Did Donald Trump make America average again

3 years in 15 graphics
3 years in 15 graphics

Donald Trump came up with great promises. What has changed for Americans so far? What are the chances of his re-election?
Donald Trump came up with great promises. What has changed for Americans so far? What are the chances of his re-election?

Hardly anyone expected him. During the election campaign, he was seen by many as unrestrained and arrogant. He was a man without any political experience, railed against the “global elite”, against the “fake news media”, against the establishment in Washington. He declared war on everyone and promised a “disruption” of the existing situation.

Then Donald Trump moved into the White House three years ago on January 20, 2017.

The beginning of his presidency also marked a new era in American history, the consequences of which can be felt worldwide. "Trump Revolution" is the term used to describe the past three years.

How did that happen? It's just one of the questions that arises at this point. The impeachment proceedings against the president, who will stand for re-election in November of this year, have just started.

Donald Trump says: "I am the chosen one."

I - The Polterer

A majority did not vote for him. The Republican Donald Trump won because of the special American electoral system. His opponent Hillary Clinton received three million more votes. And in the congressional elections a year ago, the Democrats triumphed.

In the polls since he took office, Trump never comes above 50 percent. Despite a prosperous economy, steeply upward stock exchange prices and historically low unemployment, its popularity figures hardly change. Various crises - from the trade war with China to the impeachment procedure to the Iran confrontation - do not change the mood.

[More interactive data analysis. More visual journalism. And more from politics and society. Support independent journalism! With Tagesspiegel Plus you will continue to read all content in the future. Test it 30 days for free.]

However, Trump is running for office. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) only two presidents have not been re-elected - Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

The special thing about Trump is his rhetoric. He communicates past traditional media via Twitter. More than 71 million people worldwide follow him. In doing so, he dictates the course of many debates. He can change the subject at any time, influence the course of the argument, highlight his successes.

He always remains unpredictable. Does he want to improve or destroy the political system? Do he and his followers believe in a "deep state", a deep state alongside the official structures in which the judiciary, the media, Wall Street and Hollywood stick together conspiratorially? He deliberately keeps this open.

Trump stages himself confidently. He attacks the media, accusing them of mostly spreading “fake news”. It is he himself who regularly gives lies, falsehoods, weird interpretations of world events and ambiguous information.

According to the Washington Post analysis, Trump's questionable statements doubled in 2019. As soon as this is held against him, he slips into the role of victim. He is mocked, misunderstood and put down by the establishment. Alone against everyone else: like Gary Cooper in 1952 in the iconographic western "High Noon".

II - The patron

One of Trump's rhetorical strengths is the ever-repeated assertion that he keeps his word, keeps what he has promised. The list is long and ranges from the termination of the Paris Climate Agreement to the conservative replacement of posts for Chief Justice to the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In addition, there is a massive tax relief program that was passed by Congress in December 2017 - it greatly increases the US debt burden.

According to critics, the national debt benefited the wealthy and companies in particular, and the cost amounted to around two trillion dollars. Under Trump, the deficit has shot to historically unique heights.

Fiscal-conservative politicians who see the debt of their country as a fundamental evil hardly exist in the USA anymore. Trump's predecessors in office also liked to praise. Trump, however, is benefiting from the sharp rise in tax revenues. They result, on the one hand, from the recovery of the global economy after the 2008 crisis, and, on the other hand, from the employment situation. The unemployment rate has fallen rapidly under Trump. Wages are also rising, most noticeably for the lower income groups. This ended almost 50 years of stagnation.

The Trump voters, it was said after his election victory, were afraid of losing their identity and their homeland, of globalization. They longed for clear relationships and strong leadership. They wanted to turn back the clock, were suspended, seduced.

All of this is right and wrong at the same time. Or to put it another way: They are explanations that raise more questions than answer. Anyone who gets a job again after a long period of unemployment thinks and chooses according to very elementary criteria. "It's the economy, stupid," Bill Clinton's adviser James Carville had repeatedly told the future president.

III - The entrepreneur

While the number of unemployed fell in the past three years, the gross domestic product rose sharply. "Make America Great Again", Trump had promised when he terminated and renegotiated all trade agreements. This consolidates his image of being a constant fighter for the good of the country and the common people.

Share prices are also pointing up. Neither the trade conflicts with China nor the international turmoil resulting from the Iran crisis have been able to alleviate this long-term trend. The high economic growth and extremely low unemployment are the main contributors to the strong stock market prices. The backbone of this upswing are above all the high-tech companies from Silicon Valley, whose sales have reached fantastic heights in recent years.

