Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture
2017-02-15 17:20:13 -
World News
If nothing else, during his first few weeks in office President Donald Trump has already succeeded in rattling both friends and foes alike in America and around the world. While it remains to be seen if his frenetic pace and chaotic management style will lead to the kind of change his supporters are hoping for, all of his executive orders and adversarial tweets are aimed at solidifying the support of the older, less-educated white voters who put him in office. In other words, there is a method to President Trump’s madness.

But in order to see and understand the political strategy that underlies the frenzied announcements, denouncements and pronouncements, one has to take a step back and view all of them through the prism of a politician running for re-election. That’s right. Instead of waiting until after the 2018 mid-terms like all previous Presidents, President Trump kicked off his re-election campaign less than five hours after he was inaugurated.

This was just the first of several moves that demonstrated the new president’s commitment to proposing economic and social policies that he and campaign manager Steve Bannon believe will appeal to his voter base. Furthermore, Trump didn’t just make Bannon his senior advisor and chief strategist; he also gave him a seat on the National Security Council. Putting the CEO of one’s political campaign in the middle of national security deliberations was another unprecedented move.

When one considers these facts, all of his executive actions make perfect political sense. And there’s more. Since only the US Congress has the authority to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s executive order on 20 January that declared his intention to repeal it had no effect. But by signing this toothless order, Trump was fulfilling his campaign pledge.

On 25 January, President Trump signed another executive order, this one announcing his intention to build a wall on the Mexican border, detain and deport all illegal immigrants, and hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents. Once again, since Congress has to approve the estimated $25bn required, this order had no real effect. But what it did do was show Trump’s supporters that he was keeping his promises.

Two days later, President Trump issued an executive order designed to fulfil his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States. But while Trump’s previous orders required Congressional approval and funding, that isn’t the case in the realm of immigration. The president and his executive branch have pretty wide latitude when it comes to determining refugee, asylum and immigration policies and procedures.

So when President Trump’s executive order halted the admission of all refugees into the United States for 120 days, barred the citizens of seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the US, and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely, there was an immediate and decidedly chaotic impact.

After widespread reports of green card holders being detained at US airports and in some cases being deported, thousands of US citizens and lawyers sprung into action. Americans of every race, religion and ethnicity organised round-the-clock protests at airport arrivals halls nationwide. Hundreds of lawyers also set up shop in airport terminals and hotels to provide free legal aid and assistance to those being detained by immigration officials, and their families waiting outside.

Even though it now looks like our judicial system will overturn this Muslim ban, his re-election campaign will nonetheless tout his efforts to keep his promises. 

I also believe President Trump’s pugnacious negotiating style will not serve America’s best interests domestically or globally. In business you determine how much money is at stake, review the ways you and the other side could structure the deal, and then either negotiate an agreement in your financial interests, or walk away from the table.

However, in the realm of domestic politics and on the world stage, President Trump will be negotiating with competing and often conflicting economic and political realities. For example, Trump’s proposed tax on imports may help some US manufacturers but also hurt others that rely on imports. Furthermore, a tax on imports would probably have a negative effect on the profits of retailers who sell imported goods, as well as the wallets of consumers who buy them.
On the international stage, things are even more complicated.

Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.
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