Politics & Policy

Trump’s 2017 Record: A Postscript

The latest issue of NR includes an article of mine on Trump’s policy accomplishments in 2017; a version of it ran online earlier this week. I included the nomination and confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch in the list of accomplishments, although one reader has responded that it’s a change in personnel and not policy. I think the inclusion is well justified, though, since the appointment will have large and long-lasting consequences for government policy.

I wanted to address one line of criticism I’ve received: namely, that I’m “giving Trump too much credit” by counting policy changes that “any Republican would have made.” (I’m quoting two different correspondents but they share the sentiment.)

That criticism raises two counterfactual questions: If some other Republican had been nominated, would he have won in November? If some other Republican had won in November, how would his record look in comparison to President Trump’s? Those questions are worth asking if we’re trying to figure out how we should feel about Trump’s nomination in light of subsequent events, and I’ve got my own guesses on both of them.* That wasn’t my purpose, though, in writing this article. I merely wanted to record Trump’s conservative accomplishments for 2017: the policy changes he made that advanced longstanding conservative objectives.

I proceeded in the usual way that people write about these things. At the end of 2009, journalists noted that President Obama had passed a large stimulus bill and the Lily Ledbetter Act, confirmed a liberal Supreme Court justice, and had made significant progress toward a major expansion of the government role in health care and financial regulation. Those things would probably have been true if Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination in 2008, too. They were still a part of Obama’s record.

* They are: Other Republican nominees would have won; other Republicans would not have announced withdrawal from the Paris climate accords or the Jerusalem embassy, but would have had a better chance of replacing Obamacare.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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