Slowly, warily — like a cat carefully but resolutely stalking a strange, apparently interesting, but potentially dangerous object — we’re seeing people approaching the assessment of the first year of the Trump presidency. It’s fascinating to watch the process.
The passage of the massive tax bill this week is triggering a lot of the reassessments. On the conservative side of the spectrum, you see lots of people — including those who formerly were among the “Never Trump” crowd — now arguing that Trump has had a “year of accomplishment.” Their lists include the tax cut bill, the nomination and confirmations of Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and other conservative jurists, the military successes against ISIS in the Middle East, the rollback of many regulations, and the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Add to that the upsurge in the stock market and the current indications of strong economic and jobs growth in the American economy, and these commentators contend that Trump has had a strong year and may just be getting his footing. I’m sure my conservative friends would come up with additional things to add to that list.
On the liberal side of the spectrum, the reassessment is the polar opposite. Many liberal commentators see Trump as an appalling, bumbling, dangerous, bullying, harassing buffoon who’s likely heading for impeachment, or indictment when the ongoing Mueller investigation is completed, and nothing Trump has done in the first year changes any of that. They think that his foreign policy initiatives, such as his insult duels with Kim Jong Un, his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his attempt to reorient relations with China and Russia, are grossly reckless, marginalizing American influence in the world and making war more likely — which makes everyone more nervous in view of the fact that Trump has his finger on the button. And they are sickened by many of his regulatory decisions, his judicial nominations, and his support for initiatives like allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. To the liberal side, Trump seems to be turning out to be far worse than they really imagined — and I’m sure my liberal friends would say this list is just scratching the surface.
What about The Great Middle of the political spectrum? I think most of those who fall into this category continue to shake their heads at Trump’s ill-considered tweets and his apparent inability to resist expressing his opinion on any topic in the world of sports, entertainment, or anything else — which isn’t consistent with what we think is “acting presidential” — and by the incessant taffing shake-ups and unseemly jibes at Congress and cultural figures and unconventional approach to just about everything. We don’t know how the changes wrought by legislative and regulatory initiatives will affect us, or the economy. Many of us have just kept our heads down, hoping the country survives the current bitter political climate. It’s almost a surprise that we’ve reached the end of the first year — and made it.
Perhaps we all can agree on one thing: next year is going to be interesting.