Trump: A year in power
On election night 2016 students and citizens across the country glued themselves to screens in anxious anticipation of who would be their president come 2017. As the night wore on, it became more apparent now-President Donald Trump was pulling ahead following wins in key states Ohio and Florida. The election was called early Wednesday morning, with an upset victory for Trump.
A Trump supporter from the beginning, Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, press correspondent for the University of Michigan's chapter of College Republicans, remembers how he felt when the results from the election began to show Trump pulling ahead.
“He was in Grand Rapids the night before and I was there with a couple of the other (College Republicans) members and so we saw the crowd there and we were like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to lose,’ ” Merrill said. “And then as the night progressed, it was just honestly disbelief, joy, elation.”
College Democrats had a different experience that night. Public Policy junior Lauren Schandevel, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, wrote in an email the group was struck when they learned Clinton had lost.
“I think everyone in the organization was really shaken by the news,” Schandevel wrote. “It took us a while to process what had happened and issue a response because we were just so blindsided.”
On Nov. 9, the University campus was noticeably somber and confused. That night, both a vigil and anti-Trump rally took place in the Diag, featuring speakers including University President Mark Schlissel.
“Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some kind of idealized version of a non-existent yesterday that was expressed during the campaign,” Schlissel said that night. “So I urge you, continue your advocacy and your voices are already being heard. They are loud and clear — this is the way America changes. It’s the way it always changes. It’s the way it will change for the better.”
That comment sparked a petition on campus written by LSA junior Amanda Delekta, who in the letter condemned the University administration for not respecting all ideologies. This eventually led to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy filing a FOIA against President Schlissel to release his emails regarding Trump and the election.
After the election, the College Republicans celebrated the victory, having endorsed Trump the September prior. They also outlined their plan to defeat identity politics on campus, which they believe have grave effects on free speech.
“Overall, a lot of people are just tired of the political correctness and we’re just trying to give them an outlet,” Merrill said. “I think it’s going well … it is an off year because there’s not really any elections, but next year will be an even bigger year for trying to fight back.”
On the other hand, the College Democrats discussed shifting their emphasis from promoting Clinton to progressive issue advocacy.
“Once the dust settled from the election, we were able to harness a lot of anti-Trump energy and use it to either champion policies that reflected our values or block those that did not; unfortunately, it was mostly the latter in this administration,” Schandevel said. “People are more engaged now than ever in current events, and we've used that to our advantage in terms of building capacity and mobilizing students who wouldn't have been involved in politics otherwise.”
In April, the Senate confirmed Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court to Neil Gorsuch, filling the spot that was left vacant for over 400 days.
“I think that everything else aside, that was his huge thing, that he got to appoint Gorsuch to the Supreme Court,” Merrill said.
Later, Trump moved to implement one of his campaign promises by pulling out of the Paris climate accord, in June. He stated it was too costly for the American people and didn’t put America first.
“Our exit from the Paris climate agreement coupled with Syria's more recent entrance into it is concerning,” Schandevel said. “It reflects the selfish, isolationist values of the administration and signals to the rest of the world that we're going to be difficult to work with for at least the next few years.”
Trump made several promises to the American people during his campaign including having Mexico finance a U.S.-Mexico border wall, deporting all undocumented immigrants, limiting legal immigration and blocking all Muslims from entering the country.
In ten months since he was elected president, Trump has been able to deliver on some of his campaign promises regarding immigration. In late January, Trump signed an executive order that would limit immigration from seven majority-Muslim Middle Eastern and Northern African countries for 90 days, a form of his promised Muslim travel ban.
A few days later, over 5,000 people gathered at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in protest of the travel ban, including elected officials and local officials. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., spoke to the crowd, told the crowd both their activism and legal action were necessary to overturning the executive action.
“We are trying to introduce legislation that will overturn the executive order,” she said to cheers from the crowd. “This is not about Republican or Democrat, we are here as Americans. There is no one who doesn’t care about national security … but we are standing for fundamental rights in the Constitution: freedom of religion, freedom of speech.”
Later that day Ann Donnelly, University alumni and New York federal judge, issued an emergency order claiming the deportation of travelers at airports was unconstitutional. A week later, a federal judge in Washington state put the entire travel ban on hold.
Critics of the first order noted it lacked information regarding how specific federal agencies were to implement the order. In March, Trump crafted a new order that gave agencies more than a week to prepare for the changes.
In the second travel ban, Trump dropped Iraq from the list and any language suggesting any preferential treatment of religious minorities in the countries listed in the order. Before the order could take effect, federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii blocked core components of the travel ban.
In June, the Supreme Court permitted a partial ban to take effect, allowing only refugees and settlers who have a “bona fide” relationship to people or entities in the U.S. to enter the country.
It wasn’t until September when Trump acted on DACA, something he mentioned many times throughout his campaign and after, but never outlined exact plans to address the policy.
