As we head into the final three months of 2017 (a.k.a. the longest year of our lives, a.k.a. holy crap are we really JUST getting to October?!?), every day feels like it brings new, fresh horrors to our lives in the form of all the brand new terrible things that we’re now paying attention to.
The problem with this is that it tends to pile up, and we quickly forget about the old terrible things that have happened. With that in mind, I wanted to try to sort through the pile, as a reminder of the things that are still there, festering under whatever most recent thing Trump has said or done.
A few points before we dive in:
- I am going to miss things. Probably a lot of them. Sorry about that. Please let me know what I overlooked.
- I am going to do my best to focus on actual changes that have happened, and less on whatever nonsense Trump has said, with some exceptions. In part because I think we tend to forget the actions more than the words, and in part because if I try to catalogue all of that stuff we’re going to be here all day.
- I am going to skip most of the things related to Mueller/Russia, because that’s ongoing and an investigation into Trump, rather than something that he’s actively doing. But we all know that’s still happening in the background, which is where it’s just fine, for now.
- Issues will be introduced more or less in chronological order, at least as far as when they first came up in 2017.
The First Middle Finger: DAPL/Keystone XL Pipeline Presidential Memos
One of the very first things Trump did after spending a hundred million dollars on Third Eye Blind and The Piano Guys was sign presidential memos to revive the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
DAPL was completed this year and began operation in June. The battle over the Keystone XL Pipeline, however, is still being fought, as the Nebraska Public Service Commission has yet to decide whether or not to approve the pipeline.
If you have time for it, I recommend this article from Popular Science, which gives a good overview of the current Keystone XL fight and the unlikely alliance between environmental activists and local farmers, all of whom would be directly affected by the pipeline.
Wasn’t This Supposed To Be Temporary: Trump’s Muslim Ban
Trump signed his first travel ban on January 26, 2017, banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, halting refugee resettlement for 120 days, and suspending Syrian refugee settlement indefinitely.
Thankfully, the ban blew up in his face, triggering protests and legal challenges, which quickly struck down the travel ban.
It also led to the firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who refused to uphold the order.
Trump issued a second ban in March, which, again, was struck down in the Circuit courts. In June, however, the Supreme Court allowed a limited version of the ban to be implemented, and agreed to hear arguments on the ban in October.
Just when we thought the fight over the ban had faded into the background, however, Trump issued a third ban on September 24th, renewing what was supposed to be a temporary, 90-day ban for a third time (and this time, the ban is indefinite), while also adding some
very useful elements, like banning all those visitors from North Korea that we get every year.
With the signing of the third ban, the Supreme Court has canceled oral arguments on the earlier travel ban, which was scheduled for October 10th. Right now it’s unclear whether or not those arguments will be rescheduled.
This Is Where We Lose One: The Nomination of Neil Gorsuch
I’m sure everyone here remembers how this started, but just in case you forgot: Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016. Mitch McConnell decided that
it was just too close to an election to let President Obama do his job he gave zero fucks, and so, McConnell and the Republicans refused to meet with or vote on the confirmation of Merrick Garland.
Trump, whose knowledge of judicial matters is limited to the fact that he’s constantly being sued, nominated Neil Gorsuch, triggering a massive synchronized group orgasm over at the Federalist Society, as well as meaning that Antonin Scalia would be replaced by, well, another Antonin Scalia, but one that is slightly less dickish in public.
Having already held the seat hostage for a year, McConnell, of course, had no qualms about invoking the “nuclear option” in the Senate, paving the way for them to confirm Gorsuch with fewer than 60 votes, which they did on April 7th.
Yes, Sadly, Trump is the Commander In Chief
This one may be best moved through as quickly as possible, in bullet points:
- In February after a North Korean missile test, Trump discusses the launch and potential response in the highly secure Mar-a-Lago dining room.
- In April, Trump orders a Tomahawk strike against a Syrian air base, while eating cake.
- In May, Trump revealed classified information in the oval office to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador (and, since every single Trump Administration official seems to have forgotten ever meeting him, Russia’s answer to whatshisface, you know, from Avatar) Sergey Kislyak.
- In July, Trump tries to ban transgender soldiers from the military via Twitter. He fails.
- In August, Trump formally tries to ban transgender soldiers. He fails when Defense Secretary Mattis freezes the order until it can be reviewed.
- And all this time, Trump has been saying lots of stupid shit, mostly on Twitter, but also to the U.N. General Assembly, because when you’re going to embarrass yourself, you might as well do it with everyone gathered all at once. It’s just more efficient that way.
What Is Dead May Never Die: ACA Repeal
Ahh, health care. The issue that’s so important to our economy and the lives of literally every single person in the country, not to mention every single person who will ever move here or be born here, that the best plan the Republicans were able to come up with was some variation of a shittier version of the ACA, with less help for the poor, and less protection for the sick. But hey, tax cuts for the wealthy!
So in March, the House attempted to pass their shitty version of the ACA. It failed, mostly because some people in the Freedom Caucus decided it didn’t give enough people the freedom to die from lack of health coverage.
It looked like repeal was dead.
Then in April, the House managed to resurrect repeal, after making their shitty version of the ACA slightly shittier. This led to Trump and House Republicans celebrating at the White House on May 4th. Remember that celebration? They were so excited.
Oh guys. You guys. You white guys. You old white guys. This was back in May, when you were still allowed to like football, so you should have known you don’t spike the ball on your own 30 yard line.
