuffling around of key staff. Some of his closest advisers such as Steve Bannon, Steve Miller and Sebastian Gorka have ties to far-right extremist groups. Gorka and Bannon are no longer in the White House.
The Trump administration has taken a hardline approach towards the environment. In June 2017, he pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate Accords, an agreement eventually signed by every other country. Trump and the man he appointed as head of the EPA doubt the existence of climate change.
He insulted allies including Germany, Australia, France, the UK and Canada. He taunts North Korea, a hermit nation with an unstable leader and nuclear ambitions. He mocks the six-nation deal that prevents Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
On the day after Trump’s inauguration, there were massive protests around the country, including one in Washington where millions of people voiced their disapproval. In New York City, protesters demonstrate outside Trump Tower on a routine basis.
One year after his election, Trump’s approval ratings were among the lowest of any U.S. president. The only significant legislation he has passed is an overhaul of the tax code. Many of his actions came through executive orders, some of which are being challenged in court.
Beyond Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and unpopular ideas since he announced his candidacy in 2015, there has been a notable rise in violence against minorities. Trump shrugs off these acts, some of which have resulted in death, serious bodily harm and structural damage. He rarely denounces them unless pressed to do so by his advisers. And despite a record high national deficit that stands at $20 trillion, Trump still insists on money for a border wall.
Editor’s Note: (or boxout) (run this each time and boldface the one being used that day)
This is the first of a five-part analysis of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency and its aftermath.
Today: The campaign and the first year in office
Part 2: The wall and the Latino community
Part 3: The travel ban and the Muslim community
Part 4: The rise of widespread hatred
Part 5: Americans need to show solidarity – and vote