Politics

How Has Trump Changed America?

A year ago, a bunch of us made predictions for what this presidency might bring. Now, we’ve reassessed—and found many of them were surprisingly accurate.

Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.
Natalie Matthews-Ramo

Despite the overwhelming evidence that time is a flat circle, Donald Trump has been in office just a hair past one year. Prior to his inauguration, we asked Slate staff and other experts to make predictions on how his presidency would change America. We recently asked the contributors to reassess those predictions, as a window into just how influential—and unpredictable—this presidency has been so far. We weren’t able to evaluate every original prediction here, but we aim to revisit them each year for as long as Trump is in office.

Environment

Prediction, Polar Bears: The Trump administration’s refusal to accept the role human-caused emissions play in climate change will stall meaningful action. The U.S.’s withdrawal from collective action plans including the Paris Agreement will destabilize progress toward emission reduction around the world. As a result, the polar bear, which the Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported as being existentially threatened thanks to diminishing sea ice, will go extinct.

Illustration of Trump tarot cards by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.
Natalie Matthews-Ramo

One Year Later: Too Soon to Tell. Trump did take the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, though how destabilizing that has been to international efforts is unclear. (Given the rest of the world’s feelings about America, perhaps our exit will ultimately serve as a perverse motivation for everyone else to act.) Polar bears are still hanging on for the time being.
—Susan Matthews, Slate science editor

Prediction, Drinking Water: Despite big talk about improving infrastructure, Trump’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency has a penchant for suing the very agency he will lead and a worldview that the states should really be responsible for ensuring that our pipes deliver clean water. With Scott Pruitt in charge, we’ll see one or more public health disasters like the one in Flint, Michigan.

One Year Later: True Enough. It wasn’t Scott Pruitt’s doing, but the inadequate federal response to Hurricane Maria—to which the president’s biggest contributions were throwing paper towels into a crowd and getting mad at the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who is not coincidentally a woman who supported Hillary Clinton—has certainly created a public health crisis that’s unfortunately affected even more Americans than the tragic situation in Flint.
—Ben Mathis-Lilley, chief news blogger

Money

Prediction, Government Spending: Trump wants to be loved, and he will do in office what he did in the private sector: exploit revenue and dump costs on others. So Republicans will not get the entitlement cuts they wanted, and Democrats will get plenty of spending. Trump will screw the future. The deficit and debt will explode.

One Year Later: Mostly True. I got the debt part right but the order wrong. He went for the deficit-exploding tax cuts first. This year, with midterms coming, he looks poised to go for infrastructure spending. Free money for everyone!
—William Saletan, Slate national correspondent

Prediction, Bailouts: The GOP will repeal the mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance while maintaining the popular and more expensive components of the Affordable Care Act (such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions). This will cause the private health insurance industry to approach complete and total financial collapse, requiring an emergency government bailout approximately double in size to the auto bailout of 2008.

One Year Later: In Progress. In a sense, the government bailout is already underway, because even before the mandate repeal, premium increases had brought about larger government subsidies for insurance companies so that buyers can afford their plans. The $9 billion to $10 billion increase for this year is actually about what the auto bailout ultimately cost the federal government in the final analysis, and that’s just this year’s toll. What remains to be seen is whether an emergency one-time bailout will be required. (This will depend on how many people exit the market and how that affects premiums.)
—Jeremy Faust, emergency room physician

Illustration of Trump tarot cards by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.
Natalie Matthews-Ramo.

Prediction, Hospitality: Amid onerous travel restrictions and rising xenophobia under Trump, the United States’ hospitality industry—where more money is spent by international travelers than anywhere else in the world—will sharply contract.

One Year Later: It’s Happening. International visits dropped off this summer, and by October, it was reported that the U.S. was losing billions thanks to the “Trump slump” as U.S. tourism lagged behind that of other nations. In particular, international visits dropped sharply after the announcement of travel bans in January and March. I would pat myself on the back, but this was about as predictable as finding drunk Brits in southern Europe.
—Cara Parks, executive editor of Roads and Kingdoms

Prediction, Charity: Whether the revised tax code hews closer to the vision of Donald Trump or Paul Ryan, several provisions—a lower cap on itemized deductions and a lower top tax rate, for example—will reduce incentives for charitable giving. As a result, charities and nonprofits will struggle as contributions fall.

One Year Later: Right Prediction, Wrong Time? Trump’s first year was characterized by a series of giving frenzies tied to the news cycle, from the Women’s March to the travel ban to the Charlottesville attack to the natural disasters late this summer in Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida, and the Antilles. Planned Parenthood saw gifts rise from $445.8 million to $532.7 million in the fiscal year ending June 30; the ACLU saw its donations nearly triple in the year ending March 31, from $106.6 million to $274.1 million, with a website-crashing spike after the organization helped sue for an injunction on the travel ban. “That is the Trump effect,” its executive director said at the time. That said, the GOP tax plan signed in late December did double the standard deduction, culling the share of taxpayers who will save money by giving to charity from 30 to 5 percent. All but the highest earners will find their incentive to give reduced, which may change both the amount and the character of donations. Meanwhile, well-off homeowners in blue states will find they have less disposable income thanks to the new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. A May study out of Indiana University predicts giving could fall by $4.9 billion to $13.1 billion. Seems likely, but I’ve been wrong before.
—Henry Grabar, Slate staff writer

Illustration of Trump tarot cards by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.
Natalie Matthews-Ramo

Prediction, Silicon Valley: Trump will publicly feud with Apple over taxes, gay rights, and/or surveillance and privacy. The spat will make Apple products “cool” again, if only briefly, and sales of its devices will spike.

