US President Donald Trump is caught between a rock and a hard place right now

US President Donald Trump is caught between a rock and a hard place right now

With mounting (and sometimes opposing) expectations from his own party and from the people who voted him in, Donald Trump is walking along a bit of political tightrope at the moment

It has been an eventful few months in the Donald Trump White House. Questions about Russian involvement in the election have dogged the administration. The long-awaited travel ban was announced - then swiftly struck down in court. A revised travel ban was unveiled ... only to be defeated with even more alacrity. And, of course, the Tweeter-in-Chief continues to fire 140-character salvos online.

With all these headline-grabbing theatrics going on, some of the more fundamental issues confronting the Trump administration are being overlooked. Among these is the tension caused by America's proposed economic policies.

Trump was elected as a "populist insurgent" who rode to victory on a wave of discontent among primarily white, working-class people who were left worse off by the new global economic order. He was assisted by Democrats who doubted Hillary Clinton's commitment to left-wing economic policies, and thought she would willingly bow to the interests of Wall Street. The transcripts of her highly-paid speeches to Goldman Sachs were equally as coveted (and equally as elusive) as Donald Trump's tax returns.

The main issue for Trump is that he came to power as a Republican with a Republican majority. The Grand Old Party has always supported economic conservatism and is well known for its cosiness with Wall Street and big business.

The stock markets have been on a tear post-election, with the Dow Jones Index surpassing all-time highs. Much of this rally is built on the expectations of business-friendly measures being introduced. Corporations are expecting lower taxes, and banking stocks have benefited from Trump's vow to dismantle aspects of the Dodd-Frank regulations enacted after the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. The Dodd-Frank regulations are laws that places regulation of the financial industry in the hands of the government. These are not things your average Trump supporter is cheering for.

Headmaster Trump? Headmistress Dolores? If you really, really had to, we mean

The most glaring contradiction is between the views of Trump and his supporters and those of the Republican Party on free trade. The American right wing supports free trade and the opening of borders to the flow of goods. Anti-globalisation rhetoric is something you'd expect more from people like Bernie Sanders who are on the left wing of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have traditionally been seen as the party of the working class, a role the Republican Party is now somewhat uneasily being forced to adopt.

It remains unclear whether the Republican Party will ultimately support Trump in his crusade against the current global trade regime. Many of the party's legislators have spent their entire political careers trying to push for free trade, and want to create a more globalised world. Needless to say, however, the implementation of more "protectionist" trade policies is a non-negotiable demand of Trump supporters.

The Dodd-Frank reforms put in place to regulate Wall Street following the Great Recession are another potential sticking point. Much to the joy of investment bankers, Trump has clearly stated his intention to make the rules less rigorous. Loosening government regulation is a long-term goal of the Republican Party, but kowtowing to Wall Street interests would be an abomination to the vast majority of Trump supporters.

Gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, was a key plank of Trump's campaign, and was an idea shared by the Republican Party and his core supporters alike.

The Republicans' proposed replacement bill for the ACA would have, however, likely resulted in 20 million Americans losing health insurance coverage. Public concerns have been mitigated after Trump instructed that a vote on it be pulled moments before it was due to take place, as support among Republican congressmen evaporated. Ideologically, the Republican Party had few qualms about the ramifications of this new bill: they believe the government should play no role at all in health insurance. Only time will tell if the ruling party will attempt to replace their lost bill with another.

These are but a few of the conflicts facing the Trump administration. The jury's still out as to the economic path the government would follow.

What would be best for America? That is a complex question that needs to be addressed. Whatever happens, these next four years will leave a mark on the American psyche and politics for a long time to come.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Caught between a rock and a hard place


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