The first year of Donald Trump's presidency has, in many ways, been exactly what you would expect: Trump has continued to drive his opponents — and sometimes his allies — batty with his predictable unpredictability, distracting the media and dominating the national conversation, all the while implementing many of the major policy initiatives he promised in his sweep into office.
Political pundits, media elites and pollsters decree that the presidency is on shaky ground. They'll note that the president remains divisive, with record high unfavorable ratings. There’s no way he and the GOP can survive this.
Sound familiar? It’s the same mistake most of them made in 2016. Americans may not always like the “way” President Trump does his job, but they do like a lot of “what” he is doing. Proof is the paucity of polling data and media coverage on many of the popular policy initiatives that put Americans first: job creation, the economy, immigration, national security, fair trade, support for law enforcement and the military, international relations.
The media remains consumed with Trump’s job approval rating while missing the most important metric: what Americans can see with their own eyes. And while the next Congressional election looms 10 months down the road — a lifetime in modern politics — concerned Republicans will have considerable advantages thanks to what Trump accomplished for the American people in 2017.
Most notably, all signs point to an economy that is strengthening — and that was before the largest tax reform package in this generation, which has the potential to ignite an economic boom.
The standard unemployment rate fell from 4.8 percent in January 2017 to 4.1 percent as of December 8, 2017. The U-6 unemployment rate, which includes individuals who have stopped searching for a job and workers with part-time jobs due to economic conditions, fell from 9.4 percent in January 2017 to 8 percent.
Even better news: Wages have finally started to tick up, rising by more than 2.5 percent over the last year. These trends should continue as tax reform returns billions of dollars to working Americans and lower corporate tax rates encourage American businesses to expand and reinvest in America.
Illegal immigration is at a 17 year low and finally steps are being taken to ensure our laws are respected, that our immigration policies are fair, and that they benefit Americans first.
The Trump administration successfully cut the corporate tax rate — something that Democrats and Republicans alike knew for years was needed to make American companies competitive internationally. From repealing the Clean Power Plan to rolling back net neutrality, the Administration has been unwinding much of the burdensome, costly and ineffective regulations imposed by the Obama administration. Get ready for big growth in 2018 as those changes pay off.
Trump took ownership of the economy on day one of his administration, publicly meeting with leading CEOs and encouraging business leaders to invest in the United States — and importantly, American workers. That, along with his bold moves on tax reform, fair trade and deregulation, means that he will get full credit for economic successes.
Of course, you can count on the media to downplay economic progress in 2018, as it has consistently buried positive developments in 2017. And, indeed, Trump's own popularity has been dampened by a consistent black cloud of negative press.
Yet the upside to this phenomenon is that the administration, and a good chunk of the public, discounts the press as irretrievably hostile and therefore just noise. The press has fed this narrative by consistently overreaching against the president, attempting to make every ill-conceived tweet into an impeachable offense and by sacrificing journalistic standards in a rush to publish anything negative about the president.
Even Americans who don't like Trump recognize that the media is biased and know not to trust what they hear from much of the mainstream press. This means that in 2018 the president has the opportunity to make his case to the public. The progressive base will never give the president a hearing, but much of the middle will be willing to reconsider their feelings about his performance, especially if the economy continues to improve and gives them reason to trust that the President knows what he is doing. Expect to hear a lot of “Well, I may not like him personally, but I like what he’s doing even if I don’t like how he does it.”
Of course, considerable dangers loom in the upcoming year: A major confrontation with North Korea or other international turmoil, terrorism, or a natural disaster would refocus the public's attention on security issues and test the president as an international leader.
The president needs to continue to deliver on his promises, including health care reforms and fixing the broken immigration system, as well as court appointees who respect and interpret the laws but don’t create them. He will need Congress as a partner to make more needed sweeping changes, and serious pressure to get some sensible Senate rules changes that restore the ability to pass legislation outside of the arcana and limitations of the reconciliation process.
Yet a look back at the first year shows how much this president can achieve, even when everything seems to be going against him. As his focus on restarting economic growth pays off in the coming year, he could accomplish much more, and even win over many of his current detractors. Think a replay of 2016, just on a slow roll.
Heather R. Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice,an organization promoting conservative free market solutions that advance prosperity, freedom, and greater choices. Follow her on Twitter @TheHRH