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Year of Trump: A Retrospective on the POTUS’ First Year

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A year ago today, Americans woke up with the knowledge that Donald Trump was their next president. At Shawnee Mission East, students and teachers felt a range of emotions. Some came into school crying, while others decked themselves out in MAGA gear.

Since Donald Trump’s upset win one year ago, America has changed drastically. With a President who stirs up constant controversy with his tweets, rhetoric and overall demeanor, we have seen political ideologies clash more than ever.

The Harbinger has compiled views from across the spectrum with the hope of combatting division with discussions that promote tolerance and understanding.

Join The Harbinger in reliving the past year of President Trump and see how it has affected Shawnee Mission East.

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By Robbie Veglahn | Anti-Trump

Ah, Twitter. The place I go to watch old Vines and Chiefs highlights when I should be doing Stats homework; a place that’s full of memes and spats between rappers and overpaid athletes. But since the election of Donald Trump last November, Twitter has become a direct line into the mind of one of the most polarizing and powerful men in this century.

One year of tweets later, we are faced with record low approval ratings, a mixed bag of economic success and a divided nation that refuses to listen to one another. A year later, President Trump has delivered on some of his election promises: which is exactly why Americans should be concerned.

Behind the veil of the chaos and the headlines of this tumultuous first year, the Trump administration is quietly getting things done. While President Trump and his administration distract the American people, sensible gun laws are being removed and halted, environmental protections are being removed and people are being appointed who will change this nation’s regulatory landscape forever. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson put it, “I’m glad that Trump is drawing all the fire so I can get stuff done.”

While 65 percent of Americans believe Trump has accomplished little to nothing according to Politico, he’s accomplished plenty, just most of it has been negative. Through his liberal use of executive orders – 51 in his first year compared to Obama’s average of 35 per year according to business insider – Trump has been pushing his agenda.

In one of his first actions as president, he blocked the Social Security Administration from reporting mentally ill people to a national background check database, making it easier for those with mental illness to get a gun. The administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are poised to scrap the Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb climate change. His appointments of unqualified department heads like businesswoman Betsy Devos for education, attorney general Jeff Sessions, and son-in-law Jared Kushner as his senior advisor have been shrouded in scandal.

But more dangerous than the legislation, than the people he continues to surround himself with, than borderline abuse of power is the rhetoric that continues to pour out of the oval office, often in the form of 140 character rants.

When it comes to the office of the president, the things that are said have massive implications on not just domestic society, but how the world views our nation. And when the President of the United States uses a social media app to make statements on domestic and foreign policy, the world starts to take notice.

The President of the United States, like a teenager subtweeting someone who stole their boyfriend, blamed the latest terrorist attack in New York on legislation he said was passed by Democrat Chuck Schumer – legislation, it turned out, that was actually passed by a bi-partisan committee of both Democrats and Republicans.

The President of the United States, after a report about the number of sexual assaults in the Armed Forces, asked in a tweet what America “expected when they put men and women together” in the military.

The President of the United States not only bragged that “nobody could have done what [he’s] done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation” after the devastation of Hurricane Irma, but attacked the “poor leadership ability [of] the Mayor of San Juan.”

Some people like the strong voice that is coming through the Oval, and believe it is good to show strength in this ever-changing world of foreign policy. I couldn’t agree more – but this strength must come in the form of press briefings or meetings with foreign leaders, not on millions of phone screens.

When the President of the United States uses the same social media outlet that teens use to rant about their parents to make threats with nuclear implications on North Korea, the entire credibility and respect of the nation is put up to question. It’s hard for foreign leaders and countries to take a President seriously if time and again he refuses to act Presidential.

All this considered, his first year has not been all bad. In the short term, the economy under Trump has had some bright spots. The stock market surpassed the the 22,000 mark for the first time ever under Trump, according to The New York Times. Unemployment has dropped to 4.3 percent, its lowest rate since 2001. This is all good, but many economists fear that these short-term gains are just that – short-term. According to a survey of 2,500 high-profile economists done by the National Association for Business Economics, the GDP growth of 3 percent this year is expected to taper off to below 1 percent.

Just like most issues right now, many people in this country are divided about Trump’s job performance. His impact on legislation can be argued on both sides.

