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America’s Downward Spiral in 2017

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We are now four and a half months into the Trump presidency. While the president has not been able to achieve any significant legislative successes, he has been able to accomplish something much more far-reaching. He has managed to undo decades of American policy and dramatically reduce the country’s stature in the world. How do we make sense of Trump’s strange journey so far? These are my thoughts.

Donald Trump received 62 million votes in last year’s election. These votes did not come from a homogeneous base of voters. Rather, they came from the following groups.

Loyal Republican Voters

There are American citizens who vote for the Republican candidate in every election. While Donald Trump may have not been the preferred candidate for all Republican voters, the people who typically support this party voted predominantly for him. They expect him to uphold traditional Republican party values.

Wealthy Americans

The Republican party is the preferred party for many wealthy Americans. These voters count on the Republican party to support small government and low taxes for them. Certain key, wealthy, donors such as the Koch brothers have a strong hold on the party. They have the financial resources and power to support candidates who reject issues of most interest to them such as the Paris Climate Accord. This certainly explains the strange stance of many republican lawmakers on this topic.

Unemployed and Under-employed Citizens

During the election campaign, Trump promised to create significant numbers of jobs and Make American Great Again. This slogan appealed to many Americans who have suffered from the Great Recession.

The Time for a Change Group

After eight years of one president, some voters were looking for a change. Donald Trump was the change agent, not Hillary Clinton.

Americans without a University Education

Citizens without a college education may have a less worldly view and may be more inclined to believe in simple, non-fact-based solutions to some of America’s challenges.

Americans who do not like Foreigners

This aligns with some of the other segments mentioned here.  Unemployed and under-employed Americans are resentful of foreigners who come to America and whom, they perceive, are taking jobs from them and may be a threat to their security.

Military Personnel and Veterans

Donald Trump targeted this voter group by repeatedly saying that he supported more military spending and better treatment for vets.

A majority of Voters in Key Swing States

Just as there are loyal Democratic and Republican voters, there are “red states” and “blue states.” There are a handful of so-called “swing states” that have a cluster of voters who move from party to party in some elections. This was the key to Trump’s success. By winning the states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio, this pushed him over the top in the electoral college. This is where many American elections are decided.

How does this explain Trump’s very bizarre four and a half months in office? Let’s do a quick review of some of Trump’s initiatives.

Trump’s failed travel bans, from a select group of predominantly Muslim countries, were primarily designed to restrict Muslims from entering America. It is noteworthy that countries such as Saudi Arabia, a key oil producing nation, were conveniently left off the list. The travel bans played to his anti-foreigner, anti-terror, give jobs to current American citizens base.

Trump’s Health Care bill, that received House support, drastically reduces health care services to many of America’s most needy citizens; it is really designed to lower the taxes of some of America’s richest citizens, a key Trump demographic. This would allow Trump to spend more money on the military, another Trump voter target.

President Trump has offended the leaders of NATO, some of America’s closest allies, by not confirming his willingness to protect and defend their interests against a common threat. He has threatened to build a wall between Mexico and The United States and told his next-door neighbor that they would have to pay for it. He has applied levies against softwood lumber and dairy imports from Canada and gave Mexico and Canada notice of his intention to re-negotiate the NAFTA agreement. This again plays to his keep jobs in America supporters.

Trump has tabled a budget proposal that would dramatically increase military spending but gut the funding of many of America’s social programs and reduce foreign aid to many of the world’s most needy countries. Most recently, he has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, that was signed by all but two countries, including all of America’s friends and most of its enemies. This accord, based on a wealth of scientific evidence, was intended to reduce carbon emissions, and save the world from the already visible impacts of higher temperatures.The “Paris” decision is puzzling in the sense that the Accord, initially led by the previous administration, allows America to take a leadership position in clean and green energies on a world stage, a huge job growth opportunity.

In other words, in just four and a half months, President Trump has already created a legacy of harmful policies and initiatives that have damaged the international standing of America and opened the door for other world powers (i.e. China, Russia) to fill the leadership vacuum left by America’s withdrawal. However, in each case, they have been consistent with what he stated during the election campaign. Clearly, this myopic, inward looking vision of the future, is all that Trump cares about. President Trump is very sensitive to opinion polls and to voter preferences. He doesn’t care about how he is perceived in other countries, even among America’s longstanding friends and allies.

To understand Trump’s decision-making process, it is important to look beyond his target voters whom he sees as his ticket to re-election. He has built a divided camp of advisors. He has his right wing (i.e. Bannon, Pruitt, Mulvaney) zealots, his moderate voices (i.e. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Tillerson) and his military cohort (i.e. McMaster). These groups have different views on most issues. Trump usually sides with his voter targets, even if the facts, science and history don’t support the decision.

He has gone out of his way to undo as much as possible of President Obama’s policies, executive orders, and legislation. To an outside observer, this comes across as a very personal vendetta.

Trump has a team of communications advisors who seem “out of the loop” and dysfunctional. He has not hired the support staff necessary to help his leadership team. Moreover, he constantly undermines his team by tweeting, by not communicating and collaborating effectively with them, and by being disingenuous. It has been chaotic to say the least.

Where do we go from here? The testimony of former FBI Director James Comey was fascinating to watch and may take us in a whole new direction. Whatever comes out of that hearing, American citizens must continue to hold their leaders, in both parties, to account. Unless the president is removed from office, American citizens must be vocal and assertive and speak up on the issues of most concern to them.

 

To stay up to date on Best Practices in Freight Management, follow me on Twitter @DanGoodwill, join the Freight Management Best Practices group on LinkedIn and subscribe to Dan’s Transportation Newspaper (http://paper.li/DanGoodwill/1342211466).

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