All of this has so far had little impact on the foreign trade deficit. The trade deficit has been rising in the USA since the 1970s due to high economic growth. In the 1990s the deficit increased. Trump started with the intention of making it significantly smaller again.

Despite the many punitive tariffs that he imposed on various imports, the deficit rose in 2018 to its highest level in ten years. The increase was almost 19 percent compared to 2017. That runs counter to Trump's goal of boosting the domestic economy and making the USA more independent, especially from China.

This striving for independence, the demonstration of strength to the outside world and his will to power are combined in the expansion and modernization of the army. Defense spending is rising again under Trump. According to official estimates, by the end of 2020 they will be higher than ever since the 1940s. Research spending is also increasing, Trump has rediscovered space travel.

Is Trump a pragmatist of power or a right-wing national ideologue? A majority in business seems to believe in the pragmatist. Trump is against wars, but also against weakness. He is withdrawing troops where possible and reinforcing them where it has to be. He challenges China, but definitely wants to come to an agreement. He cuts taxes and advocates the right to six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth of a child.

IV - The Cleaver

Another key Trump campaign promise was to build a wall on the border with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. This should reduce the number of migrants to whom Trump generally accused of criminal tendencies. The wall does not stand to this day.

This is worsening the refugee crisis, especially in the countries south of the USA. More and more people are trying to get to the USA from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Venezuela via Mexico. Trump has meanwhile reduced the number of migrants and residence permits in the United States through tougher border controls and other measures. And he has more people deported.

Trump has not only declared war on illegal immigration. In his inaugural speech, he promised to advance the fight against crime in particular. For example, he has issued instructions to federal prosecutors to impose the toughest possible penalties on possible crimes. However, this measure shows little effect.

The fact that women are becoming more and more victims of sexual assault occurs during the term of office of a president who boasts of being assaulted. After all, old recordings of the US president turned up during the election campaign. There he talks about simply kissing women he likes. When you are famous, they let you do anything. "Grab them by the pussy", translated as "grab her by the pussy", was his advice.

In 2018, Trump changed the rules on domestic violence. It is now more difficult for victims to have cases recognized in court. Also on his agenda is to tighten abortion law even further.

The gun lobby enjoys more political backing than women's rights. Trump and the Republicans adhere rigidly to a broad interpretation of the second amendment, which expressly grants the right to own guns. Firearms are still relatively easy to obtain. There are frequent rampages in the USA, including in schools.

After the attacks in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio in 2019, Trump promised to adopt new gun laws. The opinion of the gun lobby should be "fully represented and respected". Both Trump and the gun lobby follow the motto: Bad people with guns can best be stopped by good people with guns. The statistics show how well this worked during his tenure.

Where the election campaign is decided

Can Trump be re-elected? This year, too, the decision fills a few states, the so-called "swing states".

Once again, it looks the closest in Florida, the most important swing state. This is where the election thriller between Al Gore and George W. Bush took place in 2000, which the Texan could only win through a ruling by the Supreme Court. Trump has some home advantage in Florida, where his second official residence, Mar-a-Lago, is located. A villa complex with an attached golf course.

In addition to Florida, this election is expected to be decided in 2020 in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Everywhere there, Trump's approval and rejection are roughly in balance. The general tendency seems clear: he finds supporters in the country, his opponents live in the cities. But while the Democrats may be preoccupied with the question of which of them will be the challenger for a long time, Trump is in permanent attack mode.

His election campaign is already underway. He is the most popular post-war president among Republicans (with the exception of George W. Bush immediately after September 11, 2011). Can he be re-elected? Yes he can. The level of mobilization of the Republicans and Democrats will be the main deciding factor.

A few days ago he performed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “The Democrats,” he shouted, “cannot protect your families, they cannot protect the country, and besides, they do not want to.” He, on the other hand, does not allow himself to be restricted by anyone in the fight against America's enemies. Proof of this is the targeted killing of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. "He was the top terrorist in the whole world."

In addition to his aggressive rhetoric, Trump stands out for his ostentatious composure. One of the often underestimated qualities of Trump is his demonstrative fearlessness. He shows no fear, not of enemies, political opponents, or party friends. No matter how loud the din, no matter how acute a crisis: Trump tweets - or plays golf.

That provokes his critics - and he knows it. He draws strength from the provocation. His supporters, in turn, adore him for having fun in politics. Because Trump is president out of passion. His critics say he has policies that create suffering.