US & Canada

Viewpoint: The good, bad and ugly in Trump's first year

Trump in Vietnam Image copyright Getty Images

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States has upset conventional wisdom about the attributes and behaviour regarding the occupant of the Oval Office.

Decorum has often given way to boorishness from Mr Trump in ways that mystify even his most ardent supporters.

In looking to assess the president's first year in office, I am reminded of a favourite western movie I watched time and again as a boy starring Clint Eastwood called "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly."

In this prism, I will do my best to assess the past 365 days of the Trump presidency.

The good

Since Trump's inauguration the American economy has roared back to life.

Nearly 2.1 million jobs have been created in this time and unemployment remains at 4.1% - a 17-year low here in the States.

African-American unemployment is presently at 6.8% - the lowest since statistics have been gathered for 45 years.

Astonishingly, black unemployment has never dropped below 7% in American history.

Additionally, consumer and business confidence is up, illegal immigration is down and prospects for continued 3% GDP (gross domestic product) growth find America's economic prospects quite strong.

And yet, Mr Trump and his Grand Old Party (GOP) find themselves heading into a mid-term election in which one or both houses of Congress could switch control to the Democrats.

How is this possible given such good economic news?

The bad

Republicans in Washington DC control either end of Pennsylvania Avenue with the White House on one end and Capitol Hill on the other.

The level of control is so dominant, in fact, that Republicans have not a governing majority this large since 1929.

In this context, one would assume the GOP wish-list of repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes and rolling back regulations would have been relatively easy. One would be wrong.

President Trump's largely hands-off approach to the legislative process has allowed factions of GOP lawmakers to bicker and openly fight with one another regarding the direction the party should travel.

Read more on Trump's first year

Trump's power vacuum led to Republicans being unable to repeal President Obama's signature health care law.

And it also meant they passed a tax cut which allows Democrats to portray the Republicans as stooges for the rich - many believe that had Trump asserted himself more aggressively into negotiations, a more equitable bill would have passed.

Democrats need only 24 seats to flip control of the House of Representatives and 38 GOP lawmakers have already announced their retirement ahead of the election this November.

Should Republicans lose control of the House, talk of impeachment to remove President Trump from office goes from far-fetched, watercooler conversation to a very real and dangerous possibility.

The ugly

While President Trump likes to portray himself as the victim of "fake news" at the hands of a biased media, the reality is that he is often his own worst enemy.

His constant use of Twitter to belittle real and perceived political opponents is beneath the dignity of his office.

World leaders remain perplexed if not angered by his behaviour and talk of Trump's mental fitness is so commonplace that it almost feels normal. Which it is not.

President Trump has been dogged by allegations of racism and his disparaging comments regarding Haiti and poor countries in Africa last week has even the president's closest allies shaking their heads.

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Media captionWhat the world thinks of Trump

Whether he realises it or not, having the American press corps question whether our president is racist at an event honouring the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King is a sad, embarrassing commentary.

Trump supporters maintain his tough talk and social media use allow him to connect directly with his supporters.

But this premise is flawed - Trump was elected to represent all 300+ million Americans. All of us. That includes those who are black, brown, gay, Muslim and transgender.

One cannot aim to please white, middle-class men at the expense of the rest of the American population and successfully govern our country.

Our diversity is our strength and our strength in America is our diversity. Does Mr Trump realise this?

The future

The next 365 days are entirely and exclusively in the hands of the president.

If the American economy remains strong and foreign conflicts abroad remain contained, he should be in a good position heading into a 2020 re-election bid.

Should the bad and ugly impulses remain - belittling people at home and abroad, coupled by an inability to work with lawmakers to address real problems facing the American people - Trump's tenure in the White House will be an isolated one, with members of his own party as well as the Democrats seeking to depose him in 2020.

As an American, I want my president to be successful.

Can Mr Trump - will Mr Trump - realise the gravity and responsibility he holds? Only time will tell.


Ron Christie served as special assistant to President George W Bush and deputy assistant to Vice-President Dick Cheney. A BBC political analyst, he is the author of three books discussing the intersection of race and politics.