The Reign of Incompetence

In the hours and days following the election of Donald Trump, I took a lot of phone calls and emails from concerned friends and acquaintances. Beyond the “how did this happen” confusion was a palatable fear for what would come next. While I had my own anxieties (did we really just give the nuclear codes to 70-year-old reality TV star???), I tried to calm the growing hysteria in my social circle. Yes, Trump is awful. Yes, he is going to say horrible things and propose disgusting, racist, and unconstitutional policy. But he is also likely to be a massive failure in almost every measure as the leader of a party with nearly total control over the federal government. He has no political experience, eschews all people who do, and thinks that you can just waltz into a room, make some edict, declare victory, and saunter back off to your golf course (some dingy hotel room where he can scarf down filet-o-fish and relax to the inane chatter of “Fox and Friends”). Now that we are over a year in, I’d like to re-examine that thought.

How do you evaluate the success of a presidency? Most political commentators work backward to answer this question. They ask “If I am for or against Trump, what are the areas of our country that are doing well/poorly?” and then base their argument around those answers. This is cherry-picking of the first order. They are rarely, if ever, based on a causal argument but instead seek to stake out quick-hitting talking points their followers can tweet out or spam message boards with. Look at the stock market!! Trump’s economy is amazing! Without explaining what economic policies of Trump’s have contributed to this growth they simply imply that he is responsible. To accurately evaluate an executive branch leader they must be judged on how well they have implemented their agenda with bonus points (positive and negative) assigned on the virtue of how they handled the random events beyond their control (foreign crisis, natural disasters, and scandals for example). Objectively evaluating the presidency this way can only lead to one conclusion: Trump has been an unmitigated failure.

It is important to remember what Trump and the GOP promised to do if elected. Take a look at the GOP agenda for yourself.

  1. Fair and simple taxes. Total failure. The GOP tax revision did not simplify taxes. They did not end corporate handouts (indeed, they increased them). They did not welcome all to participate in this discussion– it was passed with little discussion and no input from Democrats. They definitely did not repeal the 16th Amendment. Can we all pause to remind the nation that basically no one in the news media covered the fact that the GOP platform called for repealing an amendment of the Constitution? Trump and the GOP Congress failed in every single aspect of their proposed tax reform– and this is supposed to be their crowning achievement!!!
  2. A winning trade policy. Failure. The GOP did not put tough deals in place with China. This is the only trade policy outlined in their platform, but Trump loudly campaigned on ending TPP (which was going to happen regardless– by the end of the election cycle both Trump and Clinton were loudly against it) and renegotiating NAFTA. How’s that NAFTA renegotiation going along? Have we stopped the flow of jobs to Mexico and goods into the US? Ongoing with rumors that they may stretch into 2019. I am skeptical that this moves the needle at all, but it is still in progress.
  3. Freeing financial markets (aka deregulating finance). Success. Finally a victory for the people! And by people, I mean the wealthiest Americans. Trump and the GOP have been successful in rolling back many of the protections put in place to prevent a financial meltdown like the one in 2008. While the GOP continues to pretend that FHA mortgages brought down the economy, they are couching the need to fix the finance sector in terms of small community banks that make mortgages to everyday Americans. Too many people were able to buy houses! More people need to be able to buy houses! Incoherent? Yes. And it is the premise guiding this policy. Note the coded language about “quotas” and “discrimination in the housing market.” This is literally the GOP saying it wants to shut down housing programs that serve clients the private sector discriminates against (historically and contemporaneously).
  4. America on the Move. Failure. They have passed no legislation on changing the Highway Trust Fund. They spewed a lot about their hate for mass transit (rich people who fly privately and wouldn’t get on a train or bus at gunpoint telling people who live outside of major cities that mass transit is for the “elites” is patently absurd), but haven’t really done anything about it.
  5. Building the future: Technology. Total failure. They have cut funding to public-private partnerships, cut funding to science initiatives within the government, and undercut competition for providing internet and internet services.
  6. Building the future: America’s electric grid. Total failure (totally imaginary policy goal category). They never actually outlined a policy here. It was just a nonsense talking point.
