Kayleigh McEnany is a CNN commentator. She received her J.D. at Harvard Law School, and she studied politics at Oxford University. Kayleigh is a contributor at The Hill and columnist for Above the Law. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.
The 2016 election highlighted a deep, stark divide between how the political and punditry class think -- and how the American people vote.
Resisting a slew of slanderous allegations of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other “-isms” that preoccupied the media, a wide swath of voters saw through the sensational and voted on the sensible – the issues that affect their everyday lives.
Donald Trump became President of the United States because of a simple but potent combination of promises: draining the swamp, building the wall, correcting free trade imbalances, and making America great again. Those were sufficient to break through the salacious headlines and deliver him 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Remaining at the nation's most powerful address will depend on turning these promises into policy.
Commentators and many politicians failed to see the impending Trump victory, and in much the same fashion, today they likewise miss the heartland's view of Trump's young presidency.
The grim summation of the naysayers goes something like this: Trump colluded with the Russians; the healthcare bill nosedived; the travel ban is blocked; and Trump is a failed president. But between Los Angeles and New York, middle America sees a different story altogether.
Before taking office, Trump made headlines when he haggled with the Carrier CEO to bring hundreds of recently lost jobs back to the U.S.; called out Boeing for its too-costly, multibillion dollar Air Force One replacement plans; and began the ultimately successful negotiations with Lockheed Martin to bring down the price of its F-35s.
Trump arrived at the White House with new rules: No departed officials could engage in foreign lobbying and domestic lobbying would have to wait five years. He vowed not to take a salary, donating his first-quarter earnings to the National Park Service. And even though conflict of interest laws do not apply to the president,Trump put his business holdings in a trust operated by his sons and promised to give profits his hotels make from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.
Trump began his term by forcefully delivering on his vows to American voters – ordering the construction of a wall on the southern border and approving construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, withdrawing from the unpopular Obama-era Transpacific Partnership (TPP), rescinding business-crushing regulations, and quite literally “bombing the hell out of ISIS” by dropping a 21,000 pound bomb that killed 36 militants in Afghanistan.
His single most significant achievement was his nomination of now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose confirmation will likely safeguard for decades the seat held by conservative legend Antonin Scalia.
When a judge temporarily restrained Trump's much-promised pause on travel from countries compromised by terrorism, Trump did not relent. He issued a second order, one that he is still defending amid ongoing litigation.
Untethered from the rigid confines of hardline liberal or conservative ideology, candidate Trump showed a willingness to defy his party in word, but President Trump displayed a willingness to do it in action.
But perhaps more notable than Trump's kept promises are the times when he broke from Republican Party doctrine. Untethered from the rigid confines of hardline liberal or conservative ideology, candidate Trump showed a willingness to defy his party in word, but President Trump displayed a willingness to do it in action.
Rather than offering a straight repeal of Obamacare, Trump extended a compromise. The American Healthcare Act offered tax credits to millions at risk of losing health care and continued two popular Obamacare policies. The deal was unpalatable to anti-entitlement conservatives, and these expensive but fair provisions deprived the president of an immediate victory, but he is still intent on crafting a replacement plan.
Trump once again disregarded ideological lines with his targeted Syrian airstrikes, but this time he defied not his party but elements of his base in a move that was commended widely. After seeing the ghastly images of children brutally murdered with chemical weapons by the Assad regime, Trump acted, sending a powerful message and warning to bad actors worldwide. Trump's action risked angering his base, to whom he had promised tactical isolationism, but the strikes were the morally correct response to a heinous attack on humanity.
While the left will attempt to drown out Trump's political accomplishments with unfounded allegations of Russian collusion, the voters who made Trump commander-in-chief will likely reach a different conclusion.
Trump has proven himself loyal to the voters who put him there. But more than that, he is showing himself to be one of America's few post-partisan presidents – putting people before party.
In its early days, Trump's presidency ought to be viewed as the arduous start to the complicated task of draining the Washington swamp. He came to Washington with the promise to change it – to rid the behemoth of special interests that seek to silence the voter, to deliver on his promises no matter the cost, and to depart from party lines when the facts demand it.
The ultimate assessment of Trump's hundred days and the rest of his term will not be rendered now by hostile foes obsessed with the sensational, which is often the irrelevant, but four years from now by American voters who will measure Trump's presidency by the results they see and feel in their daily lives.
Photography by David Hume Kennerly.