Aug 21, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump, the promise-maker

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of President Trump's under-appreciated re-election assets is something all politicians promise but few do: He has largely done precisely what he promised his base he would do.

Why it matters: In our travels around the country, when we push people on why they're sticking with Trump, this is the #1 reason they cite.

Love him or hate him, Trump fixates on turning campaign promises into reality— or at least making the case that he tried:

  • Conservative Supreme Court justice? Check and double-check.
  • Tax cuts? Check, although they were heavily weighted toward corporations rather than the middle class.
  • Gut regulations, especially from the Obama era? Check.
  • Crack down on immigration? Even this is a check, despite his failure to build a wall. 
  • Tariffs on China? Check.
  • Declaring China a currency manipulator? Check.
  • Withdrawing from Paris climate agreement? Check.
  • Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal? Check.
  • Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the giant Pacific Rim trade deal? Check.
  • Renegotiating NAFTA? Check. (Pending congressional approval.)

Then there are the huge promises Trump hasn't kept:

  • He promised in a 2016 interview, with the WashPost's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, to wipe out the national debt in eight years. Instead, he’s increased the deficit and inflated the debt by trillions.
  • He promised to build "a great wall," but inflates the mileage he claims by mixing replacement projects with new construction.
  • He promised Mexico would pay, but of course it hasn't.
  • He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and give amazing health care to everyone. Failed on both scores.
  • He promised to reverse trade deficits. Instead, the U.S. trade deficit with Europe has grown.
  • Trump, who yesterday called Afghanistan "the Harvard University of terrorism," had pushed to end America's longest war. But he hasn't withdrawn all U.S. troops, and said: "[W]e’ll always have somebody there."
  • Other areas where reality has fallen short: infrastructure ("We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land") and ending the opioid crisis.
  • Perhaps Trump's most absurd broken promise: to drain the swamp. Instead, he brought us Scott Pruitt and friends.

What's next: Watch for Trump to argue that unfulfilled promises are the fault of others.

Go deeper: Trump's shaky policy legacy

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