Since the Trump Presidency began back in January 2017, we have endeavored to maintain a comprehensive listing of all the administrations misdeeds in the Everything Awful The Trump Administration Has Done Omnibus (full list here), and have attempted to categorize and score them accordingly. Today is April 20th, which means that as of noon today we are now moving into month 27 of the Trump administration. To mark the occasion, we are releasing the Everything Terrible Trump Has Done 2019 1st Qtr. Brief.
We already provided a thorough explanation of our methodology elsewhere, so we’ll just skip straight to the results. For anyone interested, an in-depth discussion on how we classified and scored actions can be found here.
The 1st Quarter of Trump’s 3rd year in office saw the administration sink back into an unfocused low boil. While initially the administration had tried to retain the initiative following the 2018 midterms by forcing a confrontation through the government shutdown. However, when the shutdown ending on unfavorable terms for the Trump, they were forced to accept that they were going to be checked in many ways that they previously hadn’t. Indeed, much of the last quarter has seen some level of retrenchment. The administration was forced to abort a renewed effort on healthcare before it even started and has continued to distance itself from its family separation policy. Meanwhile, the administration also continued to be frustrated in the courts, which was exacerbated from a new wave of lawsuits from state Attorney Generals challenging their policies. The administration was also hit by the release of the Mueller Report, which heavily pointed to collusion and obstruction committed by the administration, but which stopped short of conclusive charges or new indictments. A table of the full breakdown of the Administration’s impact can be seen here.
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To brief summarize the Trump administration through its first two years, the first year of the administration saw the focus primarily on economic issues that more or less aligned with conventional policies, while the second year saw a shift towards social and institutional issues that were more unique to Trump’s particular brand of politics. This trend has moderated somewhat over the spring of 2019, as the administration’s focus seems to be more or less spread evenly across social, economic and institutional issues, with a fair amount of its actions relating to foreign policy as well. However, as in the first quarter the administration’s institutional impacted was the most pronounced, thanks in large part to the results of Robert Mueller’s investigations.
Within these categories the story also seems largely unchanged. Immigration continues to be the biggest single issue in the realm of social policy, with deportations, abuses in enforcement and a manufactured “national emergency” being the main drivers. In the economic sphere the impact is still mainly being felt in terms of Healthcare and Social Spending, though as in the last 6 months of 2018 Trade has certainly gained importance. The shutdown in December and January caused significant damage to the civil service, however once it subsided Trump’s institutional impact returned to being mainly related to his corruption and corrosive political influence.
The big question going into the 3rd year of the Trump administration was how it would find itself checked by the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. For the moment the answers seems to be mixed. Trump has much less of an active hand than he did in his first two years in office, and he’s found of his efforts blocked. But the Democrat’s attempts to more actively rein Trump in have been similarly frustrated.
On the one hand, the Trump administration’s ability to carry out major policies has been significantly curbed. Just days into its third year Trump suffered an embarrassing defeat on the government shutdown, seeming to demonstrate that Trump would not be able to strong arm congress or take advantage of fissures in the Democratic caucus. To be sure, the administration was never exceptionally effective at enacting such policies in the first place. Few major pieces of legislation passed when Republicans held the majority in both houses, and the administration has been highly ineffective at defending their executive orders in court. Still, the last 3 months have seen a significant drop off in the impact of actions that can be counted as representing a major executive order or piece of legislation. As before, the exceptions to this come through rulings by Trump’s judicial appointments.
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However, on the other hand Democrats have often been frustrated in their attempts to rein in Trump. Democratic attempts to introduce legislation or pass motions holding the administration to account have typically died in the Republican dominated Senate or been vetoed. Democrats came into congress planning to conduct numerous investigations into nearly all aspects of the administration, however so far these have made little progress as the administration refuses to cooperate. Most significantly, while Mueller’s final report pointed to significant collusion and obstruction, it left actually carrying out any additional charges to Congress, which seems doubtful given the divided government.
It would be easy to chalk this up to simple recalcitrance on the part of the administration, but a lot of it also comes down to the fact that the Democrats simply haven’t taken the initiative. Congressional Democrats have been resistant to issuing subpoenas, allegedly because they want to give the administration time to comply with their requests, while Pelosi has preemptively shot down talk of impeachment. At times, congressional leadership seems more interested in clamping down on its own ranks by playing into faux controversies like those directed at Congresswomen Ilhan Omar.
Democratic energy at the grassroots has been similarly disappointing. Activists have noticed a distinct drop off in organizing after the midterms, and there have been fewer mass protests and other forms of action in 2019. There’s also been much less activism at the ballot box, as the Democrats have actually lost seats in special elections in 2019. It appears that many believe a divided government will be enough to check Trump, and have thus allowed themselves to slip into complacency.