  7. Start-up century: Small business and entrepreneurship. Total failure. This was a two-part promise: 1) roll back occupational licenses and 2) promote private-public partnerships with NIH, NASA, ect. The first part was just bullshit talking points. Occupational licensing is done almost entirely at the state level. Small government and whatnot. And it turns out, there is little to no interest in rolling these back. Businesses that employ licensed professionals oppose it (lets cheaper competition in to undercut them). Consumers like the knowledge that they are receiving a service or good from someone who’s professionalism has been independently tested.  Professionals don’t like unskilled people undercutting them on the job market. Entire businesses and schools that exist to train people for these professionalism exams would be wiped out. This is one of those things that sounds great in the abstract but would be too devastating to actually enact. Look up the phrase path dependent to understand why. The second part I covered above– the Trump administration has destroyed and undermined public-private collaboration everywhere outside the military-industrial complex.
  8. The Federal Reserve. Total failure. This was boilerplate GOP grandstanding about the Fed. They have been trying to pass this same crap since 2009. It always passes the House and always dies in the Senate (because it is stupid populist pandering that threatens monetary stability). It has not passed. It will not pass.
  9. Workplace freedom for a 21st-century workforce. Success. The GOP stocked the National Labor Review Board with conservatives who prefer businesses to have more power than employees. They continue to oppose changes to minimum wage. **These are definitely decisions that help the common man.**
  10. A federal workforce serving the people (aka disband federal workers unions). Failure. Trump and the GOP have tried to exert more government control and oversight on the unions in an effort to disband them. It has increased membership and created more internal strife in the government.
  11. Reducing the federal debt. Total failure. They passed a huge tax cut and did nothing to curb spending. They will try next year, but there is no way to do this without major decreases to military spending (which Trump increased) or cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That is not going to happen.
  12. We the People. Total failure. They elected a man who does not respect the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution, has ruled through executive orders, and regularly denigrates our nation, it’s past, and it’s institutions.
  13. The judiciary. Wild success. The GOP got the judges and justice it desired.
  14. Administrative law. Total failure. Congress has not reasserted it’s Constitutionally outlined position and continues to defer to the imperial style of presidency.
  15. Defending marriage against an activist judiciary. Total failure. There has been no movement on rolling back the decision in Obergefell. And there won’t be. Gay marriage is the law of the land. Pass a Constitutional amendment if you want to change it.
  16. First Amendment: Religious liberty. Success. Trump and the GOP have been successful in promoting the ability for religious groups to voice their opinions and be involved in the political process. The rest of that platform was meaningless grandstanding about displaying the Ten Commandments and other weird stuff the federal government has no control over.
  17. First Amendment: Constitutionally protected speech. More failure than success. Trump has been great at allowing people to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns while mounting an all-out assault on the freedom of the press and the freedom for government employees to have a voice in democratic politics.
  18. Second Amendment: Right to bear arms. Success. Like all GOP members, Trump has been good at supporting whatever the NRA tells him to. Not that the Democrats have ever really mounted anything that looks like a concerted effort to limit guns rights…
  19. Fourth Amendment: Liberty and Privacy. Total failure. This reads like Paul Manafort wrote it (which he might have). It is a call to insulate people who hide their money overseas or bring money over in suspect ways from being looked at by the government. This has not been dismantled and it appears pretty clear why Trump and his people wanted it. Their failure to “reform” this might literally be their undoing.
  20. Fifth Amendment: Protecting human life. Success in their almost limitless opposition to abortion. Failure in that they still cannot manage to outlaw it, even with their control of all three branches of government. It is almost like they want to keep the issue around…
  21. Fifth Amendment: Protecting private property. Total failure. This is a policy I largely support (asset seizure is being used in completely kleptocratic ways locally). Nothing has been done. And eminent domain is the only way Donald can build his wall, so it is hard to take the GOP seriously on that one. Again, no movement to reform it has happened.
  22. Fifth Amendment: Intellectual property rights. Total failure. Nothing has been done to limit intellectual property theft by foreign actors.