William Lopez, postdoctoral fellow in the School of Social Work, has studied the impact of immigration raids on Latino communities and said an end to DACA will have profound impacts on those currently protected under it.
“We won’t see an end to DACA for those who have it for another at most two years, for many folks less,” Lopez said. “So it puts us in this position where we need to plan how we’re going to react to folks who have been comparatively secure from deportation for the last two years who will suddenly find themselves in this position where they can be deported, they don’t have driver’s licenses, they won’t have the ability to work in the same way they do (now).”
In March, The Daily sat down with a handful of undocumented students protected under DACA, who voiced concerns about Trump and the uncertainty of the future of DACA. The students requested their names not be used, but one Rackham student fears how the end of DACA would limit their ability to participate in society going forward.
“If DACA gets taken away, that again puts us in a situation where we can’t work, we can’t drive, we can’t board a plane, we don’t have any way to identify ourselves so think of anything that you have that is tied to your ID, like going out and opening a bank account or buying liquor or tobacco,” the undocumented Rackham student said.
On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an end to the program with a six-month delay, allowing Congress to work during that window to act and find a solution. If they don’t pass a resolution, the program will come to an end.
“There was a time in which attacking folks with DACA … seemed politically dangerous,” Lopez said. “Supporting folks with DACA has become highly political again. I think Congress will have to decide the extent to which they support them.”
The move was criticized by several people on campus, including the College Democrats and President Schlissel.
“To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded,” the press release from President Schlissel read. “We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity.”
Despite rhetoric, Trump has deported fewer undocumented immigrants than Obama, who deported more in his tenure than any other president. Nevertheless, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining more people under Trump than they did for Obama.
“I think one thing that is important is to remember the number of people removed and the way in which they are removed is very different,” Lopez said. “What we’re seeing now is much more arbitrary enforcement — sweeping up people who match descriptions, who are themselves not the targets of immigration law. We’ve seen horrible cases of border patrol standing in hospitals waiting for someone’s treatment to be done before they deport them.”
Trump's announcement of Betsy DeVos as his nominee for Secretary of Education faced opposition early on. In the second week of February, Vice President Mike Pence, for the first time in history, cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to confirm the cabinet appointment.
Students were divided on campus over the news of her confirmation. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., voiced concern over the failures of charter schools and DeVos advocacy for schools of choice, a controversial program which allows students to use vouchers and move between public, private and charter schools. There has been little evidence for success of such programs.
“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans confirmed Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education,” Stabenow wrote in a press release. “I’ve heard from an overwhelming number of Michigan families who have shared their strong concerns about her long record of pushing policies that have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children.”
Following the confirmation, LSA senior Collin Kelly, former President of College Democrats, said DeVos and her plans for financial aid could end up hurting many students.
“Higher education is more important yet more expensive than ever. Thousands of students here — including me — rely on federal support to come here,” Kelly said. “We need an education secretary who will find ways to increase funding of our schools and universities, not take it away. (College Democrats) don't think Betsy DeVos is someone who will put students first, above special interests and partisanship.”
Since then, DeVos has been criticized by both the left and the right, but has successfully passed some of her plans on higher education. Most notably, DeVos has taken measures to reduce the regulation of for-profit colleges, which critics say will hurt students and allow colleges to take advantage of them.
The move created new committees to rewrite the rules regarding covering borrower defense to repayment and gainful employment. Currently, borrower defense relieves students of loans, in cases where students were coerced into borrowing the money by a college.
Other measures put forth by DeVos include a repurposing of the Pell Grant surplus and reducing grant aid. Through cuts to student aid programs, the Pell Grant program has amassed a $10 billion surplus, which would be repurposed under the current proposed budget.
Nevertheless, DeVos has had a hand in implementing year-round Pell Grants, which will allow students who benefit from the program to get more aid if they enroll in additional classes after grants have already been awarded.
In September, DeVos rolled back Title IX provisions, a statute which guarantees equal protection for women in education and has been recently interpreted to include protections in sexual assault cases. DeVos's new guidelines largely rescinded rules put forth under Obama, which lowered the threshold of evidence needed for guilt in attempt to encourage reporting and support survivors. DeVos’s provisions allow a higher standard and colleges are allowed to choose their standards for themselves. She stated that the lower standards put forth by Obama unfairly harmed those who may be falsely accused.
“The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the ‘victim’ only creates more victims,” DeVos said. “Any perceived offense can become a full-blown Title IX investigation. But if everything is harassment, then nothing is.”
However, in a campus climate survey conducted in 2015, only 3.6 percent of students who experienced sexual assault reported it to an official resource. Considering the low rate of reports, some found it unnecessary to try to decrease the amount of sexual assault survivors who report. Madeline Higgins, a GSI in the Women’s Studies department and a Public Health graduate student, said instead of working to decrease sexual assault reports, federal policy should be working to ensure students feel comfortable and advocated for.