Where were we? Okay, so the House passed their bill, which was so terrible that when Trump found out what was in the bill he called it “mean”. And even Mitch McConnell knew he couldn’t force it through the Senate. So the Senate wrote their own bill (ignoring the committees and women, because why bother), and came out of it with another terrible bill. This bill was not going to get enough votes, and was pulled.
It looked like repeal was dead.
Then the idea of “skinny repeal” was introduced in late July, and over the course of a few terrifying days, it looked like the Senate was going to be able to get their bill through, despite the fact that they kept the text of the bill secret until the last possible moment.
But on July 27th, it was defeated by the 48 Democrats (and Independents who caucus with the Democrats), Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and one melodramatic guy from Arizona who briefly found his principles.
It looked like repeal was dead.
Then, Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy decided to try again, introducing yet another bill and forcing all of us back into panic mode once again. Thankfully, the efforts to blatantly attempt to buy off Senators Murkowski, Collins, Paul, and McCain all failed, and as of September 25th, the bill was dead, and for now, at least, ACA repeal looks like it may actually stay dead for a little while.
In the midst of this repeal effort, Trump has also done his best to undermine the ACA, threatening to end health care cost-sharing subsidies in July, and cutting the enrollment ad budget by 90% in August. Most insurers in the markets have noted that Trump’s actions are a major contributor to the expected rise in premiums for 2018.
Trump, Defender of White Men
After white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on August 12th and clashed with protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others, Trump spent the next few days waffling between responses, first failing to specifically call out white nationalists, then condemning them, then blaming both sides again, something that was so blatantly stupid that even Jeff Sessions was unequivocal in his condemnation.
Later in August, he pardoned Joe Arpaio, the infamously racist former Maricopa County Sheriff who had been found guilty of criminal contempt earlier this year.
On September 5th, Trump (via a gleeful Jeff Sessions) announced the ending of DACA protections, because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that people who were brought here as children and had no say in the matter and grew up here and are American in every possible way except on paper and serve in the military and the police and pay taxes and just want to live their lives, are definitely a threat that need to be kicked out of the country.
Within a day, Trump was whining for Congress to save DACA recipients (and him) from his own stupidity by passing legislation to restore the protections that he had just rescinded.
(I’m sure you all have done this already because you are all very smart and lovely people, but the pieces by Ta Nehisi Coates and Rembert Browne are both worth reading if you have the time. Sorry for adding to your homework.)
Wait, What Just Happened? Trump Deals with Democrats
In a move that people (including Trump himself, probably) still don’t entirely understand, Trump actually got something done on September 6th, when he sided with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who proposed to suspend the debt ceiling for three months and provide an initial package of aid for Hurricane Harvey relief, instead of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who were left trying to remove the knives from their backs.
This move punted the debt ceiling debate aaaaallllllllllll the way to December, rather than, say, after the midterm elections, which would have been much better for Republicans.
Grade Incomplete: Trump’s Disaster Responses
Since August, Trump has been forced to respond to three major storms in Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
The ultimate grade on how well the relief efforts have gone will not be available for some time, as it’s going to take months for the affected regions to recover. Some troubling issues have already started to crop up, however, most notably the fact that recovery efforts for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands seem to have been less robust so far than Texas or Florida, symbolized by the fact that Trump was too busy complaining about the NFL on Twitter this weekend to mention Puerto Rico at all, and it took the Administration a week to waive the Jones Act (a law that requires goods transported within the United States to be moved only by American ships) for Puerto Rico, despite providing such a waiver for Texas and Florida after Harvey and Irma.
Minions Do What They Want
Lest we forget, Trump’s cabinet has been doing, well, whatever they want:
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions has attempted to delay and review consent decrees, ordered federal prosecutors to seek maximum criminal charges in court, revived civil asset forfeiture, threatened sanctuary cities, and was likely one of the driving forces behind Trump’s decision to end DACA.
- Steve Mnuchin, Scott Pruitt, and Tom Price have acted like entitled rich white guys and are very offended when you ask them about their use of private jets (in an effort to save his job, Tom Price announced on Sept. 28th that he would stop using private charters and repay the money he had spent, although, in typically entitled fashion, he was only taking financial responsibility for “his seat”, not the entire cost of the trips, despite the fact that he had, you know, chartered a bunch of private jets because he wanted to).
- Kris Kobach and the “Voter Advisory Commission” tried really hard to find evidence of voter fraud, but failed to get most states to provide the absurd amount of private information they requested. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was one of those who refused Commission Chair Kris Kobach’s demands. Despite this setback, the commission continues to push forward after alleging (without any real proof) voter fraud in New Hampshire.
Is There Any Good News?
Much of the damage that’s been done to this point has fallen under the general principle of rescinding Obama-era guidance, which, while not great, means Trump and his band of merry jagoffs have so far only managed to turn the clock back a little bit.
In addition, the administration as a whole remains relatively incompetent, which, while incredibly frustrating (and incredibly dangerous in times of genuine, unmanufactured crisis), it has undeniably limited what they’ve been able to do so far.
The fact that people are paying attention, and trying to mitigate the damage that has been done, too, is good news. Remember when Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord (which I obviously was just saving for this section, and didn’t almost forget to include) in June? Since then, numerous states, cities, and companies have all pledged their continued support of the Paris Accord, and have vowed to continue to work toward the stated goals. Is it as good as it could be? Of course not. But people aren’t giving up, and neither should you.
Finally, we’re almost to midterm election season! Which, of course, is terrible in its own way. But as soon as Congress begins to worry more about their own reelection than about helping Trump, it will slow things down even more, to the point that next year we may see even fewer legislative achievements, even though that seems mathematically impossible.
Congratulations! We’ve all made it nine months in.
Now rest up, because there’s more to come.