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Destler Dodge

The Unpredictable Candidate

When Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy for president in June 2015 after years of teasing his run, few would have predicted his eventual victory. Yet, against all expectations, the billionaire real estate tycoon and reality show star won the election in November 2016.

“The American Dream is dead. And if elected president, I will make it bigger and stronger than ever,” Trump said during his 2015 announcement speech. This statement resonated with unheard voters, who came out to support Trump despite the expectations of the media. Whether the new president will deliver on his promises remains to be seen.

The White Working Class

Trump won the presidency largely because of the white working class. According to The New York Times, after the collapse of manufacturing industries, this traditionally Democratic demographic of laborers felt isolated by the party which largely spent its resources reaching out to minority, female and LGBTQIA+ voters. Many blamed immigration and foreign trade for taking away their jobs, and Trump’s strong rhetoric made him their champion. Promises to build a wall on the Mexican border, bring businesses back to the U.S. and renegotiate trade deals especially resonated with voters.

Trump's promise to invest substantially in domestic infrastructure, as detailed on his campaign page, could help with growth, according to RIT economics professor Amit Batabyal. Economics is complicated, however, and Batabyal said that Trump's business experience may not be enough. 

“He cannot by himself countermand global economic forces,” Batabyal said. Yet, the white working class believes that Trump could change the economic landscape of America to benefit them.

Emotions ran high leading up to Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017; some excitedly anticipated the transition, while others were anxious. As Trump has emboldened many rural, white workers in America, he has simultaneously alienated many minority communities. Trump’s campaign became the model for the “alt-right,” an ultra-conservatism movement, and was publicly acclaimed by David Duke, a known white supremacist. Although many Trump supporters do not share these opinions, it appears that a Trump presidency could lead to further racial divide as movements like Black Lives Matter increase in number throughout the nation.

“I think there is a possibility of a rise of intolerance and bigotry — and not to say that it does not exist now, but I believe that there are a lot of people that will feel more comfortable expressing these negative feelings,” said president of the AALANA Collegiate Association (ACA) Tempest Sampson, a second year double major in Visual Culture & Studio Art and Sociology & Anthropology.

The polarization of Trump’s election was not only heavily divided by race, but also by class and party lines. The gaps between rich and poor and liberal and conservative are wider than ever. Trump’s campaign exacerbated rising tensions among different wealth levels and political ideologies, increasing civilian activism to an extent that hasn't been seen for decades. These tensions are galvanizing an already politically active generation on both sides to take bolder, more extreme action. A Trump era is the death of the “silent” voter. Trump’s innate talent to fire up or unsettle people while he campaigned forewarns a presidency of more rallies, protests, riots and Twitter wars as the eras of the Clintons and Obamas fade.

The Transition

Since the announcement of the election results, Trump and his staff have slowly backtracked on many of his campaign promises. Political experts claim this is a common strategy as politicians make the transition from campaigning to serving in office.

“Candidates often have to moderate their opinions once in office, sounding harsher on the campaign trail and then compromising or backtracking once the realities of office set in,” according to an article by VOA News. Although this pragmatic response may ease the concerns of the opposition, it is viewed as a betrayal by many who helped elect him. According to the article, Trump is now “softening” on key policies such as building a wall, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, arresting Hillary Clinton and torturing terrorists during interrogations.

Nevertheless, Trump’s proposals for his first hundred days are very ambitious. According to NPR, Trump’s plans involve six actions to clean up Washington (aka “drain the swamp”), seven actions to protect American workers and five actions to restore security and protect the constitutional rule of law. Trump also wants to introduce broad legislative measures that include repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, extensive tax cuts for the middle class and increasing tariffs in foreign markets. One of the more controversial of his plans includes a 35 percent tax on U.S. companies that send jobs to Mexico as reported by CNN Money. With executive orders on his first days in office,Trump has already ordered revival of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines and announced withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, among other actions.

“Turning protectionist will invite retaliation and hurt the U.S.,” Batabyal said, warning against crippling tariffs that ostracize foreign markets.

Trump’s increasingly loose tongue is generating quarrels, especially via social media. This raises questions on how effectively Trump can serve when he is prone to provoking inappropriate Twitter storms. Trump’s lack of political correctness may have gotten him elected, but as president, maintaining composure and temperament is critical for the stability of the country. For example, Trump’s offhand tweet on F-35 costs being “out of control” had detrimental effects on Lockheed Martin’s stocks, claims Politico.

“Whenever the federal government does business with a publicly traded firm, negative or positive statements about some aspect of this form can indicate a change in demand or supply and hence affect the firm's stock,” Batabyal said.

Trump’s transition was also marred by open criticism of former president Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Trump has been skeptical of evidence in the election hacks and made public criticism of the UN security council blocking Israeli settlements.

Once again, Trump's behavior as an unconventional politician has polarized public opinion. Despite promises, Trump's presidency will more than likely mirror his campaign, and be completely unpredictable.