Living in Ireland is unusual when following US politics. Our national broadcaster and every national publication is sympathetic towards the Democratic Party and it’s rare if ever you hear a flattering opinion of the Republican Party and especially not of the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. I’m not going to come at this column from an Irish perspective, but instead attempt to lay out a case for why, if I were an American citizen, I would vote to give Donald Trump 4 more years in Oval Office. It would be easier to approach this column from the perspective of highlighting why I believe Joe Biden is the less desirable choice, highlighting his record as a United States Senator, his time in the Obama administration, the holes in his policies, his alleged activity in a ‘cash for influence’ scheme alongside his son Hunter Biden, as recently published by the New York Post and attested to by former Naval officer and ex- business partner of Hunter Biden, Tony Bobulinski, or what is in my opinion the greatest case against the Democratic Party in this election, that the Party do not hold the institutions in the same regard as they have done in recent years. They refuse to rule out ‘packing’ the Supreme Court if triumphant in November and have no qualms with eliminating the separation of powers which has underpinned the United States Justice system since its foundation. They want to get rid of the filibuster and the Electoral College which has given greater voice to Middle America and kept the sway of power away from the metropolitan areas and the coastal elites.
However my biggest issue with the modern incarnation of the Democratic Party is that they use identity politics to achieve their aims, breaking society into factions and pitting them against each other in a hierarchy of victimhood where they tactically use pejoratives to shut down discussion on issues they deem unworthy of debate and now they are doing this in almost every facet of society with the aid of the mainstream media, academia and the tech giants in corporate America. To compound this the whole of America was shocked by the unlawful killing of George Floyd, but Democrats defended and egged on people who were committing looting, rioting and acts of violence, Vice Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris went so far as to organise bail funds for the criminal agitators. They only called for calm when they realised it was damaging them in the polls.
Almost every utterance in the past few years from the Democratic Party has demonstrated why American voters should be wary of handing this party power and that is without getting into the various smears, false narratives and attempts to delegitimize the Presidency of Donald Trump since he was elected 4 years ago. While I truly believe the Democratic Party in the United States are terrible at this moment in time, the strongest case for voting GOP in November is the Trump Agenda, which has succeeded in areas which many people thought impossible 4 years ago.
The greatest achievements of the Administration are in foreign policy and I believe the Trump doctrine on foreign policy is one which many Irish people should be sympathetic to. As a country we had many mass protests against the US incursion into Iraq during the Bush Administration and even though President Obama ran as a candidate against an US interventionist foreign policy, his administration would go on to drop 100,000 bombs on seven countries in eight years. This policy of war by air without a large presence on the ground, combined with the rapid drawdown of troops within Iraq created a vacuum which would be filled by Radical Islamic organisations like ISIS, who would go on to capture 88,000 sq km and a total of 8 million people lived under their rule at the height of their power in early 2015. While progress had been made by the Obama administration towards the defeat of ISIS prior to leaving office, General James Mattis and Donald Trump put in place a plan for the swift defeat of the Jihadist terror group through airstrikes, heavily backing local groups and allowing Russian and Assad forces to also engage ISIS on another front.
After the defeat of ISIS Trump made one of his most controversial decisions to withdraw from Syria, making it clear that after decades of wars and proxy wars in the Middle East, thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent the United States would no longer be engaged in nation building. This decision would lead to the resignation of General Jim Mattis, but the large terror attacks across the West by ISIS and their sympathisers have greatly reduced in recent years, to the point where they are no longer prevalent in the Western people’s consciousness. There’s certainly a case to be made for whether allowing Assad to remain in power was the right choice, but Trump supporters should point towards the failed state that is Libya after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and the replacement of Hosni Mubarak with the equally repugnant el-Sisi as evidence for why the United States cannot resolve the problems in Syria through the removal of an Arab Baathist dictator. Trump unlike almost all of his recent predecessors has not started a new war, yet this has not been achieved through appeasement of American enemies, he has achieved it through investing in US Military, demanding more of other NATO countries and exerting diplomatic and financial pressure on adversaries of the United States.
