The president of the United States topped the Power 100 list in 2018. Here, Worth looks back at what we said then about Donald Trump’s presidency and what he’s doing now.
What We Said Then
In the weeks before this fall’s midterm elections, Donald Trump crisscrossed the country in support of Republican congressional and gubernatorial candidates. The themes he used to motivate GOP voters were pretty alarming. An immigrant horde replete with hardened criminals and “Middle Easterners” was marching toward our southern border; Democrats aimed to steal the election by perpetuating widespread voter fraud; the Democrats had also turned into an “angry left-wing mob” determined to promote socialist policies while simultaneously taking away Americans’ health insurance. None of this is what you could call “true,” but it may well have been effective, at least in the short term.
Numerous commentators have already debated the ethics of such appeals, but there’s another point to make about Trump’s approach: He could have campaigned on a positive message. He had the material. The president could have gone to American voters and said, “When I was running for office, I made promises to this country—and to the world—about what I would do as president, and I have kept those promises. The economy is strong, unemployment is down, economic growth is up, your taxes are lower. Happy days are here again—and if you want them to stick around, vote for the people who support my agenda.”
As the 2020 presidential race kicks into high gear, the Trump presidency stands at a pivot point. On the one hand, the country is blessed with a strong economy and stock markets that have generally risen. On the other hand, the greatest threat to the economy appears to be Trump himself. His trade wars, his threat to fire Fed chair Jerome Powell, his nervewracking confrontations with foreign leaders—these things either destabilize the economy or retard its growth, and undermine investor and consumer confidence.
Politically, there’s no question that Trump has made the Republican Party his party. Though Senate Republicans occasionally push back, some 90 percent of Republican voters back Trump. At the same time, Trump consistently has the lowest approval rating of any president in history. Which means that, love him or hate him, the 2020 election is going to be entirely a referendum on Donald Trump. He wouldn’t have it any other way.