  23. Ninth Amendment: People’s retained rights. Total failure. Nothing has been done to roll back the power of the federal government (and this is mostly nonsense to pander to the libertarians in the party).
  24. Tenth Amendment: Federalism as the foundation of personal liberty. Failure. There is no stomach for actually rolling back most aid programs. The GOP has done nothing to stop federal intrusion on the curriculum in the schools because there is none (it is a state and local-level decision and always has been). They have been unable to stop the courts from ruling state laws unconstitutional (like the voter-id laws they mentioned, immigration excesses like those of Sheriff Joe, or unmentioned items like absurdist gerrymandering). They have managed to get rid of transgendered bathrooms in schools that choose to not have them, so I guess they have that.
  25. Honest elections and the Electoral College. Success (totally phony variety). There has never been a serious movement to abolish the electoral college. This was grandstanding meant to pander to rural people.
  26. Honest elections and the right to vote. Total failure. Not only are voter id laws continue to be challenged in the courts and the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program has been an abject failure.
  27. Abundant harvests. Success/failure. Trump has successfully rolled back regulation on ranchers and farmers water use. Trump and the GOP have failed to do anything significant about SNAP. The rest of this platform piece was just grandstanding.
  28. A new era in energy. Success. Trump has opened up drilling and pipeline construction (over the objections of the states and localities they are in– a clear violation of the GOP’s stance on federalism). He has rolled back investment in alternative energy sources, including tariffs to harm solar energy. Coal production is up, but jobs have not increased in a meaningful manner (because technology is what destroyed these jobs in the first place). Nor have his coal initiatives gone anywhere. Rick Perry fumbled the clean coal electric power move by clumsily showing how much of a transparent handout it was to the coal industry. Natural gas and oil have no interest in subsidizing coal.
  29. Environmental progress. Success? This is a strange platform piece. For one, they argue that the EPA and government regulations are archaic/counterproductive/based on shoddy science and then tell you how much better the air and water are today. They are improving BECAUSE of regulation. Where there is little to no regulation there is massive pollution. Ask people who get new “industries” popping up in their backyards, like an asphalt plant, nuclear waste dump, or a fracking operation. When a nation/state/locality has no environmental protections on the books for something the company/industry/institution operating in that area can do as they please. And what they please never includes expensive measures to safeguard the air quality or drinking water of the people who live there. Trump has done what he said he would here, and there are real economic benefits to some of these moves, but let’s be honest about the cost to local people.
  30. Making government work for the people. Failure (see platform point #24).
  31. Balancing the budget. Spectacular failure.
  32. Preserving Medicare and Medicaid. Total failure. This was Obamacare repeal and replace under another name. They have done nothing to sure up Medicare and did nothing to replace the expansion of Medicaid.
  33. Saving Social Security. Failure (since there was no policy outlined or attempted). This was pandering to older voters who do not want to pay taxes or have their SS cut. There is no solution here, just empty words.
  34. Protecting internet freedom. Total failure. Repealing net neutrality is the opposite of preserving a free market. It is doubling down on the policies that have enriched cable and phone providers while stagnating innovation and development.
  35. Immigration and the rule of law. Failure. No wall. No crackdown on “sanctuary  cities.” No “Kate’s Law.” No Muslim ban. Can’t fill ICE and Border Patrol agent expansion jobs. And while killing DACA isn’t outright outlined in the platform, many of Trump’s supporters consider it amnesty and it continues to hang over immigration reform.
  36. Reforming the treaty system. Total failure. Trump has submitted no treaties. This whole plank was nonsense– Obama used the same Senate approved treaty process for all of the treaties he signed. I’m not sure what the end total was, but it was under 40 for sure and possibly as low as 15, which was the last count I had actually seen reported back in July of 2016 (contrast that with the 163 approved under W). The GOP refused to ratify any agreement Obama made, including mundane fishing deals that had always been supported in a bipartisan fashion prior to 2009.
  37. Internal Revenue Service. Total failure. Big surprise. The GOP talked big about “impeaching” the IRS for systematically targetting conservatives, but once in power has done nothing to prove this talking point or correct it. Total nothingburger.
