Six Big Ways Trump Has Remade America In The Year Since His Election

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting to this story.

Happy anniversary, President Trump.

It’s one year to the day since Trump pulled off his shocking election win last November. And while he may not have any major legislative achievements under his belt, that hasn’t stopped him and Republicans from dramatically changing the direction of the country in ways that will be hard to undo.

TPM surveyed dozens of administration officials, lawmakers, congressional staff, interest groups and strategists in both parties to see what moves will have the largest long-term impact. Here are the main areas where they say Trump hasn’t been just bluster — they’ll have a lasting impact.

Stacking The Courts

If Trump had achieved nothing else in his first year in office, his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court alone would reverberate through the generations, keeping the highest court leaning to the right for years and maybe decades to come. But Gorsuch’s seat isn’t the only spoil of Trump’s victory.

Senate Republicans have taken major advantage of a rule change instituted by Democrats that eliminated the 60-vote filibuster for lifetime judicial appointments, and further destroyed Senate norms by eliminating a super-majority requirement for Supreme Court picks.

The result: Gorsuch, who was confirmed after Republicans refused to allow President Obama to fill the open seat in his final year in office, and a rapid-fire confirmation of judges for other key positions.

Senate Republicans have confirmed eight appeals court judges — Obama only had one confirmed at this point in his presidency — and four district court judges to three for Obama.

Trump himself bragged about that during a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last month.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledges the applauses as he beings to speak at the 50th anniversary of the Fund for America Studies luncheon at the Trump Hotel in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledges the applauses as he beings to speak at the 50th anniversary of the Fund for America Studies luncheon at the Trump Hotel in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“Yes, we got a great justice, Justice Gorsuch, into the United States Supreme Court. He is going to be outstanding, hopefully for many, many years. But something that people aren’t talking about is how many judges we’ve had approved, whether it be the court of appeals, circuit judges, whether it be district judges,” Trump said, later adding “that has consequences 40 years out.”

“The single-most significant thing this President has done to change America is the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But it’s not just the Supreme Court. There are a lot of vacancies at both the circuit court and district court level,” McConnell said.

Or as one Senate Republican source put it: “GOP is transforming the courts!”

Democrats agree.

“There were four circuit court judges confirmed last week which is as many as were confirmed in the first year under the Obama administration,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told TPM. “I’m concerned we’re getting more and more extreme judicial nominees … over time it degrades the respect with which our federal judiciary is held. … I did not expect to have so many nominees brought forward so quickly with whom I had difference about if they possessed a judicial temperament.”

“Gorsuch and judges are the number one thing. Even the most ardent Hillary Clinton critics on either side would say that the judiciary would look very different with her as president,” former Bernie Sanders adviser and Iowa congressional candidate Pete D’Alessandro told TPM.

Undoing Obama’s Environmental Legacy

Both Democrats and Republicans say perhaps the biggest shift in the country’s direction has been on environmental issues. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement means America will soon be the only country in the world not onboard with the push to curb global warming.

Domestically, the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt has made a concerted push to undo most of the Obama administration’s biggest regulatory achievements.

That includes steps to repeal the Clean Power Plan to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants by one-third by 2030, especially from coal plants; roll back vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards that have helped make U.S. vehicles significantly more efficient in the last few years; rescind the Clean Water Rule, which was finalized in 2015 and would have clarified and expanded the definition of what waterways’ pollution falls under federal jurisdiction; reverse a ban on a type of insecticide that causes memory loss; eliminate a rule to limit coal-mining pollution into streams and rivers; and many other steps that have enraged environmentalists.

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency of United States (EPA), during the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Environment ongioing in Bologna, Italy, 11 June 2017. The meeting runs until tomorrow, 12 June. ANSA/ GIORGIO BENVENUTI
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during the G7 Ministerial Meeting in Italy on June 11, 2017. (ANSA/ GIORGIO BENVENUTI)

“The long-term damage from the Trump Administration’s relentless attacks on public health and environmental protection will be felt in our communities for years to come,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told TPM. “Trump has made an embarrassing and dangerous mark on history already by targeting environmental progress ranging from global to local in scale.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement to TPM that under Trump, his department was “providing regulatory certainty that did not exist under the previous administration.”

Grover Norquist of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform was more blunt.

“We will always have Paris moved to we will never, ever have Paris,” he told TPM.

