The end of the year is nigh. Time to discuss how the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has helped America. Let’s pause here while scores of peppermint mocha go crashing to the floor at Starbucks all across our nation’s capital.
To many Americans, of course, the thought that a Trump presidency could result in anything positive is the equivalent of a man recently telling a congressman recovering from a gun shot wound that at least the shooting was “a helluva way to lose weight.” But it is nonetheless true. Donald Trump: Year One hasn’t been all bad for the nation. In fact, his presidency has clarified a lot. It’s also strengthened a number of institutions that needed a wake-up call or two.
Here are a few that, in an odd way, might actually consider thanking Trump this holiday season.
1. The United States Congress
For many decades now, perhaps since President Teddy Roosevelt, Americans have been operating under the notion, encouraged by our pundit class, that presidents, and presidents alone, run the federal government. Hence, the repeated references to Obama’s health care plan or Trump’s tax cut bill. For years, this line of thinking put Congress in reactive mode, passing or blocking presidential agenda items, or passing legislation that cedes large amounts of its authority to federal bureaucrats.
But that’s not actually how the Constitution works. While presidents can influence legislation, and while they often do set an agenda, both the enactment and repeal of laws—Obamacare, for example—can be carried out only by the people’s representatives in the House and Senate. In this past year, members of Congress finally seem to have awoken to the fact that Congress is an equal branch of government. They don’t always have to follow Trump’s agenda. Early this year, Congress passed a Russia sanctions bill the president opposed—and dared him to veto it. Some legislators have loudly rebuked the administration of their own party on numerous occasions—an act largely unthinkable during the Bush and Obama years.
This service to the nation was executed perhaps most memorably by Louisiana’s Republican Senator John Kennedy, who in December so completely humiliated an unqualified judicial nominee put forward by the Trump White House that said nominee was forced to withdraw. There are, of course, examples going the other way, such as the preposterous effort by Senator Lindsey Graham to denounce the media for characterizing the president as a “kook,” which is in fact the exact word Graham himself once used to describe Trump—a man Graham also said was “crazy” and “unfit for office.” But in general Congress is starting to grasp that it does not have to be a toady to whoever is in charge on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s progress.
2. The Entertainment Industry
One of the reasons the Harvey Weinstein revelations, along with many others involving the victimization of young actors and actresses, carried such force is that Trump, and the many accusations of sexual misconduct against him, were in national spotlight. After all, how could Hollywood rail against Republicans for their mistreatment of women when one of its most well-known moguls had behaved just as badly, if not worse, for much longer? They couldn’t, which is why Weinstein and others like him now are purged, and Hollywood has become a marginally less awful place for women to work.
There’s another upside: For years, conservatives complained that the pampered elites of Hollywood were clueless hypocrites. For years, no one listened. But now the world has finally been exposed to the undeniable fact that many of the celebrities in Tinseltown, who constantly go on (and on) about the rights of victimized and impoverished women across the globe from their Malibu mansions, turned a blind eye to the disgusting behavior of a loathsome but powerful man, and others like him, for decades. Self-righteous Hollywood has been forced to take a good look in the mirror and realize it needs to clean up its own act before trying to solve all of the other problems of the world. Someday, the entertainment industry will be grateful for that.
3. The State of Alabama
Their governor remains a dope who argued that women accusing a Senate candidate of assault were credible, but they should shut up anyway because abortion. Their state Republican Party is so appalling that it held an “emergency meeting” to reaffirm support for a Senate candidate who was—twice—bounced off the state Supreme Court for failing to follow federal law. A grown woman married to said nincompoop and who almost followed him to the halls of Congress actually thought she was woke because she has a Jewish lawyer.
Still, say this for the voters of a state that once gave the world segregationist George Wallace: There are 1.5 percent more of them who prefer to put a Democrat into office than a credibly accused child molester. This, too, is solely because of Trump. Watching the farcical Senate race, in which Trump played a central role despite his efforts to rewrite it, you could almost see the Final Jeopardy question of the future being written: “This sitting president once endorsed an accused pedophile for high office.” That Trump did so, against all sane advice, sparked a national outcry and so outraged enough Alabamans that a teensy weensy, itty bitty, bare majority of them did the right thing and voted against sending that clown to the Washington circus. As a result, Alabamans got a chance, as Charles Barkley memorably put it, “to stop looking like idiots.”
4. Investigative Reporting
While Trump’s tenure has been embarrassing for cable news networks, which have either served as propagandists or careless prosecutors of the Trump administration, print reporting has definitely been on an upswing, thanks to the new president. Newspaper subscriptions are on the rise, yes, but so is the quality of the reporting. From breaking the Roy Moore sexual misconduct scandal to taking us inside the chaotic new White House to reporting the various twists and turns of the Russia investigation, reporters have shown a vigor and enthusiasm that was largely absent during the Obama years. Democrats might argue that’s because the Obama years were scandal-free. Republicans would counter that reporters were far more likely to assume the best intentions of the Democratic White House than they ever were during, say, the George W. Bush era. But regardless of the reason, the media is back—and with a vengeance.
5. The Constitution
One year into the Trump presidency and it’s still not a police state. People are still able to speak out and demonstrate and complain and, in the case of Rosie O’Donnell, offer to bribe federal office-holders to get her way. The aforementioned Congress is kind of, sort of, just maybe standing up to perceived presidential excesses, as is the federal judiciary—until it is overridden by Trump-appointed ghostbusters, that is. The American presidency has safeguards that are holding (so far). Just like our Founders hoped. 2017—you didn’t obliterate the Constitution after all. That’s an affirmation of our founding document if I’ve ever heard one.
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