  38. Audit the Pentagon. Success. The Pentagon is being brought into the 21st century and will be doing financial audits (though this was already federally mandated before the last election and both Clinton and Trump called for it).
  39. Improving the federal workforce. Failure. Nothing has been done on this front. It was just another anti-government angle used to rile people up about the waste of their tax-dollars on piddly stuff.
  40. Advancing term limits. Total failure. The GOP promised to limit terms. Trump promised to limit terms. Just give them both houses of Congress and the executive branch and they’d get it done. Not at all. They did impose chair limits (on their party only), though this looks more like younger members rebelling against older ones and I have serious doubts they will follow them when the shoe is on the other foot).
    Seriously. You need a break if you made it this far. I know I do.
  41. Regulation: The quiet tyranny. Success. They have rolled back a lot of regulation through executive orders.
  42. Crony capitalism and corporate welfare. Total failure. Nothing could be more cronyistic than putting people with direct conflicts of interest in charge of government agencies that could harm or help their businesses. That is literally the definition of crony capitalism. And the tax reform law is corporate welfare of the highest order.
  43. Honoring our relationship with American Indians. Failure. This fantastic name was how the GOP put lipstick on the pig of wanting to cut government funding to Indian Health Services and rollback Obamacare Medicaid expansions to American Indian tribes.
  44. Americans in the territories. Failure. Read this platform plank to understand why Trump said so many dumb things after the hurricane. He was just repeating party talking points. To that end, nothing has been done to spur private sector investment in energy or infrastructure for these territories. Primarily because there is a lot of risks and little reward for doing so. This is what free market ideologues do not get– the market will absolutely abandon people and places. From Charleston, West Virginia to the Virgin Islands, if there is no easy profit to be had American investors are not plopping down their coin. Unsubsidized modern energy generation and transmission in a place like the Virgin Islands is absurdly expensive– few of the residents could afford it. So no market challenger emerges to usurp the wildly inconsistent service that residents currently get. That is economics 101. This is a failure by design.
  45. The territory of Puerto Rico. Failure. Puerto Rico is not the 51st state.
  46. Preserving the District of Columbia. Success? DC’s gun ban is not going to challenge the ruling that it is unconstitutional. This had nothing to do with the GOP in Congress or Donald Trump. But let’s throw a dog a bone here.
  47. American values. Nothing. This plank has no policy ideas (or point). It is just empty rambling about family and faith couched in the terms of community. It is simply a preamble for the mess that follows.
  48. Marriage, family, and society. Total failure. They have done nothing to discourage cohabitation (almost every conservative I know has cohabitated at least once outside of marriage– this is inane posturing). They have failed utterly in repealing gay marriage. They have done nothing to discourage divorce. The genie is not going back in the bottle.
  49. A culture of hope. Total failure. Most of this is crazy right-wing talking points about liberal “pathology” that wants to keep people poor. Remember this everytime a conservative whines about being labeled deplorable– they have no problem saying the other side hates the poor and wants to trap them in poverty, they just didn’t come up with a snazzy name for it. To the point, Trump and the GOP have not lowered licensing or other barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, school choice is increasingly coming under attack for poor returns (take the example of Ohio’s largest charter school, ECOT, which has shut its doors because of massive fraud), and there has been no development of partnership between those who manage federal programs and those on the front lines. Most of their fixes here are work requirements for welfare (which already exist and are enforced to the best of the government’s ability), drug tests, and letting the market help the poor through jobs that don’t yet exist but somehow will if we just forced more people to seek work. Go tell that to the poor white and black people I know in Lima who apply for jobs day after day and can’t find work they are well qualified for and enthusiastic to do. You guys just don’t want it enough!
