The Trump Administration’s First 100 Days – Has the US Changed?

On Jan. 20, 2017, the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. In his speech, he stated that he would take the power from those in Washington and give it to the people, reinforce unity, bring an end to domestic in-fighting, and adopt an “America First” strategy to make America great again. Trump’s declaration as he took office sounded as if he were declaring to the world that the U.S. was on the eve of a revolutionary transformation. However, on April 29, the first 100 days of his administration were up, and there has been no complete transformation of the U.S. under Trump’s leadership. Trump’s grand plans to transform the U.S. have met with crushing defeat; although in individual areas he has had valuable success, his entire strategy needs revision and a return to reality to follow a traditional path.

Trump’s aspiration to fundamentally change American politics is separated from reality, the thwarted implementation of his policies inevitable. First of all, giving power back to the people is not an empty political slogan. To achieve a change of power of this kind would first require a fundamental systematic change to a form of government which serves the people. As a very rich man, Trump clearly has no intention of overthrowing the current capitalist system which serves the rich.

Secondly, Trump’s presidential power is restricted. The reasonably priced health care law of former President Obama brought benefits to a large section of the U.S. population; the Republican Party went to extremes to oppose it for several years without success. Now, although the Republicans control the White House and Congress, they have failed to achieve a general consensus within society, and have retreated in the face of confrontation in Congress. The president’s immigration ban was blocked by a federal judge and the amended version was subsequently frozen, causing a blow to the Trump government’s prestige. The ban relates to immigration and religion, among other issues. There are clauses expressly written into the Constitution, not only to defend national security and to take presidential authority into consideration, but which also allows for the establishment and enforcement of new regulations. As for his energy independence executive order, primarily aimed at Obama’s clean energy plan, to loosen the restrictions on CO2 emissions by power plants, and which has drawn opposition from 23 states, local governments and environmental organizations, it will not be plain sailing. Meanwhile, The United States’ promises with regard to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions have now been called into question by the international community.

Thirdly, as the only superpower, America’s well-being is highly intertwined with that of all other countries in the world. Every foreign policy being tangled and complicated, and subjectively doing just as it pleases, will inevitably harm America’s own interests. The U.S. policy toward Russia, NATO and China has already basically returned to pragmatic conventions. The claims Trump made during his election campaign regarding rapidly improving relations with Russia, calling NATO outdated, and claims of putting China under pressure have proved inopportune and not beneficial to the U.S.

Trump’s new policy continues to advance, and has made some important progress. First of all, by cleverly changing the voting rules, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch passed through Congress and became a Supreme Court justice, which tipped the scales of the Supreme Court in favor of the conservative faction. Secondly, via newly established White House offices, political lobbying and appointment of officials, regulations are being reformed to raise governmental efficiency. Thirdly, although the president’s immigration ban cannot be wholly implemented, current immigration laws are in the process of being tightened, undocumented immigrants with criminal records will be strictly investigated and some will be sent back to their home country. Entry visa requirements are once again being examined from a strict and tight perspective. Fourth, concerning foreign political affairs, the U.S.’s exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has already been implemented, honoring Trump’s election campaign promise. Settling the North Korean nuclear and missile issue has received significant attention; the president rarely meets with the 15 member countries from the United Nations Security Council. Congressional specialists listen to administrative authorities in relation to the North Korean situation. The secretary of state plans to preside over the United Nations Security Council minister level conference to seek a plan to settle the situation. At the same time, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system has been deployed to South Korea, expanding both South Korea and Japan’s military exercises and military deployments on the periphery of North Korea. The military operations in Syria and Afghanistan, as well as the negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement and trade negotiations with its trading partners have received international attention.

The taxation reform plan recently gave rise to a new policy of domestic politics that will have far-reaching effects. Significantly reducing taxes for businesses and citizens to raise the economic competitiveness of the American economy, to promote economic growth and to increase citizens’ income will no doubt make a bad situation worse considering the $20 trillion deficit. Hoping for rapid economic growth to increase household incomes by cutting taxes is very likely to fail. During the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the federal budget deadlock has once again caused problems for the White House, with both parties playing games which threaten the regular functioning of government. This just demonstrates Trump’s inability to overcome the restrictions of the capitalist system’s market dominance to implement real change. Fundamentally closing the widening gap between the rich and poor, racial discrimination, increase in violent crime, and fierce political battles are problems that are so hard to solve they feel unachievable.

The author is a researcher at the China Foundation for International Studies.

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