Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is already sounding like a victory lap, but some may find his choice list of accomplishments puzzling. What does recognizing occupied Israeli land have to do with MAGA – and what about Americans?
US President Trump’s campaign refrain is one of “promises kept,” but Americans not immersed in the communal rapture of a reelection rally are forced to confront uncomfortable truths about which vows the president has chosen to fulfill. Opening an American embassy in Jerusalem doesn’t put food on their table, and killing the Iran nuclear deal doesn’t pay their medical bills. Trump has kept a very specific set of promises and let the others go, declaring his mission accomplished.
Touting his accomplishments at a Wednesday rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump preened about moving the embassy despite formidable “opposition” and boasted that for 52 years, Israel had tried and failed to get international recognition for the Golan Heights. He then appeared to sink into reverie for a moment, murmuring “We’re doing good…” before bragging about recognizing the “legitimate” government of Venezuela.
But are “we” doing good? Trump boasts of rock-bottom unemployment rates, but nearly half of American families still can’t afford basic living expenses, according to a frightening United Way study published in May. Trump, meanwhile, has proposed redefining how the federal poverty line is calculated, a move that would kick millions of people off the welfare rolls, thus saving the poor from the perils of socialism. Homelessness is at record highs in cities all over the country – but at least more of us are working. Who are we to complain if our wages can no longer pay for shelter and food?
Israel, on the other hand, is doing great. In addition to the $3.1 billion the US already provided in foreign aid, Trump tacked on $75 million in 2017, even as he asked for a 28 percent cut in the State Department budget. This year will see an additional $200 million donated, no strings attached, to the already-wealthy country.
Perhaps trying to prove his department worthy of US funding, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised a roomful of Jewish leaders that if Jeremy Corbyn were to get too close to power in the UK, he’d “push back” against the pro-Palestinian socialist.
On the 2020 campaign trail, there’s no more talk from Trump about pulling out of Syria or Afghanistan, or ending Middle Eastern wars at all – a promise that attracted voters from outside the Republican Party turned off by his opponent’s warmongering. Instead, Trump boasts that the US is spending more than ever on its military for the last three years running – as if that was a source of pride when the US already spends more than the next 10 countries put together and still gets substandard equipment.
Trump superseded the promise he made to Americans to end the endless war with a promise to Israel to remain in Syria as long as the Iranians (who had been invited by the government) were there – and has kept that promise, despite declaring ISIS vanquished and with it the legal authorization for the US’ presence in the country.
“2016 Trump” promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better, something that would – presumably – allow Americans to access medical care without bankrupting themselves. While the frankly unconstitutional individual mandate was struck down in 2017, the Affordable Care Act remains in place, now hemorrhaging cash as healthy but poor young people are no longer forced to buy unaffordable health insurance and instead opt for the longstanding American healthcare plan of “don’t get sick.” Medical bills remain the leading cause of bankruptcy.
The border wall was Trump’s signature issue in 2016 and remains perhaps his most significant unkept promise. But it’s not as if he hasn’t tried – his determination to secure funding despite Democratic opposition led to the longest government shutdown in US history, a political game of chicken that dragged on for more than a month before he was forced to give in and seek other funding routes for an initiative that most Democrats had supported just a few short years ago.
Trump’s unkept promises, then, are not entirely Trump’s fault. His tentative efforts to pull troops out of Syria were stonewalled not only by Republicans, but by Democrats who’d developed a baffling and sudden concern for the welfare of Kurds they’d never heard of three months before. In fact, it wasn’t until Trump bombed Syria in response to a gas attack he blamed on President Bashar Assad that Democrats – or their mouthpieces in the mainstream media – let up on their criticism for a moment. The man they’d just finished calling a Russian agent was suddenly looking presidential, gushed pundits on programs bookended by commercials for Boeing.
When Trump calls out the “four horsewomen of the Apocalypse” in curiously structured tweets that demand they apologize to Israel before asking that they make amends with the US, he is merely pointing out to party leadership that they might want to get the rogue congresswomen under control before they make the next election difficult. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have introduced a resolution to affirm Americans’ right to participate in boycotts ahead of a House vote on an anti-BDS bill, a juxtaposition that will force Democrats to make a difficult decision about whom they truly serve.
Would Trump be able to make similarly tough decisions to serve ordinary Americans and the country that he’s promised to “Make Great”?
By Helen Buyniski