  50. Education: A chance for every child. Total failure. First, this whole line of thought is ahistorical. The point of education historically is to formally pass on knowledge and culture from one generation to the next. It is not a linear process– knowledge and culture both get altered in the exchange. To deny the role of culture in public education is to deny the idea that education should exist at all. And while the Constitution does not outline education it is not from some deep philosophical position as conservatives have been arguing for decades. It is the fact that it simply hadn’t been done at that scale and most viewed it as a luxury of the rich, not a necessity of the modern economy. Moreover,  Jefferson (the hero of the right when it comes to small government and the invisible man when it comes to the separation of church and state or the role of public education) argued (convincingly) that democracy necessitates an educated population. It was this spirit and the threat of unassimilated immigrants and uneducated settlers that spurred public education development across the country. Anyway, there has been no Constitutional amendment to protect parents from the state forcing them to educate their child (mostly because that is a really stupid idea). There are no national standards for them to resist (just the same sort of recommendations that have been part of curriculum development for the last 150 years). Excessive testing is a legacy product of the last round of conservative education reform (remember when all they did was whine about teacher accountability and the need to prove that students were learning what we thought they should be taught?). And it has not been removed. You can’t reject national standards and then suggest the Bible be offered as a literature course everywhere (it is not and won’t be). They call for deregulating licensure for teaching (because successful business people and STEM workers are beating down the doors to take 200% pay cuts to teach) while also demanding the best talent and invasive background checks and be held to the highest standards of behavior. Sounds like a great job. Where do I sign up? None of this mess of contradictory education reform fantasies have come to life. Nor will they.
  51. Academic Excellence for all. Total failure. None of these suggestions has gotten policy support. STEM has been the focus of education for 40 years. Continuing to say STEM isn’t going to improve anything. Neither is their sudden love of phonics (“Whole Language” is not some insidious liberal fad– people were fighting about these two approaches to language learning before we saddled them with these names almost 100 years ago) Every single curricular thing they list here would require the national standards they so despise. Any serious teacher of history already uses primary documents. So do all of the textbooks. This is pointless pandering by people who have no idea what is happening in a public classroom.
  52. Choice in education. Success? Half of this was already law or common practice (like English first). They continue to funnel more money to charters, but the results are no better (and often worse) than public schools.
  53. Title IX. Success. Bathrooms are transgender free and the kangaroo courts of sexual assault are being reconsidered (though the Nassar case and MSU fallout show that this might just force the nation to set up more legit courts to seriously pursue justice).
  54. Improving higher education. Failure. This is a mess. On one hand it praises our institutions as the best in the world (they are). Then it says they are hotbeds of political indoctrination (they are not). Then it says conservatives need to be heard, but no one has the right to a “safe space” where their voices are heard and believed. Also, they don’t like the campus campaign against Israel. It is anti-Semitic. They are all for freedom of speech on campus, including anti-Semites, unless they are liberal anti-Semites! Anyway, no laws have been passed, no funding withheld, no executive orders forcing anything to change on this front. Just a lot of spilled ink and blown air.
  55. College costs. Failure. None of this can or will happen. They floated ending federally funded student loans. That was a non-starter. There is no way for low-income, working class, or middle-class students to afford college without them. The interest charges that would make the investment worthwhile for non-government lenders would be unsustainable for borrowers. They have loosened accreditation and funding for private for-profit schools, but efforts to decouple funding from accreditation have largely failed. Which is good– our accrediting process is already too lax.
  56. Restoring patient control and preserving quality in healthcare. Catastrophic failure. No repeal of Obamacare. No new healthcare plan. Literally, the GOP had no plan which is part of why they failed to repeal Obamacare.
  57. Protecting individual conscience in healthcare. Success. The GOP has taken steps to make sure you don’t have to participate in healthcare that violates your faith. Feel like you should have to clean up the vomit of an alcoholic who ate pork as a Muslim janitor? That is your right. Just as the Christian doctor can choose not to offer prenatal care to a lesbian mother who is expecting. This is what success looks like for today’s GOP.
  58. Better care and lower costs: Tort reform. Total failure. There is no tort reform.
  59. Advancing research and development in healthcare. No policy here, just self-congratulatory talk about banning an abortion drug and the need for more drugs and stem cells (but no cloning).
  60. Putting patients first: Reforming the FDA. Success. The Koch Brothers get their “Right to Try” (to make money off you with unproven treatments).
  61. Advancing Americans with disabilities. Success. These are measures all US politicians support and would have happened under any other candidate. But a success is a success!