One Year Later: Completely Wrong: In fact, Apple announced a major push to bring jobs back to the United States, prompting a thank-you call from Trump to Tim Cook and allowing Trump to claim a win for his agenda.
—Will Oremus, Slate senior technology writer

Prediction, Income Inequality: Once the Republicans pass large, upper-income tax cuts, not only will the top 1 percent take home more of the country’s income, but affluent Americans will grow even more focused on acquiring wealth. Low income taxes on the wealthiest encourage executives and professionals to spend more energy bargaining for higher pay, because they get to keep more of it (a theory proposed by Thomas Piketty and others). We are likely to see CEO wages increase beyond their already atmospheric levels.

One Year Later: So, stage one is in the bag.
—Jordan Weissmann, Slate senior business correspondent

Art

Prediction, Celebrity Candidates: We are going to see a swift incursion of left-leaning pop culture celebrities entering electoral politics. The Democrats are in horrific shape, and while their political bench can’t match the GOP’s, their celebrity bench absolutely dwarfs the right’s. This past election proves there’s no reason for the famous and the opinionated not to run. Maybe Bernie would have beaten Trump; I think Oprah or Tom Hanks absolutely would have. This development will probably be bad for America but still better than anything else that’s happened since November.

One Year Later: Nailed It. Honestly, back when I wrote this it was at least halfway tongue-in-cheek. Then Oprah gave her speech at the Golden Globes a few weeks ago and suddenly we were waist-deep in 10,000 think pieces and now I just wish I’d never said anything. One of the most depressing things about the Trump era is how quickly farce becomes reality, currently also known as tragedy. For the record, I don’t think any celebrities should run for major public office, with the exception of former NBA All-Star and current Laura Dern boyfriend Baron Davis, who definitely should.
—Jack Hamilton, Slate pop critic

Illustration of Trump tarot cards by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.
Natalie Matthews-Ramo

Prediction, Television Tropes: As we witness more and more anti-social behavior at the highest levels of government, the antihero trope will lose traction in popular culture. The spectacle of strong men transgressing norms in service of their own moral codes will be less and less appealing, and television and movies will pull back from pro-machismo stories with fascist undertones.

One Year Later, Right-ish: As Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote in his year-end best-of list, it now seems like the rise of Trump was “eerily predicted by TV’s antihero era,” and we’re now onto something else. Old habits die hard, though, and I’m currently watching Netflix’s gory vigilante show The Punisher while streaming services cancel a passel of experimental, woman-led comedies. At least the most critically acclaimed shows of 2017—The Handmaid’s Tale, GLOW, The Deuce—show we’re no longer stuck on exploring the psychology of violent men who do what they want.
—Rebecca Onion, Slate staff writer

Prediction, Music: After Trump’s election, some started saying, “Well, at least the music will get good.” But there’s no direct link between “political” music and good music. As in the ’60s, what’s most distinguished the engaged sound of the late Obama era, from Hamilton’s Broadway to Kendrick Lamar’s L.A. and Maren Morris’ Nashville, isn’t literal protest, but a radical sense of possibility. Now, instead of the vitality of anti–Thatcher/Reagan punk, we could as easily get the defeated blandness of the Nixon years. (Witness the stunted aesthetic of Trump’s inaugural concerts.) Artists’ role isn’t to lead but to reflect our energies back transformed, the better for us to feel them. Unless the rest of us create cultures of support and resistance, today’s angry beats could be drowned out by escapist lullabies.

One Year Later: Correct. 2017 did turn out to be an extraordinary year for music, but only secondarily through either explicit protest or hedonistic escape. Rather, the dominant key was mixed emotions, of defiance blended with sadness, irreverence combined with introspection. Young artists like SZA, Kesha, Kendrick Lamar, and in her own way Cardi B, as well as many veterans embodied resistance in the integrity and singularity of their expressive abilities. They insisted on private experience being brought to bear on public life, a political lesson that goes back to the foundations of modern feminism—showing by example how to keep the bastards from grinding us down.
—Carl Wilson, Slate music critic

Well-being

Prediction, Disabilities: The Americans With Disabilities Act will become harder to enforce due to GOP-led “ADA Notifications“ bills; more disabled people will end up institutionalized (prisons, psych wards, nursing homes); and with a GOP repeal of the ACA, even greater numbers of disabled Americans will die or fall below the poverty line.

