All That Didn't Happen During Trump's First Year
It was supposed to be the worst of times: an age of foolishness, a season of darkness, and a winter of despair. According to the experts, the presidency of Donald J. Trump would “cause the stock market to crash and plunge the world into recession,” threaten “the planet’s health and safety,” bring “fascism” to America, and maybe even “get us all killed.”
“In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order,” Andrew Sullivan announced in New York magazine, “Trump is an extinction-level event.” Paul Krugman warned his New York Times readers that America would soon turn into “Trumpistan,” with Trump ushering in “an era of epic corruption and contempt for the rule of law, with no restraint whatsoever.”
“And you have to wonder about civil liberties, too,” he added. “The White House will soon be occupied by a man with obvious authoritarian instincts, and Congress controlled by a party that has shown no inclination to stand up against him. How bad will it get? Nobody knows.”
His conservative colleague Ross Douthat was no more reassuring. He offered his three “baseline dangers for a Trump administration”—not far-flung predictions mind you, but the “perils that we would very likely face”: “sustained market jitters leading to an economic slump,” “major civil unrest,” and “a rapid escalation of risk in every geopolitical theater.”
And yet here we are, a full year into the Trump presidency, with America and the world somehow still standing. Not a single one of the overblown doomsday scenarios that Trump was supposed to unleash has panned out. Quite the contrary, in fact.
The stock market is roaring and economic growth is set to exceed 3 percent for a third consecutive quarter. America remains a democracy, with an independent judiciary and a free press. More than 70 free and fair special elections (many won by Democrats) have taken place since Donald Trump was inaugurated. ISIS’s caliphate is no more. And North Korea is at the negotiating table.
While President Trump cannot claim full credit for all of this, he can point to some real accomplishments of his own. He appointed a record number of good appellate judges to the federal bench, enacted a major overhaul of the tax code, and has been pursuing an aggressive deregulatory agenda.
It is hard to imagine any of the other 16 Republican candidates he ran against doing more in one year. It is particularly hard to imagine another Republican with the boldness to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, decertify the Iran nuclear deal, and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Trump, it is true, has only been in office for a year. He still has another three years to destroy America and perhaps the rest of the world too.
He could still “try to modify the First Amendment and restrict freedom of the press.” He could declare “martial law” on a whim. “The crisis in women’s health” that activists could “already see on the horizon” a week after the inauguration come still come about. And perhaps he has already begun “laying the groundwork for extensive voter-suppression efforts aimed at making voting far more difficult for Latinos, African Americans and others hostile to him.”
America could still become “a de facto one-party state,” and we may still have, in the words of Eliot Cohen, “calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have.”
All this may well happen. After all, how likely is it that the same people who told us Trump could never win an election would be wrong twice?