US President Donald Trump (Image: AP)

Four years after sweeping into the White House as a political outsider riding a wave of resentment, Donald Trump is now an incumbent with a record to defend.

Many of his promises in 2016 seemed like outlandish bluster. And while the administration has been a victim of its own dysfunction, and the president’s hyperbole, there’s a lot from that campaign that Trump has, to an extent, achieved. 

Build a wall

One of Trump’s signature promises was to build a southern border wall, paid for by Mexico. That has not happened. Trump promised more than 500 miles (800 kilometres) by next year, but as of February just 110 miles had been constructed. Most of that replaced outdated fencing and it’s been bankrolled entirely by US companies and the Trump administration. Mexico hasn’t paid a cent.

Muslim ban

Trump repeatedly called for a total ban on Muslims entering the US. A week into his presidency he signed an executive order banning foreign nationals, refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. After more than a year of legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld a third version of that order.

And early this year Trump quietly expanded the number of countries whose nationals are restricted. Still the administration hasn’t come close to banning all Muslims.

Manufacturing jobs

Key to Trump’s shock win in the rustbelt was a promise to revitalise American manufacturing. But even before the pandemic whacked the economy, manufacturing was in a technical recession, thanks in part to Trump’s trade war with China. Manufacturing jobs across the country are down by 720,000 from February, eliminating the slender gains made in Trump’s first three years.

Tax cuts

Trump promised massive tax cuts. In 2017, he delivered, cutting corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, with a bunch of other concessions for billionaires, who now pay a lower tax rate than the working class.

Drain the swamp

That campaign slogan came to symbolise Trump’s pledge to purge American politics of the consultants, lobbyists and other grifters who haunt Washington. Instead he has delivered none of his promises to restrict lobbying, and continues to hold lucrative closed-door fundraisers with interest groups. And for Trumpworld’s favoured lobbyists business is booming.

Repeal Obamacare

Trump entered office obsessed with dismantling his predecessor’s signature healthcare law. But after Congress blocked a repeal in 2017, the administration has been forced to adopt a “piecemeal approach” to stripping bits of the law away.

Much of Obamacare’s architecture remains intact days out from the election. But on November 10 the Supreme Court will hear arguments in another legal challenge to Obamacare, and there’s a good chance Trump could get his wish even if it’s from beyond the political grave, because …

The courts

In a sign of America’s utter political brokenness, Trump could be a widely despised one-term president and still shape the country for decades. That’s because after Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the bench yesterday with barely a whimper from Senate Democrats, there’s now a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

In 2016 Trump promised to promote pro-life, pro-second amendment judges, and Barrett in particular — who’s a member of a secretive cult-like Christian group — fits that bill. The Trump administration, aided by GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has also appointed more than 200 conservative judges to the federal judiciary, which could shape the country for a generation.

Foreign policy

On foreign policy it’s a mixed bag — although Trump’s unilateral “America first” approach seems to be showing. He has followed through on promises to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Agreement. But within months of taking office, he’d wound back his claims that NATO was obsolete.

He also promised to bomb the shit out of Islamic State, and has more or less done so. He promised to get tough on China, and has since escalated a trade war and continued to talk tough at Beijing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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