Nov. 7, 2016, was a day I went into hoping and expecting to see the first female elected to the highest office in the United States.
As I sat in my room watching the votes slowly trickle in, my stomach did little backflips each time a state turned red on CNN’s election map. “They’re all traditionally conservative states,” I told myself. “It doesn’t matter, Hillary’s states just haven’t been counted yet.”
I fell asleep before the results were official, trying to give myself one little shred of hope that I still may wake up to find that Hillary had pulled a miracle out of thin air, securing the necessary 270 electoral votes. Unfortunately for myself, and for the country, the headlines the next morning trumpeted the announcement that Donald J. Trump, not Hillary Clinton, would be the 45th president of the United States.
After reassurances from trusted professors, experts on the American democratic experiment and journalists who claimed it “couldn’t be that bad,” days began to fill with cancelled classes, support groups and open office hours to talk through what Trump meant for this country. I slowly started to believe that maybe, just maybe, four years wasn’t that long of a time — that four years wasn’t enough time to do lasting damage to this country.
A year later, reflecting on Trump’s election and subsequent ascendancy to the White House, I think it’s safe to say that I was sadly mistaken. Four years, with a potential of eight, is an eternity when it means having a person like Trump in office.
Day in and day out, this country is reminded through President Donald Trump’s actions that he is neither a politician, a diplomat, a savvy businessman nor a leader. Trump hit the ground with his feet running, but in a direction that ultimately would back him into a corner with way too many balls in the air for him to juggle. One of the largest campaign promises Trump made, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act proved to be the most difficult for the president to handle, revealing his political ineptness.
For as long as the Affordable Care Act has existed, the Republican’s have rampantly reiterated their desire to repeal and replace it with private health insurance. Criticizing the increased taxes, decrease in healthcare quality, and in addition to the nation’s already sky-high debt, the Republicans, led by Wisconsin native and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, raced toward their proposed healthcare plan, which was supposed to go to vote in March, just two months after Trump’s inauguration.
Much to the chagrin of the Republican party, the bill didn’t even make it to vote, exposing deep divisions within the party, especially from members of the Freedom House Caucus, the most conservative sect of the GOP. Not only did this put on prominent display the incoherent leadership of the top Republicans, namely Trump and Ryan, with their inability to gain consensus on an issue so central to the party’s dogma, but it set the tone for the swift unraveling of any immediate plans to repeal the hated Obamacare.
While the failure of the GOP on healthcare is ultimately good for millions of Americans who will continue to have access to quality, affordable healthcare, low-cost contraception and mental health treatment, the overall picture painted by the debacle is bleak. The party in control of all branches of government could not pass their staple legislation because they were both incapable of drafting a legitimate bill and of garnering any semblance of intra-party support (not even mentioning partisan support). Additionally, the president was too out of touch with the reality of Washington to do anything more than sit at his desk in the oval office and threaten his party, the Democrats and the country that Obamacare would “blow up.”
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In his short tenure in the office thus far, things most certainly have blown up, but it hasn’t been Obamacare. Instead, it has been the explosion of racist, sexist, ethnocentric policies and actions propelled by Trump.
Trump’s multiple attempts to institute immigration bans on countries in the Middle East highlighted a pervasive Islamophobic element of Trump’s rhetoric — drumming up intense nationalism within his base and within the GOP to create an America devoid of diversity, repelling foreigners who speak a different language or worship a different God as all having ties to “radical Islamic terrorists.” Trump has alleged that Islam hates America, and that somehow hate is embedded in the very essence of Islam. Unsurprisingly, the amount of tangible hate crimes against Muslims in America has spiked with the flow of Islamophobic rhetoric flowing out the White House.
Trump’s bigoted attacks haven’t stopped at denigrating. The highest percentage of Americans since at least 1995 — when polls started officially tracing the population’s attitudes — say racism is a “big problem” in the country today. In the wake of white supremacist Nazi rallies such as Charlottesville, 58 percent of people believe Trump failed to convincingly condemn, have noticed and are concerned with the dramatic increase in white supremacist attitudes failing to elicit condemnation or consequences from an administration sympathetic to their cause.
A year into Trump’s America blatantly shows his administration’s lack of regard for minority rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights. A year has proven ample time for a seemingly insurmountable rift to form between conservatives and liberals, between old friends, family members and communities. A year has resulted in little concrete policy formation, least of all in areas of Republican concern such as health care, tax reform and immigration.
Trump’s America is a scary place, a place that knows no political correctness, a place that white supremacists roam the halls of Congress and the White House, a place where rights are stripped away from already marginalized groups.
Trump’s America is not great now, nor will it ever be.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.