Boston Political Review co-Editor-in-Chief Justin Dynia and writer Frank Serpe examine the case for US President Donald Trump’s re-election. The case for his opponent, former VP Joe Biden, can be found here.
Candidate Background and Political Experience
Born in Queens, New York City in 1946, President Donald J. Trump is the son of Fred and Mary Ann Trump. Upon graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Trump would go on to work for his father’s real estate business, eventually rebranding it into The Trump Organization. Over the years, the Trump family’s net worth would grow $2.1 billion. However, the family has been questioned over how much it owes in debt and if unscrupulous means were used to amass this wealth.
Trump rose to greater prominence in the 1980s with the publishing of his best-selling book The Art of the Deal, which solidified his persona as a deal-maker and shrewd tycoon. In the early 2000s, his reality TV show The Apprentice further made Trump a household name.
The now-famous escalator descent in Trump Tower in June 2015 propelled Trump into the 2016 election cycle. While campaigning to become the Republican nominee, Trump faced a litany of scandals and a fierce pool of competitors. Despite these challenges, he eventually earned the party’s nomination, going on to face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the general election. The initial polls indicated a resounding defeat, but Trump secured a stunning victory over Clinton, making him the oldest and one of the wealthiest presidents in American history.
Domestic Policy Platform and Record
Trump’s outsider approach to politics became clear as soon as he was inaugurated in January 2017. He immediately faced investigations regarding his campaign’s contacts with Russia, culminating in the “Mueller Report”. Although accusations and criticism ran high, Congress did not seek to impeach Trump based on the evidence. His early domestic agenda faced numerous obstacles, including court orders blocking his Executive Order to limit foreign nationals from high-threat countries from entering the United States – dubbed the “Muslim Ban” by critics.
Trump’s legislative agenda did also contain early successes, such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which enacted sweeping reform to the tax code and corporate tax law. He has also negotiated or pulled out of numerous trade agreements, including NAFTA, while pushing businesses to bring overseas jobs back to America. On healthcare, he was unable to repeal Obamacare as promised, although he did eliminate its individual mandate and ensure protection for those with preexisting conditions. On immigration, he has toughened America’s border security and cracked down on illegal immigration. Trump has also cemented the conservatism of the nation’s courts at all federal levels, capped off with the recent nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the nation’s highest court. This final achievement could be his most long-lasting and shape his legacy for decades to come.
President Trump became the third sitting President to be impeached in 2019 after the House of Representatives charged him with obstruction of justice and abuse of power. The allegations stemmed from leaked documents and phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump attempted to exert influence on a foreign power to investigate a political rival. In February, the Senate voted to acquit, making Trump the third President to receive acquittal during his impeachment.
Trump has made economic success the driving factor behind most of his decisions. He inherited a strong economy from President Obama and went on to lead the nation to some of the strongest economic growth it has seen in decades. Jobs numbers remained high and unemployment numbers low until the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, America has experienced over 9 million cases and 230,000 deaths from the virus; the US is now down 4.7 million jobs compared to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Trump may have saved lives with early preventative actions such as his travel ban in March and Operation Warp Speed, which has seen vaccine progress in record time, but he faces international outcry for his nation’s response to the virus. Trump himself faced a battle with the virus in early October after one of his aides tested positive, but he defeated the virus and continued campaigning shortly thereafter.
Foreign Policy Platform and Record
Throughout his presidency, Trump’s approach to foreign policy has been met with both praise and harsh criticisms. While making historic deals and appearances with world leaders, he has also made damaging errors on the world stage that have threatened to alienate our allies and lead to conflict.
While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pushed for an “America First” outlook to international relations. This included rolling back American military presence in the Middle East, ending American involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement, withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal, and getting NATO member states to meet their payment obligations. Many of these goals have panned out, much to the applause of his supporters and objections of his critics.
Going into the 2020 election, Trump aims to continue this foreign policy stance. Tackling China is also a major focus of his campaign, both for the country’s allegedly unjust trade practices and initial mishandling of Covid-19. Immigration, while a more subdued issue this election season, will also remain a top priority for a second-term Trump Administration.
His most notable victories include manoeuvring America security apparatus from the Middle East to China, moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and acting as a mediator between Israel and several Muslim-majority nations, resulting in unprecedented peace deals. The new USMCA trade deal was also seen as a major win for US manufacturers and consumers.
Less widely reported are the Trump Administration’s more systemic changes to U.S. foreign policy. New sanctioning powers have given the U.S. greater techniques to target terrorist cells and leaders across the world. Additionally, the creation of the International Development Finance Corporation is seen as an important counter to China’s growing reliance on “checkbook diplomacy”.
Despite these successes, Trump has also been accused of aligning ever closer with certain authoritarian regimes. His critics have stated he is embracing these figures at the expense of America’s traditional, long-standing allies. This criticism has been fiercest concerning the relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some believe that Trump’s perceived softness toward the Russian leader marks a more sinister undertone, where in exchange for decreased outside pressure, Putin will help secure Trump electoral wins. Trump has also pulled the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal while failing to secure any long-term agreement with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also evolved into a major international relations crisis for the United States. Though Trump continues to maintain the US is at the forefront of the fight to combat the virus, others state that a global, American-led response is severely lacking. Coupled with the Administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization over alleged corruption, there are fears that this pandemic could be a major blow to American credibility and leadership abroad.
With the world facing many different challenges, this election is poised to be a major referendum of the Trump Doctrine and its sustainability in the eyes of the American people.