Undercutting Obamacare

Republicans may have failed to repeal Obamacare, but President Trump has done as much as he can to break it.

The Trump administration has cut in half the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s individual market and spent just 10 percent as much as in previous years to encourage people to sign up. Trump also ended cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers that help keep down insurance rates bought on the exchanges, a move seemingly designed to cause premiums to jump.

Just this week, Trump and Republicans moved to loosen Medicaid program requirements, making it easier for states to throw people off the program in a move that experts say could lead to hundreds of thousands of fewer people with coverage, and toyed with removing the individual mandate.

“The White House clearly doesn’t want this to succeed. I can’t imagine — somebody who takes the oath of office and then undercuts a public health, a federal law that has served millions of people and just doesn’t seem to care,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told TPM Tuesday. “I just can’t believe that there isn’t more of an outcry.”

The rate of uninsured Americans climbed this year for the first time in years, which Democrat say is a result of Trump undercutting the program.

Cracking Down On Immigrants

“The wall” ain’t getting built — but that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from radically departing from how previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have handled both legal and undocumented immigrants.

Trump’s biggest move was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which had allowed 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children to legally work and attend school in the United States. Congress has so far failed to re-create the program, and hundreds of thousands of people are facing the risk of losing their jobs and scholarships, facing possible deportation and having to go into hiding if Congress doesn’t act by March.

Crews work on a border wall prototype near the border with Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in San Diego. Companies are nearing an Oct. 26 deadline to finish building eight prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico. The models, which cost the government up to about $500,000 each, should be able to take an hour of punishment from a sledgehammer, pickaxe, torch, chisel and battery-operated tools and be “aesthetically pleasing” from the U.S. side. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Crews work on a border wall prototype near the border with Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in San Diego. Companies are nearing an Oct. 26 deadline to finish building eight prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

On top of that, the Department of Justice has moved to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” by pulling federal law enforcement grants from them — including regular terror targets like New York City. That move is facing a legal battle.

The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency has also ramped up detentions and arrests in a huge way — a 43 percent increase over last year — in a move that’s instilled terror in immigrant communities.

And earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security moved to end the temporary protected status of 2,500 Nicaraguan immigrants, possibly the first move in a effort to force as many as 300,000 immigrants, many of them who came here as refugees decades ago, to leave the country.

“One of the most lasting, and hurtful, impacts Trump has had in the last year is mainlining a white supremacist immigration policy through the veins of the Republican Party and the White House. From repealing DACA, to ending TPS, to arresting pregnant women and kids with epilepsy, everything he has done is cruel and against everything that America is supposed to stand for,” Eddie Vale, a Democratic strategist with ties to labor and immigrant groups, told TPM.

Rolling back consumer protection rules and other regulations

Trump and congressional Republicans haven’t had many big-ticket achievements, but they undid a slew of regulations that had been drawn up under President Obama.

Among the moves: undoing a regulation aimed at making it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns; rolling back regulations on for-profit colleges, many of whom acted predatorily in the past; undoing a pending rule that would have allowed consumers to band together to sue their banks; allowing internet service providers to sell consumers’ personal data without their permission; and many other instances of loosening regulations.

The Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed Obama-era policies and pushed for much harsher sentencing for nonviolent drug crimes.

The DOJ and Department of Education rescinded Obama-era guidance looking to lessen campus rape and sexual assault, causing an uproar on campus.

Trump’s campaign helped end any hopes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, though that huge trade bill was dead long before he was ever sworn into office, and has started renegotiating NAFTA.

Damaging government, the rule of law and undercutting democratic norms

Trump has taken a significantly more divisive approach to the presidency than almost any other president of either party.

His constant attacks on the press, judges, and critics in both parties, routine lying and moves to fire those who’d seek to check or investigate him (including former FBI head James Comey and U.S. attorneys like Preet Bharara) and efforts to protect his allies even when they’ve broken the law (his pardon of former Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio) have alarmed people in both parties. His comments blaming “both sides” for the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va. and half-jokes about police brutality (while his administration was cutting funds to programs to crack down on right-wing terrorism) also raised alarms.

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

His push to massively defund whole parts of the federal government, including massive cuts to the EPA, State Department, Department of Education and Internal Revenue Service have also drawn ire from some members in both parties, though the “public castration” of the State Department and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) words, has alarmed foreign policy experts the most.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.
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