  62.  Ensuring safe neighborhoods: Criminal justice and prison reform. Total failure. Not only has Trump consistently undermined the nation’s law enforcement agencies, he is the subject of multiple investigations into his and his administration’s potential criminal wrongdoings. No decriminalization has happened. Nor has defederalization Instead, Jeff Sessions has increased federal criminalization of minor crimes. Nothing has been done to improve prisons for prisoners. Nothing has been done to make the internet safer, especially to protect children from the sort of pornography that no doubt led President Trump to have an affair with a pornographic actress.
  63. Combating drug abuse. Total failure. Opioids were a huge issue in the election. Everyone supports doing something about this epidemic. Nothing is being done and people continue to overdose at alarmingly high rates.
  64. A dangerous world. Total failure. Trump has not pursued a policy of moral leadership in the world. He has alternated between preening insults and isolationism. He has not pursued sanctions against Russia and shows no commitment to freeing Ukraine. He has done nothing to oppose China. He has not strengthened NATO, but instead undermines it and threatens to leave our allies out in the cold. Trump has not lived up to what he and his party promised us.
  65. Confronting dangers. Success and failure. Funding for the military is increased and modernization of the nuclear arsenal is underway (this was already happening under Obama, though it was not widely publicised). The Muslim ban has been a mess. Vetting already existed and hasn’t fundamentally been improved.
  66. Supporting our troops: Resources to do their job. Success.
  67. Supporting our troops: Standing by our heroes. Mixed success and failure. According to the very Christians Trump pledged to protect, he has failed to improve their religious freedom in the military (this means being able to evangelize on the taxpayer dime). Trump signed an executive order to enroll all vets in mental health care at the VA. Trump has failed to roll back the “identity” politics that let women serve in combat or LGBTQ open service. Note that the language about social experimentation is exactly the same used to protest interracial service and equality. I am certain that our service members will perform wonderfully regardless of their or their colleagues’ gender, race, or sex.
  68. Citizen soldiers’: National Gaurd and reserves. Failure? I do not see a record of a permanent line item for the funding of the NG.
  69. Honoring and supporting our veterans: A sacred obligation. More failure than success. VA can more easily punish and fire people. But it is run by an Obama appointee and many senior positions have remained unfilled. Privatization efforts have been problematic and the VA remains resolute not to privatize. Little has been done about homelessness or opioid addiction.
  70. America: The indispensable nation. Total failure. Congress still has not authorized any military conflict. Trump has not backed any of our allies other than Israel. He threatens action with no consultation. Trump has been the opposite of everything the GOP platform promised on foreign affairs.
  71. Challenges of a changing Middle East. Failure. Hezbollah is still standing. Assad is still in Syria and shows no signs of letting go. Trump is abandoning the Kurds.
  72. Our unequivocal support for Israel. Success.
  73. US leadership in the Asian-Pacific. Total failure. None of these agenda items have been advanced by Trump (I’m starting to tire– getting through the bloated political platforms of a 21st-century party is exhausting. No wonder voters rarely bother).
  74. Renewing the European alliance. Total failure. Trump has weakened NATO in words and deeds. Trump has not stood up to Russia, instead, we have capitulated to them on all items mentioned in the GOP platform.
  75. Family of the Americas. Success? Most of this is grandstanding nonsense. Trump is working to reverse the opening of Cuba because Castro hasn’t been punished. We can do business with other tyrants, even other Cold War tyrants, just not the Cuban ones. Weird.
  76. Africa: The promise and the challenge. Failure. Shithole countries. We’ve cut funding and personnel to the soft power outlined in the GOP platform. We have sold some planes to people fighting Boko Haram, so that is something I suppose.
  77. Sovereign American leadership in international organizations. Failure? Most of this is so ranty it is hard to consider as policy projection. We have not been international leaders under Trump. Demanding capitulation to US policy is the opposite of leading international organizations. Refusing to fund any health/human initiatives that also include abortion while refusing immigrants from low skilled, over-populated nations is sure to create an international crisis (just what do you expect will happen when you turn off population valves while encouraging rising birth rates??). I guess Trump has kept us from paying global taxes (this has never been a thing and no US president would ever agree to it) or losing our sovereignty to the UN (again, not a thing). So there is that.