One Year Later: Incorrect. Fortunately, despite total control of Congress, the Republicans were unable to pass their most destructive bills. The House GOP passed HR 620 last week, though, which would essentially make the Americans With Disabilities Act optional. (We’ll see about the Senate.) The attempt to destroy Medicaid was only stopped due to heroic action from ADAPT and others, but Paul Ryan has announced that due to budget deficits (which his tax plan exacerbates), he’ll look to add work requirements and lifetime caps on Medicaid, pushing people with disabilities toward poverty.
—David M. Perry, columnist covering disability and history for Pacific Standard

Prediction, Anxiety: The fearmongering and pending dissolution of so many bedrocks of our society is injecting a potent dose of anxiety into people’s lives. In response, there will be a rise in prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. I also worry that patients will start hoarding these medications, preparing to ration them out to themselves during the upcoming lean times.

One Year Later: Correct. While prescription data for 2017 are not available (yet), I have definitely noticed an increase in the generalized anxiety among my patients. Those who are immigrants are particularly affected and worry constantly that they or a family member or friend might be deported. The majority of my patients fall into at least one of the groups that Trump has demonized or threatened. Many more patients bring up politics in the exam room than in prior years. The worry about loss of health care access is persistent too—for both my patients and my colleagues.
—Danielle Ofri, physician and medical writer

Justice

Prediction, Voting Rights: The Department of Justice under new attorney general Jeff Sessions will reverse his department’s challenges to the legality of Texas’ voter ID law and North Carolina’s law making it harder to register and to vote, leading more Republican states to adopt similar restrictive laws even before the Supreme Court may weigh in on these issues.

One Year Later: Mostly Correct. The Department of Justice indeed has flipped to side with Texas in the case challenging the state’s strict voter identification law and flipped to side with Ohio in a case about the state making it easier to purge eligible voters from the voting rolls. (The Supreme Court did not take the North Carolina voting case on technical reasons that I hope I inspired.) Republican states continue to push for new laws making it harder to register and vote as the rest of us wait for eventual signals from the Supreme Court over whether actions like Texas’ and Ohio’s are acceptable.
—Richard L. Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California–Irvine School of Law

Prediction, Abortion: A bitter stew of anti-woman laws and policies cooked up by anti-abortion forces—blacklisting Planned Parenthood, excluding contraception from health insurance, cutting Title X family planning, further restricting and stigmatizing abortion services—will increase unintended pregnancies and abortions and push abortions later in pregnancy, out of state, and outside medical supervision, with ever-growing inequality in harms across states and wealth. That said, the American people will resist through lobbying, litigation, politics, and protest at levels unseen since the Reagan administration, though concrete success will be scarce until the 2018 elections, when Congress and the statehouses will become more pro-woman, pro-choice, and Democratic.

One Year Later: Too True. The outrageous disrespect and harm done to women by Trump policies has surpassed my fears: targeting the most vulnerable women in the U.S. and around the world—undocumented minors, rape victims, the poor—for interference with their personal reproductive health decisions in ways not seen in the 45 years since Roe v. Wade. But even before the 2018 elections, women are rising. See, for example, Virginia House of Delegates, millions marching, tens of thousands running for office—and then there’s #MeToo. November 2018 looms large.
—Dawn Johnsen, Walter W. Foskett professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Prediction, Unions: A conservative justice will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, conservatives will bring forward another suit to gut public sector unions, and public sector union membership will significantly decrease.

One Year Later: Yup. Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court, the suit has been brought forward, and Supreme Court oral arguments will be heard on Feb. 26.
—Jim Newell, Slate staff writer

Prediction, Cybersecurity: Despite much talk of “the cyber” from the new administration, there will be no actual decrease in the number of successful cyberattacks on companies and government organizations.

One Year Later: Too True. We saw everything from megabreaches like Equifax that were stunning in scale to spikes in new areas like ransomware. Most worrisome, though, is that the Trump administration continued to do effectively nothing in the wake of the most successful and important cyberattack campaign in history, Russia’s targeting of American and allied democracies. The signal that they, and every other would-be attacker, took is the opposite of cyber deterrence: “all gain, no pain.”—Peter W. Singer, security expert and senior fellow at New America

Norms

Prediction, History: Authoritarians love to think they are making history and never hesitate to rewrite the past to suit their political agendas. Expect Trump’s administration to use a heavy hand on our national past. In keeping with the racist platform he ran his campaign on, there will be a concerted effort to delegitimize the history of civil rights struggles in our country.
Trump’s attacks on Rep. John Lewis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend are part of this. At the same time, his administration will seek to normalize past government repressions against nonwhites—such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II—using these episodes to legitimize any actions against Muslims, immigrants, or other potential target populations. “Make America Great Again” will entail whitewashing its history.

One Year Later: In Progress. We need only look at Trump’s handling of the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville in August, his empowerment of ICE (deportations of noncriminals have doubled over the past year), and his openly racist comments about people of color (from protesting NFL players to people from “shithole” countries) to see how intent he is to dismiss America’s pluralistic history. In appealing only to the myth of a white European-origin Christian identity, he is creating a class of undesirables within the state—a move straight from the authoritarian playbook.
—Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history at New York University

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