760 days in to the Trump presidency, a longing for Obama

Amy Donohoe

The MAGA hat is a symbol of the infamous Trump presidency. Credit: Sabrine Donohoe

It has been over two years since the bright red ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap entered the popular culture as Donald Trump’s political merchandise. The hat has pit people against each other, caused debates and sparked fear since January 20th, 2017.  

There have been no wars, terrorist attacks or economic crashes. However, there has been a loss of intangibles like human decency, valuing, honesty and integrity.

“I think the world’s a much more dangerous place today than it was two years ago and I see a lack of understanding, wisdom, capabilities in the Trump presidency that I didn’t see in the Obama presidency,” said Professor Steven Knowlton, who is originally from the US.

Since the businessman and reality TV celebrity took the oath as president, Trump has often bragged about how much legislation he’s passed. However, if his achievements are compared to Barack Obama’s, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Obama passed several huge and historic pieces of legislation during his first two years. The most obvious of them is the Affordable Care Act, which extended health treatment to 20 million Americans and significantly changed the way Americans receive health care. Eight years after it has passed, it continues to be one of the most talked about laws in American politics as Democrats were trying to get it for 100 years and never achieved it until Obama came along.

Obamacare isn’t the only remarkable piece of legislation Obama signed during his first two years in office. He also signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, which made it much easier for workers to sue their employers for wage discrimination. Not long after, he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which injected $831 billion (approx. €737 billion) into the American economy in a successful attempt to prevent a depression after the financial downfall months earlier.

In 2010, Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This was a financial reform bill intended to reign in the Wall Street excesses that many blamed for the 2008 financial crisis. This resulted in the first government agency dedicated to protecting consumers from greedy financial practices.

Meanwhile, the only bill Trump has signed, that could reasonably be compared to the Affordable Care Act or Dodd-Frank, is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This cuts corporate tax rate by 15 per cent and slashes income tax rate for top earners by 2.6 per cent, which mainly benefits the wealthiest Americans.

In August 2017, Congress passed a bill that both imposed new sanctions on Russia and restricted Trump’s ability to ease existing sanctions. When it landed on Trump’s desk, he called it “clearly unconstitutional” but, signed it into law anyway.

Trump also signed bills to provide relief money after various natural disasters and make it easier for the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees at that agency.

During his campaign, Mr Trump vowed to create 25 million jobs over 10 years and become “the greatest jobs president… ever”. But job creation under Trump during his first two years in office decreased slightly when compared to President Obama’s final two. Meanwhile, Obama inherited the biggest financial collapse since The Great Depression in 1929 and turned it around. The economy was saved, and major industries were saved from going under entirely.

“Presidents always get the credit for the good economic news and the blame for bad economic news. It’s almost always what their predecessors did that determine it. We have the interesting phenomenon of Democrats, when they take office, inherit an economy with the mess that is going out of control and they have to fix it. They stabilise things and leave the economy in good shape and the Republicans come back in and cut tax on their supporters and wreck the economy again and when the Democrats come back in there’s no money and that has been true for 75 years,” Knowlton explained.

“Have you ever heard Obama speaking the way Trump did on the access Hollywood tape? This was not locker room banter, he was at work. For eight years there was not a whiff of scandal in the Obama administration,” he added.

“The policies of the Trump administration have been so inapt, it could be worse if he was smarter and worked harder. Since World War Two, America was a place where most of the world could look for not only just money, but moral leadership and that has been horribly eroded in the past two years,” he said.

Knowlton said in 2017 that he would not go back to America as long as Trump was in presidency and he still stands by that statement. “I could go back and there’s some pretty serious reasons to go back but I’m not going to. I can’t live in Trump’s America. Its soul destroying…and depressing.”

Although he may be considered controversial, Trump’s reality-television style of leadership is making Americans more engaged with politics. The next election season could have high midterm turnouts and the many candidates because of him.

For the past two years, those who see Trump as a racist fraud have become passionate about politics and there has been a wave of liberal victories across the country as there has been a push for more accessible health care, affordable education and an improved immigration system

Television channels like Fox News are breaking records and subscription news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post have experienced great growth in the last two years. Dinner conversations that were once full of gossip, sports talk, and family updates are now often about the most current political topic due to Trump.

It has already led to three historically underrepresented groups running for office. There are more young people, more minorities and more women participating. There’s also the potential that more Americans will vote and will cast their vote sensibly.

The next inauguration will be in two years. So, has Trump made America great again? Will he run again? The campaign has already kicked off and the Democrats are optimistic on conquering the White House once again. Several candidates have already announced that they are standing for the Democratic nomination, such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Other potentials, like former Vice President Joe Biden, are rumoured to be running.

Amy Donohoe

Image Credit: Sabrine Donohoe