Trump has not hesitated to stand up to America’s enemies and his administration claimed two big scalps with the killings of ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi and Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Trump has isolated the Iranian regime with debilitating sanctions, cancelled the Iran deal and strengthened the alliance with Israel by fulfilling the promise made by many recent US Presidents to move the embassy to Jerusalem. The decision to kill Soleimani and move the embassy were met with immediate criticism amid fears it would provoke conflict, but in both cases Trump’s detractors were wrong and his instincts proved true. It’s important to note that while Trump has not hesitated to stand up to America’s adversaries, he has also not wavered in trying to forge new partnerships, addressing the leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May 2017, he asked for their cooperation in combatting Islamic extremism and to help lead the Middle East into an era of stability and security. The Trump Administration has since brokered historic peace deals between Israel and the Arab nations of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Sudan, while it’s also touted that they are close to an agreement with Saudi Arabia. This is an exciting time for the prospect of peace in the Middle East.
At the tail end of the Obama Administration the world was alerted to North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear capabilities. Probably the most fascinating area of Trump foreign policy was the negotiations with North Korea, the belittling of Kim Jong-Un as ‘Rocketman’ and exerting huge pressure on the rogue nation both economically and psychologically with the threat of immediate destruction if they did not cease in escalating the situation in the Korean peninsula. While it was undoubtedly a high risk and at times frightening strategy to watch unfold, Trump’s instincts didn’t fail him and there has been a brief period of detente and a genuine prospect of a lasting peace for the foreseeable future. I look forward to hopefully hearing from my grandkids how those negotiations are being taught in schools and whether the ‘Rocketman’ strategy becomes a mainstay of dealing with rogue tyrants.
While followers of the Irish media will be familiar with Trump being hysterically painted as a Putin stooge, the President has been tougher on Russia than the previous administration, having embraced the European Deterrence Initiative aimed at curbing Russian aggression in Europe through increased funding, the Administration expelled 60 Russian officials in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, supplied anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, put pressure on European countries purchasing Russian oil and gas while aggressively promoting US energy to hurt the Russian economy. He has also imposed sanctions on various Russian officials, oligarchs and businesses. At times he has been soft on Putin rhetorically, but policy wise the President hasn’t ceded ground to Russia in the geopolitical sphere.
Trump’s record on China (Chy-Na) is what he will be what he is most remembered for and that’s a legacy he should be proud of. He is the first President to recognise and attempt to redress China’s strengthening position as the number one geopolitical foe of the United States and the West. I think the time has come and gone for those who said the appeasement of China would result in the moderation of their regime and help lead to better relations with the West, but human rights abuses within the communist state have remained, with millions of Uighur Muslims being interred in camps, the jailing of dissenters, increased authoritarianism in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and increased military exercises in the South China Sea. Trump imposed sanctions on senior China and Hong Kong officials for their roles in quashing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. While also imposing bans and sanctions of Chinese technology firms and other businesses, closed the Chinese consulate in Houston and put pressure on the Chinese Communist Party to move North Korea towards detente in the Korean Peninsula.
Trump has also stood up to China on Trade with mixed results; while I’m an advocate of free trade I cannot see another way to move China towards fair and reciprocal trade other than through use of sanctions and while the US trade deficit with China hasn’t been eroded, it has had a significant impact on the Chinese economy and increased the prospects of better trade relations between the US and China.
It’s the economy, Stupid.
One of the phrases which reappears every US election cycle is ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’, which traces back to James Carville in the 1992 election cycle. The reason it resonates to this day is that many Americans will cast a ballot for the Presidential candidate they feel is most likely to improve their financial situation and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic which has severely impacted economies throughout the world, the US economy was incredibly strong and many felt would propel the incumbent to 4 more years in the oval office. Measuring economic performance is difficult as advocates and detractors will use different metrics to make the case for or against any President, but few will argue that the US economy was very strong pre-Covid crisis. Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, 56% of voter said they are better off now than they were 4 years ago in a recent Gallup survey, which is the best result for any first term President since Ronald Regan. Trump’s economic policy included a massive tax cut bill, cutting regulations on business,
Some of the key metrics:
- Job openings exceeded the number of people unemployed for the first time since the US Gov started reporting on that data in 2000 and working-class wages increased at the fastest rate in a decade.
- As CNBC highlighted In Autumn 2019 from the US Labor Deparment’s jobs report, “The jobless rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 3.5%, matching a level it last saw in December 1969. A more encompassing measure that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed also fell, declining 0.3 percent points to 6.9%, matching its lowest in nearly 19 years and just off the all-time low of 6.8%. “
Pre-Covid the Trump economy was working for minority groups and women:
- The jobless rate for Hispanics hit a record low of 3.9% in September 2019.
- African Americans maintained its lowest rate ever, 5.5%.
- The unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 2.5% in September 2019.
- The Hispanic women unemployment rate was 3.8% in September 2019.
- Black adult women jobless rate was 4.6%.
