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Elected as Disrupter, Trump Now Faces Test of Governance


It has been only six months since real estate developer Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in one of the most divisive political campaigns in U.S. history.

Trump has struggled to make major progress in his early months as president. One of those moments came last Thursday when Republicans narrowly pushed a health care replacement bill through the House of Representatives, the first step toward Trump’s campaign goal of repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

The Republican bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, but House approval was a moment of triumph for a new president often frustrated during his early days in the White House. Trump was clearly excited as he addressed Republican lawmakers at the White House. “Coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time, how am I doing? Am I doing OK? I’m president. Hey, I’m president! Can you believe it, right?”

Trump: ‘Make No Mistake, This is Repeal and Replace of Obamacare’


Steep learning curve

Trump has faced a steep learning curve as president. He followed through on his promise to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court, but continues to face obstacles on tax reform, government spending and health care.

Even as president, Trump often likes to reflect back on his stunning election victory last November. “What fun that was, November 8th. Wasn’t that a great evening?” Trump mused aloud at a gathering of the National Rifle Association last month.

Meanwhile, opposition Democrats continue to wrestle with their new role after controlling the White House for eight years under Obama. But in the short term the Trump presidency has also fired up Democratic resistance.

FILE - President Donald Trump watches as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administers the judicial oath to Judge Neil Gorsuch during a re-enactment in the Rose Garden of the White House White House in Washington, April 10, 2017.
FILE - President Donald Trump watches as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administers the judicial oath to Judge Neil Gorsuch during a re-enactment in the Rose Garden of the White House White House in Washington, April 10, 2017.

Democrats fired up

Democrats say millions of people may not be able to afford health insurance under Trump’s plan, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi warns Republicans could pay a political price in next year’s midterm elections.

“Some of you have said, ‘Well they will fix it in the Senate.’ But you have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one!”

Democrats have been out in force at town hall meetings held by Republican House members and vow to transfer that energy to House and Senate races in next year’s midterm elections.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington after the Republican health care bill, a top-flight priority the party, passed the House, May 4, 2017.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington after the Republican health care bill, a top-flight priority the party, passed the House, May 4, 2017.

Turning campaign promises into results

Trump came into office vowing to disrupt the political establishment, but turning that into presidential action has been difficult. “Getting elected and governing are two very different things,” said Brookings Institution analyst John Hudak. “And so the least experienced president in American history came to office and surrounded himself with people who lacked experience in federal public management, federal policy making and federal law making, and so that creates a perfect storm for Mr. Trump.”

During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump often bragged about his deal-making abilities, and he will have opportunities to prove that down the road, said Brookings scholar William Galston who took part in a recent roundtable discussion on Trump’s first 100 days in office.

“In the last analysis, I think that Trump’s desire to be a winner may in fact overcome all of his other instincts.”

FILE - Supporters of Donald Trump cheer as he arrives to a campaign rally, Sept. 17, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
FILE - Supporters of Donald Trump cheer as he arrives to a campaign rally, Sept. 17, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Big test to come

What happens in the months ahead when Trump tries to turn his political disruption campaign into action will be a true test, said Manuel Muniz, an international relations scholar at Harvard University, who spoke to VOA’s Georgian Service.

“It is probably going to show us how much margin of maneuver and power a U.S. president really has because we are going to see this tug of war when the checks and balances play out and by the end we will probably know how disruptive one single individual or a small group of individuals at the helm of the government can be.”

As a businessman, Trump was used to getting his way. But now, even with the enormous power of the presidency, Donald Trump is finding out just how difficult politics can be, even for a political disrupter who shocked the nation and the world with his victory a mere six months ago.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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