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Donald Trump

Three things Donald Trump deserves more credit for than critics give him

David Pendery says the US president’s ideas on immigration restrictions, cross-strait relations and health care reform do not deserve the criticism they receive. He is more in touch with public sentiment than he gets credit for

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 7:14pm

US President Donald Trump has come under a lot of fire since assuming office. He has been subject to withering criticism, and his approval ratings have reached an “all-time low” according to a recent Gallup poll.

Does Trump deserve this? Not that this writer is a big Trump fan, but perhaps his approach and policies are more credible than he is given credit for. Let’s examine some of his plans.

One of Trump’s most controversial policies was his banning of visitors from Muslim-majority countries (after several revisions, six Muslim countries are affected, alongside Venezuela and North Korea). When the policy was first announced, many Americans rose in anger against it, and pointed out how decent, law-abiding Muslims were being restricted from visiting their families in America.

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The US courts largely ruled against the different versions of the ban. But what should we think of this policy? Well, in fact, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 60 per cent of US citizens support the ban, while only 28 per cent oppose it. So it appears that this policy did not go against voter sentiment.

And with nations like Iran and North Korea, two countries on the current list, presenting clear threats to the United States, Trump’s get-tough policies seem valid.

Another of Trump’s policies is the border wall with Mexico. This wall would be impractical and expensive in the extreme. Trump’s insistence early on that Mexico pay for the wall, furthermore, indicates a lack of diplomacy. American citizens from south of the border see this as a discriminatory policy aiming to separate them from their loved ones. Also, walls have never been very effective in keeping out those determined to enter a country. This programme looks to be a loser.

Then there are Trump’s policies on Taiwan. He met with quite a bit of approval at home and abroad with his phone call to President Tsai Ing-wen last December. Trump has reached out to China and been accommodating, even with the “one China” policy, but has by no means discouraged Taiwan, even approving a US$1.4 billion arms package to Taiwan. In sum, Trump’s approach to the island nation has been obliging.

Finally, Trump’s approach to the Affordable Care Act: though he has not been very cooperative with Democrats on the issue, I think he recognises that this must be dealt with in collaborative ways. Health-care reform is an issue that must be dealt with through collective efforts across the aisle in Congress. Though Trump does not always sound like he agrees with this approach, he is a political animal and knows what must be done.

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My aim has not been to robustly defend Donald Trump. But we must acknowledge that he is the president, and he did win the electoral college. As Masahiro Matsumura, a professor of international politics, wrote in the Taipei Times, Trump won the election because he had “unflinching grassroots core supporters, particularly the cornered white working class”. That says a lot about what Trump accomplished. And it appears that Trump’s views are not out of joint with American values and beliefs. His use of Twitter is at times overdone, but it has also been viewed as an innovative political approach – and I bet that every president hereafter will use Twitter much more.

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Trump is problematic at best, but appeals to many Americans, and is perhaps more innovative than given credit for. He is something of a “self-made” man, amateurish at times, but also skilled in many ways. He is not that divorced from basic American principles. Give him a chance, he may just surprise us.

David Pendery, PhD, is an associate professor at the National Taipei University of Business in Taiwan