“Through the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos has eliminated many of the protections for survivors of assault at colleges and universities,” Higgins said. “Institutional disengagement from sexual violence propels a sense of complacency and lack of accountability in systems which should be working and advocating for all students.”
Prior to being elected, Trump faced sexual assault accusations of his own. In a video from 2005 that was leaked to the Washington Post, Trump was recorded saying he felt able to “grab (women) by the pussy” a remark that sparked a “pussy hat” movement at protests, despite Trump’s efforts to downplay the remark as “locker room talk.”
After the video, multiple women accused Trump of sexual assault — one of whom subpoenaed all documents related to her in an attempt to prove Trump inappropriately touched her.
In the past year, following the sexual assault allegations against Trump, multiple other celebrities have faced sexual assault and harassment allegations, including big names such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and most recently Louis C.K., sparking a widespread discourse about how much sexual misconduct permeates our society. However, Higgins said this discourse likely won’t help marginalized people who have experienced violence since the spotlight doesn’t shine on social and health impacts they experience.
“I think we have seen an interesting tension between rape culture and uncovering of sexual assault and harassment allegations in the media and Hollywood with cases such as Harvey Weinstein, Mike Oreskes, Bill O'Reilly and Kevin Spacey,” Higgins said. “More than ever we see the effects of violence against marginalized folks in the spotlight but as a society we still don't recognize the social and health impacts on folks who experience violence. I don't think survivors with more marginalized identities will reap the benefits of the media exposure until we see new and intersectional leadership in the White House alongside policy change.”
Days after Trump’s inauguration, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., announced a budget bill that would begin to repeal Obama’s health care law and would include language that would strip Planned Parenthood of more than half a billion dollars in annual federal funding. The bill ultimately did not pass, but reinvigorated a lengthy debate about women’s rights to abortion and contraception.
Though unsuccessful in repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration was able to repeal an ACA provision that required employers to provide free birth control coverage, which gives more than 55 million women access to birth control.
Trump’s mandate expanded exemptions from providing birth control coverage from only religious institutions to all organizations, including hospitals and universities, in order to prevent employers from compromising their religious beliefs by facilitating contraception.
“Congress has a consistent history of supporting conscience protections for moral convictions alongside protections for religious beliefs,” the administration said in a statement.
However, in an interview with The Daily in October, Women’s Studies professor Joanne Motiño Bailey said reducing accessibility to birth control under the guise of protecting morals is irresponsible when so many women would be affected. But the system for providing birth control is faulty to begin with, she said.
“The fact that employers have that power over us is just sort of bizarre,” Bailey said. “I believe that access to reproductive health care, including contraception, should be an individual's choice, not something that should be dictated by one’s employer or the government or by anyone but the individual.”
In October, Ruth Lednicer, Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s director of media and communications, said Planned Parenthood is bracing for more attempts to limit accessibility.
“They are making it very clear that they don’t think women can make health care decisions for themselves. We do expect more attempts like this from the administration,” Lednicer said. “But, it's less about how it affects Planned Parenthood and more about how it affects the individual women.”
Health care is a common topic of debate since Trump’s inauguration, as he made repealing Obamacare a main component of his platform. After multiple failures in passing the legislation in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it might be “time to move on” from attempts to repeal. Regardless, Republicans against Obamacare sought other ways to dismantle the legislation’s provisions.
The Trump administration cut the enrollment period for the health care marketplace in half and closed healthcare.gov for 12 hours every Sunday, and said the IRS would not enforce the individual mandate for eligible individuals, cut funding to groups that help people enroll and pick plans and removed a guarantee of cost-sharing reduction payments for insurance companies.
These actions sparked multiple protests. In July, Ann Arbor residents protested the Republican healthcare bill which would repeal the Affordable Care Act. In Michigan, the effect of these changes are particularly notable, where the uninsured rate of those under 65 and not covered by Medicare dropped to 14.6 percent.
Public Health professor Richard Hirth said in addition to these blows to Obamacare, the Republicans’ tax reform could eliminate Obamacare’s insurance mandate, which penalizes people for not having insurance, and undermine the function of health insurance exchanges.
“Taking away benefits is never easy politically,” Hirth said. “It's made even harder when promises were made that the replacement would deliver coverage that would simultaneously be better and cheaper than Obamacare and those claims are demonstrably false.”
Though Hirth said Michigan’s Medicaid expansion is relatively safe for the time being, it will take actual legislation to dismantle the system completely. Still, he said continued blows to Obamacare can be expected.
“Taking subtle and not-so-subtle actions to destabilize Obamacare and create uncertainty that could cause more insurers to leave the market is a pretty established pattern at this point,” Hirth said. “I'd expect such actions to continue regardless of whether Congress ultimately agrees on legislation.”