The saying – or curse, depending on who one asks – goes “May you live in interesting times.”
Whether one considers themselves a Trump supporter or one of his greatest detractors all can agree these are indeed ‘interesting times.’ For despite how utterly adversarial American politics have become a lot of things have, well, been happening.
The Obama administration might have culminated with a lot of movement such as ill-advised interventions in Libya and Black Sea blunders with Russian aggression, but the years prior were relatively docile; excepting one massive half push towards universal healthcare. In fact, arguably it was that vicious battle over the single issue of mandatory coverage that likely hobbled the administration’s ability to do much in its opening years.
Likewise, the Bush administration prior was marked by relative inactivity excepting some tax cuts until domestic terror incited one war and faulty intelligence inspired a failed intervention with endless reverberations in Iraq. The great recession closing out the administration’s tenure would, if anything, highlight the inactivity and complacency in the years prior.
But when it comes to the Trump administration – for all the crass talk and seemingly dubious decision making – one must admit things get done, even if those things aren’t always universally perceived as ‘good’.
Taking a moment to consider one might realize that in between the prime-time antics there has been a ton of policy and bureaucratic change since 2016 saw the guard change in a drastic populist direction. Politico lists off 128 policy changes ‘made while we weren’t looking’.
From domestic issues like steel imports and coal mining, to foreign affairs like North Korea, Trump has been hands on in making pieces move one way or another where previously politicians on both sides of the aisle had allowed decades of wavering to lead to little substantial progress.
Tax cuts, deregulations, and sanctions en masse have come flying out the oval office. Trade with China – a longtime slowly growing and ignored elephant in the room – is being dealt with face to face wheeling and dealing on a seemingly daily basis. Trump lambasted the deal with Iran, so he dissolved it. He pointed out the ineptitude of international climate accords, so he left the list of nations continuing to fail to meet their ‘noble goals’ year after year.
The ACA – a legislative beast that had weathered nearly a decade and a half of inept management from both the left and right was defanged with the removal of the individual mandate; something the Republican controlled congress elected with him couldn’t even manage to make reforms on.
Take the great ‘wall debate’. Trump’s emergency declaration operationalized to circumvent congressional approval for wall funding is certainly *ahem* interesting; but it’s anything but static. Instead of spending years of his first term wallowing in continued shutdown and bureaucratic bloat he simply pushed the question of his executive reach. Sure, he might end up snubbed, but he’s giving it a shot and doing it now.
In that vein, even the act of implementing the national emergency moves things forward. For decades upon decades legislators and pundits have been murmuring about executive power growing. Really since LBJ and Tonkin, the branch has been slowly obtaining more and more means of circumventing constitutional checks, but now we might finally be able to address it.
Even as a general detractor of such far reaching executive powers I’m admittedly glad the issue is finally actually being brought forward; thanks, as it were, to Donald Trump desiring action on his cornerstone project and desiring it as soon as he can feasibly make it happen.
Love it or hate it, that just seems to be the way the Trump administration does it.