On the night of his election in November 2016, Donald Trump called on the bitterly divided country to “bind the wounds of division,” vowing to “be president for all” Americans.
Nearly one year after taking office, President Trump’s supporters insist he has done exactly what he promised: shake up Washington, oppose multi-lateral trade agreements, halt new federal regulations, and nominate reliably conservative judges such as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
However, opponents believe Trump’s style has left the country even more fractured than it was on Election Day 2016. Critics say he has fallen short on promises he made during his campaign and in the first months of his presidency.
The Republican-controlled Congress handed Trump a major victory last week when it approved a major revision of the tax code. However, his pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border, “fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways,” and scrap the 2010 health known as Obamacare has eluded his grasp.
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Threats from North Korea and a Russia investigation continue to hover over his administration. And even some Republicans complain about the president’s pattern of making confusing policy announcements in his insult-laden tweets.
Trump’s resurrection of the America First concept from the 1930s has frightened longtime allies into doubting the reliability of the United States. Russia has assumed a greater leadership role in the turbulent Middle East while China has taken advantage of Trump’s withdrawal from a proposed Pacific trade pact to develop deeper ties with Asian nations.
Barry Bennett, who served as a senior adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, acknowledged the president’s approval rating is at 42, but he said “that also makes him the most popular politician in America.”
“Now a year later, wages are up, jobs are up, the stock market is soaring and we’ve got a tax bill,” Bennett said. “Stupid regulations are dropping like flies.”
“If you were unemployed (before this year) you would give him an A,” Bennett said. “If your stock portfolio has jumped 25 percent, you would give him a good grade.”
Bennett acknowledged Trump’s stinging style, but he said the president is not the only one making personal attacks.
“There are members of Congress who have called him a traitor,” said Bennett. “Washington is sick. And that’s what got him elected because America knows it.”
Rebecca Katz, a onetime adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Trump “has been repeatedly humiliated, but somehow never humbled. He’s brought our nation to new lows as you discover time and again there’s no limit to his pettiness, insecurity and vulgarity.”
Jessica R. Towhey, a onetime staffer to former House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, said Trump has achieved “policy objectives Republicans have been working toward for quite a while.”
“Tax reform is huge,” she said. “By lowering the corporate tax rate, we are already seeing companies respond to that not just by rewarding employees with bonuses, but companies are already raising wages. That’s an economic boon for just about everyone working in the country.”
The coming year may determine how effective Trump can be during the remainder of his term. Some Republicans fear massive losses in congressional elections in November if Trump’s popularity remains low. There is talk among some Democrats of impeachment proceedings.
Democrats need to win 24 seats in the House of Representatives to retake the majority. The partly was last in control in 2010.
Democrat Doug Jones’ victory in the Alabama Senate race earlier this month has also put the Senate in play. However Democrats have to hold 26 seats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown’s in Ohio, while Republicans are only defending eight seats.
RELATED: House votes to kill Democrat’s resolution to impeach TrumpThe Russian investigation remains a wild card. Independent Counsel Robert Mueller is aggressively investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign last year and Russian officials.
A federal grand jury indicted Paul Manafort, who briefly managed Trump’s campaign, while Mueller gained a guilty plea from retired General Michael Flynn, who served for less than one month as White House national security adviser.
Some Republicans have begun to push back against Mueller, and speculation persists that Trump will fire him (He denies he’s considering it).
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, made headlines last week when he said most of Mueller’s team is anti-Trump and that text messages from the former deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division show the bureau plotted to keep Trump out of the White House.
Mueller last summer removed the official, Peter Strzok, from a key role in the Russia investigation.
RELATED: Trump lashes out at own FBI in a series of tweetsTrump’s name also seems to surface each time there is a new sexual harassment complaint against a prominent person. Trump is facing accusations from at least three women who claim in the past he engaged in sexual misconduct against them.
“Each week his approval ratings are going down and down,” said Jim Manley, a onetime adviser to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. “Many Republicans continue to stick with him, but the electorate as a whole is turning against his ugly brand of politics.”
Trump’s supporters point out that he has presided over a major defeat of the Islamic State militants who in 2014 routed the Iraqi Army and seized large swaths of Iraq in Syria.
“We have dealt ISIS one devastating defeat after another,” Trump said in a major foreign policy speech this month. “The coalition to defeat ISIS has now recaptured almost 100 percent of the land once held by these terrorists in Iraq and Syria.”
But most analysts say Trump’s style in foreign affairs has had mixed results. He has quarreled with British Prime Minister Theresa May, has a frosty relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and aimed abrasive tweets at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by calling him “Little Rocket Man.”
Peter Mansoor, the General Raymond E. Mason chair in military history at Ohio State University, said Trump has “degraded American national security by ratcheting up tensions with North Korea, by ceding leadership in the Middle East to Russia, and by questioning America’s alliances with NATO and Japan and South Korea.”
“As a result, America’s leadership in the world which before 2016 seemed to be the key to international stability has been severely degraded,” said Mansoor, who as a colonel in the U.S Army served as General David Petraeus’ executive officer in Baghdad in 2008.
In his foreign policy speech this month, Trump boasted his administration has “withdrawn the United States from job-killing deals such as” the Pacific trade pact and the Paris Climate pact on climate change.
The greatest danger Trump faces is from North Korea, a regime which has bedeviled every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Kim Jong-un has aggressively tested ballistic missiles which can reach the United States, raising fears of a nuclear exchange in Asia that would envelop South Korea, North China and Japan with radioactive fallout.
Past presidents have rebounded from lackluster approval ratings. If the economy continues to expand and Mueller ends his investigation without filing charges against Trump’s closest advisers, the president’s job approval ratings could rise, which in turn could help GOP candidates such as Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, who next year is seeking the party’s support for his run for Ohio governor.
“President Trump’s first year in office has been marked by tremendous achievements for our nation,” Renacci said in a statement, adding he was “proud” to be the only GOP gubernatorial candidate “who backed Donald Trump in both the primary and general elections last year.”
But if Trump’s approval ratings continue to sag, Republicans could face defeats next November in the House and Senate. Rebecca Katz, a Democratic consultant in New York, said “there is a wave out there, and when it’s a big wave, it hits everywhere.”
“I believe Democrats have never been in a better place to win big now than we are now,” she said. “My hope is we don’t mess it up.”