  78.  Defending international religious freedom. Failure? It took Trump until October of 2017 to declare ISIS’s actions to be a religious genocide in Syria (for the record, Hillary called it one in 2015, John Kerry followed in 2016, and the Obama administration was looking into how to prosecute ISIS members for war crimes). Nothing has been done to enforce this designation. Nor has Trump seriously confronted religious freedom infringement in China or Russia. He has however tried to promote anti-Muslim policies here in the US.
  79. America’s generosity: International assistance that makes a difference. Failure. Trump has slashed funding to international aid indiscriminately and failed to properly staff the State Department, who is our front line in assessing aid needs and facilitating partnerships.
  80. Advancing human rights. Total failure. The Trump administration has done nothing to open the repressive governments of China, Russia, or any Middle Eastern nation. They have, however, spent a lot of time denigrating the free press here in the US.
  81. Liberty to captives: Combatting human trafficking. Success. Of course, this was happening under any president. All it means is that Trump has made a task force, freeze some assets, and declared January 2018 National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Victory!
  82. Facing 21st-century threats: Cybersecurity in an insecure world. Total failure. Come on.
  83. Facing 21st-century threats: Protection against an electro-magnetic pulse. Who knows? May as well have been “protection against weather control devices” or “mad scientists who live in volcano lairs.”
  84. Facing 21st-century threats: Confronting internet tyranny. Failure. Trump has done little to open up tyrannical governments like China and Russia.

Eighty-four promises (give or take a few that had no real policy solutions). Twenty-three were at least half-successful (though many of them were things that would have happened under any president or were of questionable value). Take away the bipartisan stuff that doesn’t belong in a party platform (these are supposed to be the things that set them apart) and you are down to thirteen success out of sixty-nine politically unique platform planks. That means 81% of his agenda remains in a state of failure. Among it are his biggest promises– namely, the Wall and repealing Obamacare. Even his greatest “victory” was a failure. The tax plan the GOP enacted is nothing like what they promised.

What about the extra credit? Trump was nearly Bush incompetent when it came to the Hurricane Harvey response. His party’s platform left him ill-prepared to respond and he had little in the way of constructive support. Negative points. His administration has been plagued by scandel since day one and shows no signs of letting up. Trusting inexperienced staff, family members, and fringe political figures like Manafort, Flynn, Miller, and Bannon play such prominent roles led to most of this. Trump’s own incompetence and inability to navigate Washington exasperates it. More negative points.

The lesson a year in? Trump is the incapable leader that nearly all knew he would be. He has not been able to enact even a quarter of his agenda (and what he has accomplished was almost all the low hanging fruit that could be done with the wave of an executive pen) while controlling all three branches of government. He passed only three meaningful pieces of legislation that set new policy in his first year: a veterans accountability and whistleblower act that was widely supported; sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea that were forced on him; and the tax bill the failed to deliver any of the promises the GOP made their voters about it. The other agenda items get harder to pass from here on out. It turns out that staffing your administration with people who do not know anything about how the government works, being a disengaged leader who is ignorant of the legislative process (and incurious about it to boot), constantly feuding with political leaders in your own party and the opposition, not staffing vital US government institutions like the State Department, and having an incoherent political coalition (and platform) makes it really hard to get anything done. There is value in resisting the Trump administration and to be sure they have won some tactical victories– namely in the early days of Trump’s chaotic travel ban, the Obamacare repeal, and fighting for DACA. But the main thing keeping the country from falling into the Trumpian abyss so many feared is the MAGA movement’s systematic aversion to experience and competence (which is reflected in the rhetoric of the modern conservative movement as a whole).

I implore my conservative friends and family, if Trump’s failures this last year teaches you nothing else, let it teach you that being incompetent is only a blessing to your enemies. Not knowing how to do your job does not create better results. It does not help you overturn the system. It just makes you a dope who can’t get anything done.

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