When President Trump took office, he promised that his first year would produce so many wins, his supporters would be “sick and tired of winning.” Eleven months later, he’s yet to sign a single major bill into law. Whether or not the tax bill now working its way through Congress ends that string of frustrations, the reality is that Trump has already had a major impact on federal policy and the direction of the nation. He’s rapidly reshaping the judiciary with a series of deeply conservative judicial nominees who will sit on the bench for decades (see Talking Points). His FCC plans to hand telecom companies the power to transform how people use the internet (see Technology). He’s launched a massive crackdown on undocumented immigrants (see Briefing), overseen the gutting of the State Department, and ordered a dramatic rollback of environmental regulations and criminal-justice reforms. He’s pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord and taken aim at the Iran nuclear deal and NAFTA. His poll numbers may be historically bad, and he may be at grave risk from the Russia investigation, but in many respects, it’s fair to say that Trump is winning.
In 2020, the Democratic nominee will no doubt promise to restore much of what Trump has been busy demolishing. It will be possible: The power of the executive branch has expanded so much that with a few executive orders and key appointments, a president can point the federal government in a radically new direction—even without the consent of Congress. This raises the very real prospect that every four to eight years the partisan pendulum will swing from one extreme to the other and the U.S. will take an erratic, zigzag course to nowhere in particular. Trump is proving that a president can muscle through dramatic change even without majority support or compromise. His successors will no doubt be tempted by his example.
Managing editor ■