- The jobless rate for adult women came in at 3.1%.
These metrics all point towards a strong performing economy that was working for all Americans. Trump’s detractors say he had built an economy on a recovery which started with Obama and Biden, however the Obama administration never reached 3% GDP growth in a calendar year, the first President to do so since Herbert Hoover. When Obama left office there were more than 2 million job openings than unemployed people and after 2 years of the Trump Presidency there were 1.3 million job openings than unemployed people and that was with the lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years. Similarly Obama didn’t reach 2.9% wage growth in a single month since May 2009, 5 months after he entered office, While Trump achieved wage growth of 3.3% in 2018 and 2.9% in 2019, with the wages of the lowest paid workers rising faster than at any point in more than a decade. The wages of the bottom 25% of workers increased at a faster rate than those of the other 75% of the workforce.
On trade Trump put a halt to TTIP, TISA and TPP which was something many on the left in Ireland had supported but have since forgotten about, he signed a ‘Phase One’ trade agreement with China, USMCA with Mexico and Canada, agreed a mini trade deal with the EU and a new trade agreement with Japan.
Another area which Trump has outperformed Obama is the Dow Jones Industrial average. It was at 29,551 on 6th February 2020, up from 18,332 the day Trump was elected in 2016. Trumps economic successes weren’t because of Barack Obama; he took the economy to new heights with his own policies and achieved strong growth before the Covid-19 crisis. In the third quarter of 2020, the American economy expanded at a record pace, with GDP increasing at a 33.1% annual rate, making up a significant proportion of the losses sustained earlier in the year, due to the pandemic. In the words of President Trump, ‘he built the strongest economy in the world and will do it again’, personally I think he deserves another shot at it.
There’s more than enough in Trumps economic and foreign policy that would warrant and deliver an easy re-election in 2020 in a normal election year, but you can also add his successes in strengthening the US immigration system, removing the Obamacare individual mandate, delivered long anticipated criminal justice reform, achieved American energy independence, established Space Force to protect key assets of the US and their allies in space, championed law and order to protect communities from rioting, issued an Executive Order to protect free speech on university campuses and confronted the Tech Giants over their growing power and aversion to free expression. He has appointed almost 220 judges to the Federal Judiciary, almost 25% of circuit court judges, 3 to the Supreme Court, almost all of his appointees boast impressive conservative credentials and are of an age profile that will shape the judiciary for decades to come and in that instance he is a transformational President.
I could continue to point to other areas which I believe Trump has been successful and I could also point to areas which he has let himself down at times, he is undisciplined, easily distracted, petty, blunt, gets into tabloid arguments which would traditionally be seen as not presidential, and falls out with people who have achieved positive results for the Administration. While his initial instincts on the threat of Covid were right, banning Travel from China and eventually the wider world, which was met with scorn from European leaders and then reciprocated, his handling of the crisis and in particular his messaging has been incredibly poor and the low-point of his administration.
While I don’t believe his adversarial relationship with the media is good for America or the world, the 4th estate cannot claim to be blameless in this regard and have treated him worse than any President or democratically elected leader in my lifetime and helped peddle phony narratives with Democratic Party leaders about the legitimacy of his win in 2016. His re-election would deliver a hammer blow to the illegitimate way the corporate press cover news stories and give preferential treatment to candidates they support politically.
Through all of the positives, negatives and his personal foibles, I believe he is somebody who has had a positive impact on the geopolitical sphere; his election has led to a self reflection amongst Western elites that they need to better represent their constituents or face being replaced by those ascribing to an economic nationalist sentiment. While the President is unashamedly an ‘American First’ advocate, the world is a better place with America as the number one hegemonic power and he is the first major leader to address why ceding that title to China would be terrible for the world. Perhaps it would be an act of bittersweet irony that his handling of a crisis that was almost tailor made for him, demonstrating the threats of the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party and the need for bringing US manufacturing back to American shores, could be his undoing in returning to the White House.
I’ve always viewed him as a very flawed messenger with strong policies and while I’m more pessimistic about his chances now than I was in 2016, personally I hope he defies the odds yet again and is given more time to build on his already impressive record. Whether he wins or loses in 2020, Trump has shown the next generation of Republicans that they can unashamedly champion their causes and take on the new ‘liberal’ orthodoxy in the culture wars. He’s the first Republican President in a very long time to do so and whether his time in office comes to a close in 2021 or 2025, that legacy and his judicial appointments will continue to shape America for decades to come.
Below are the references on the economic numbers.