Two years ago today, I sat and watched something I once thought impossible – Donald J Trump becoming the president of the most powerful nation in the world. As he spouted his America First dogma to the crowd of people at his inauguration, I was filled with foreboding, hoping that the saner members of the Republican establishment will rein him in if things got out of hand.
How wrong I was.
In two years, America has become a laughing stock across the globe. Under Trump, the credibility of the country meant to be the leader of the free world has taken a nosedive. And Trump himself is under countless investigations for possible collusion with Russia.
In his first address as President, Trump had promised to reinforce old alliances and form new ones. Well, 24 months under his leadership has demonstrated an abysmal display in diplomacy. He has traded blows with many of America’s most trusted allies, threatened to withdraw from NATO (which with continued Russian aggression is perhaps needed more than ever) and brought the US on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea.
He has also withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal, severely damaging respect and trust for the US on a global stage.
Relationships have become so strained with some of America’s partners that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Europe can no longer rely on its protection. All the while, Trump cosies up to dictators and authoritarians the world over, and turns a blind eye to evidence that challenges his relationships to them, in particular Saudi Arabia.
And that’s not even mentioning his humiliating U-turn on withdrawing troops from Syria, a decision which cost him his Secretary of Defence. A pathetic climbdown followed, with no set timetable for withdrawal after previously promising ‘they’re coming back now’. Trump’s overeagerness to go with his instinct and not what actual experts advise him has threatened global stability.
Of course, his contribution to talks with North Korea towards denuclearisation are a positive step. However, with no proof of North Korea actually acting upon agreements made, Trump may have played some cards, such as reducing military operations in South Korea, far too early.
The actions of the President on a global stage are weakening American influence across the world and is, in effect, willfully cede control over to authoritarian nations such as Russia and China.
But the President’s wrecking ball hasn’t just been busy with smashing foreign relations; it has also been working on cracking down on immigration, with chaos emerging only days into his premiership at airports with his ‘Muslim ban’. His approach to stopping illegal immigration by separating children from their families at the border and detaining them was so callous and despicable that even Trump was forced to climb down, but not before claiming that it was the Democrats that caused such a situation.
Trump’s nationalist rhetoric has helped fuel a horrific rise in far-right activity, which culminated in the death of a woman at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and his open criticism of protesters and journalists who hold his government to account has not only continued to create a deep rift in American politics and society, but also threatened freedom of the press itself.
President Trump has presided over the most costly hurricane, the most deadly shooting in its history and the longest government shutdown. All of which he has proved himself to be incapable of doing anything about; Puerto Rico was left without power for almost a whole year, gun control is very much off the table and his obsession with creating a border wall has no sign of abating.
And there is no doubt more to come in the second half of Trump’s presidency. His continuing trade war with China has already done considerable harm to American businesses and a slowdown in the American economy is now almost inevitable. The only saving grace is that such an incompetent and dangerous leader no longer has control of both houses of Congress, with Democrats in the House of Representatives being able to present a real challenge to Trump’s authority.
So here’s hoping the next two years are better than the last two, with Trump being held to account and becoming the first one-term president since George H W Bush.
Featured image: Gage Skidmore