A Presidency of Consequence


We're almost one year into the Trump Administration.   The end of any year is a time for assessing, but especially this one. Mike Allen had an interesting observation last week in his Axios newsletter.   He noted how little President Trump - and perceptions of him - have changed in 2017.  Think about that.

Roughly the same number of people support him today as did at the beginning of his administration.  The Mueller probe of possible Russian collusion has been a constant.  As Allen put it, the elected Republicans remain skeptical of his leadership, but largely compliant.  And the elected Democrats still don't like him.   His war with the media has never subsided, and neither have his Twitter fingers.

That’s all true.

But there is a temptation in those observations to conclude that the Trump Administration  - the passage of the tax bill notwithstanding - is static, gridlocked -  that nothing is getting done in a polarized climate.

That would be a mistake.

In fact, if the pace of change continues for the duration of Trump's presidency, however long that might be, I think he could become the most “consequential” president in the modern era.

Consequential, meaning the most important and significant, or having the biggest overall effect.  As with the criteria TIME uses when determining its “person of the year” - this is not necessarily a good thing.

Think about it.

A Supreme Court position that was by rights a Democratic pick - instead went to Trump.  And his influence on shaping the federal judiciary has already been far greater than just Neal Gorsuch on the nation's highest court. He's picking conservative judges at a fast pace.  The Senate has broken a record by confirming 12 federal appellate court judges in Trump's first year.  Overall, he's already appointed nearly 60 federal judges to lifetime appointments.  At the rate he's going -- by next year, a full 1/8th of federal cases heard will be by Trump-appointed judges.  Those picks will be President Trump’s longest lasting legacy.

The tax bill he just signed the first major overhaul of policy since the Reagan era.  Whatever its impact, that wont be undone anytime soon.  And by ending the individual mandate, President Trump has felled a major domino that will upset the economic viability of the Affordable Care Act.  After all, how can you provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions if you don’t have everyone in the insurance pool?

Trump has made cutting federal regulations a priority. He has revoked 67 and delayed or derailed more than 1,500 others.  He’s pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, ok’d the Keystone Pipeline, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and refused to recertify the Iran nuclear deal.

On his watch, the Iraq prime minister just declared victory over ISIS  leading the The New York Times’ Ross Douthat to call it "a war trump won."

In immigration enforcement, ICE has arrested more than 100,000 people who entered the U.S. illegally, 70% of whom were already convicted criminals.

His State Department has undergone massive restructuring and shrinking - again, for better or worse. And don't forget about the influence that ideologically-driven members of his cabinet are having out of the spotlight - Betsy Devos at Education, Scott Pruitt at the EPA, Ben Carson at HUD, Rick Perry at Energy and Jeff Sessions at Justice.

No, TIME got it wrong when not naming the President its person of the year.  In 2017, by their own definition, the person who most affected the news and our lives - for good or ill - and embodied what was important about the year - was absolutely Donald J. Trump, who is already a president of great consequence.