We look back on a turbulent year of divisive politics, election scandals and blocked bans
08 Noviembre 2017 16:34
I remember the night clearly. It was a cold, blustery night on November 8 in London; I had never stayed up to watch the US elections before. But this time seemed prescient, necessary. After watching the calamitous, dirty presidential campaign by way of nasty TV debates, sexual assault scandals, and echoing chants of ‘Build a wall!’ at Donald Trump’s rallies, I had rationally, although in retrospect wrongly, put all my bets on Hillary Clinton being elected to the White House. Yes, like other spectators of this carnivalesque circus, I had my reservations about Clinton, particularly on foreign policy and dynasterian power. But she was ‘normal’. She was familiar. Politics as usual. Trump, on the other hand, was so far from normal I didn’t even truly entertain the concept of him as amateur-in-chief.
I told myself I would watch enough of the US election results to see that Clinton was inching towards the finish line, and then I would be able to sleep soundly knowing the world order hadn’t just been pulled out from under us. As the evening unfolded, however, political commentators, journalists, Republicans and Democrats tried to make sense of the results coming in, Trump slightly ahead in key swing states, performing far better than many pundits had predicted. A genuine anxiety gripped my stomach. No sleep was happening tonight. International politics was hurtling towards the unknown. By 8am, and with weary, tired eyes, I watched Trump walk out onto the stage at the New York Hilton Midtown, soundtracked by the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What you Want (a two-fingers up to everyone who underestimated him), to accept his win.
A triumph for some, disbelief for more, the most improbable presidential candidate in recent US history would become the leader of the free world. The truly extraordinary, dramatically chaotic, had happened. As newspapers across the world scrambled to change their front pages, Trump naysayers ate their words, and politicians took their turn in calling up a former reality TV star to congratulate him on his win, there was no telling what might happen next. A year on from that tectonic-shifting night, the world is a different place. We’re living in a post-Trump dystopia. The new ‘normal’ is a fast-moving, crude-talking jumble of politics, stretched to the extremes and giving voice to more fringe voices, such as the far-right and immigrant communities. But it’s important to remember that even though this climate has become normalised, it is not normal. Here, we look back on a turbulent year of politics under Trump: the good(ish), the bad, and the ugly.
Firing James Comey - On May 9, Trump unexpectedly fired then-FBI Director James Comey, claiming top officials at the Department of Justice disapproved of how Comey had carried out his investigation into Clinton’s emails. But many were skeptical about his reasoning. Not only had Trump previously praised Comey for his handling of the investigation, but the former FBI director had publicly acknowledged that he was overseeing the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Trump later admitted the Russia investigation was a key factor in his decision.
Travel ban, aka, Muslim ban - One of Trump’s campaign promises was a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’. He tried to follow through by introducing a blanket ban on six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US: Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran. Federal courts in Hawaii and California blocked the ban, citing discrimination based on religion. A second version was drafted, omitting Iraq from the list, but this too was blocked. After which a third travel ban was written, including this time North Korea and Venezuela, but leaving off Sudan, but again was blocked in Maryland and Hawaii. Although the attempted bans highlight the Trump administration’s barefaced xenophobia, a positive is that each one has been deemed unconstitutional.
Russia investigation and Mueller indictments - Speculation about Russian collusion in the US elections is an issue that has plagued the Trump administration. Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently spearheading an FBI investigation into possible Russian interference during the presidential campaign. So far, Mueller has indicted George Papadopolous, the former foreign policy adviser, Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a business associate, Rick Gates.
Transgender military ban - Trump is known for his erratic tweeting, choosing to use an online platform to announce big policy changes that haven’t yet been verified by his party or lawmakers. In July, he tweeted that he would ban transgender soldiers from entering the military, claiming such individuals put a strain on finances. However, a federal court in Washington, D.C blocked Trump from implementing key components of the ban after trans service members filed a lawsuit against the ban. Once again, Trump was shown that he is not above the law.
Making Mexico pay for 'the wall' - Trump’s insistence on the campaign trail that he would build a wall between the US and Mexico, and then make Mexico pay for it, was one of the most vulgar and divisive pledges he touted. Early estimates of the cost of this non-existent 2,000 mile border wall were around $25 billion, and Mexico is definitely not funding it. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox famously offered current President Enrique Pena Nieto some advice, telling CNN: ‘You could use my words, “We’ll never pay for that fucking wall”.’
Withdrawing from the Paris agreement - Trump and his rich, fossil fuel-promoting, climate-change denying inner circle have been disastrous in the fight against global warming. The president announced on June 1 that he would withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord, an international pact to tackle climate change, arguing that it would pave the way for more domestic job creation. The US is currently the only country besides Nicaragua, and until recently Syria, that isn’t part of the agreement, despite mounting pressure from world leaders.
Derailing the Iran Nuclear Deal - Former US President Barack Obama is a sore point for Trump. Likeable, articulate, charismatic; Obama is quite literally the antithesis of the former Apprentice host. That’s why Trump seems so hell bent on dismantling his legacy. Under the Obama administration, Iran had agreed to curtail its nuclear programme if some relief could be provided on economic sanctions. Although Trump has not fully withdrawn from the deal, he has been an outspoken critic of it, and did not recertify the deal by the October deadline.
Repealing Obamacare - Likewise, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is central to Trump’s politics. But it has proven more difficult in reality. Drafting a bill that would receive a good ‘score’ from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office hasn’t been easy, and with Republican dissidents like John McCain, Trump has failed to axe the programme.
Ending DACA - The Trump administration announced that it will end the DACA programme - which provides a level of amnesty to certain illegal immigrants, many of whom came to the US as children – with a six-month delay for current recipients earlier this year. Democrats have reacted with anger about the policy change because many children and young people face a future of uncertainty and danger.
North Korea - Dealing with North Korea has perhaps been the issue that has worried the international community the most. Trump’s hardline with the isolated nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and North Korea’s nuclear development, has plunged diplomatic relations between the two countries to new lows. Trump’s erratic nature and aggressive rhetoric has done nothing to dispel worries that North Korea may be capable of hitting mainland US with long-range ballistic missiles. The threat of nuclear war is at its highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it remains to be seen how the hostile tit-for-tat between Trump and Jong-un will play out.