But a year later of angry tweets calling out individuals, of gloating about his successes, of making statements that have been proved untrue, it’s indisputable that this man has been acting far from presidential. And with some of the most important foreign policy decisions in recent memory looming over the next three years, I hope that my president will start to realize the implications of his actions.

By Reser Hall | Pro-Trump

Waking up and seeing a Twitter notification from President Trump warms my heart, which is probably quite different than how most people feel. Having a commander-in-chief that is willing to speak out when he sees something he doesn’t like is a refreshing quality I enjoy having in the Oval Office––It also doesn’t hurt that we agree on most things.

Summarizing President Trump’s first year as President is mostly positive, with some negatives that are just as important. But I wake up with the joy of a child on Christmas morning knowing that Hillary Clinton doesn’t occupy the most powerful office in the world.

President Trump has brought leadership back to the Oval Office. Unlike the Obama administration and their lack of action in Syria after drawing the “red line,” the Trump administration proved that there will be an American response if there is wrongdoing. He stood up to the Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria when the regime bombed their own citizens with chemical weapons. The US military responded by destroying parts of the Shayrat Air Force base, which is where the chemical attack was traced back to. As a believer in the idea that the world is a safer place when America is in the driver’s seat, this was a good start for the Trump administration.

In addition to getting America back in the driver’s seat abroad, he has made a great step to keeping a conservative edge in the Supreme Court which includes President Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the most powerful court in America. This appointment keeps the conservative majority on the court intact. Gorsuch’s presence on the Supreme Court keeps the country from going in a liberal direction in the interpretation of the laws, which is one of the most important things for me because I want the justices to be originalists, or interpret the Constitution the way the Founders meant it when they wrote it. I will also be able to see the effects of Gorsuch’s term in my lifetime. The last thing we need is progressive jurists moving the country further left.

The economy at home has also improved across the board since Trump was elected. With job-killing regulations being cut left and right, and a pro-business President, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been hitting new milestones seemingly every month. Since last November, the Dow has gone from just under 19,000 to over 23,000, which has earned investors over $4 trillion dollars. In another area of the economy there were 261,000 jobs added to the economy in October. This sent the unemployment rate down to 4.1%, which is the lowest it has been in 17 years.

President Trump is making progress with the rogue regime of North Korea as well. His steps include the addition of more far-reaching sanctions that target any person or company doing business with North Korea, which discourages anyone outside of North Korea from doing business with the Hermit Kingdom. In addition to sanctions, the rhetoric President Trump is throwing at “Little Rocket Man” is refreshing. I love to see that after years of following North Korea’s lead, we are finally facing the situation head-on. It’s about time they get the taste of their own medicine. It is nice to know that there is a man in the Oval Office who won’t put up with the schoolyard antics of North Korea.

While I approve of the majority of Trump’s actions as President, there have been mistakes as well, such as the Republican’s fumbling health care reform. Another downside is the lack of cooperation between the parties on Capitol Hill. While you would hope that Trump’s negotiating power would do something about this, it is only natural that the Democrats get in the way of legislative action after years of obstruction from the Republicans during the Obama administration.

In the first year of his term, President Trump has accomplished a lot, which might come as a surprise to you if you watch CNN. However, he has also exposed his Achilles heel: himself. He can’t get out of his own way at times. There needs to be more restraint when he is attempting to make big legislative changes. He tends to not be the best communicator and that hurts the chances of getting his signature reforms through. While it hurts me to say this, it wouldn’t kill him to stay away from Twitter for a day or two every once in a while.

President Trump has actually done a pretty remarkable job, even when he is under unbelievable scrutiny from the mainstream media. There has yet to be a morning since the election where I wake up and regret supporting Donald Trump for President.

APPROVAL AT EAST Poll

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In his farewell address, George Washington warned our nation about the dangers of political parties. He spoke about the importance of moderacy and its capability of calming polar opinions.

If Washington saw the growing division of parties that exists today—well, he would probably hop right back into his time machine, muttering ‘I told you so’ through his wooden teeth.

The discussion of the polarization of political parties is nothing new; the gap has been widening for almost a decade, and we were warned of the effects centuries ago. But we need to do more than recognize that polarization exists. We need to start by looking inward to help fix the archaic problem.

As people gravitate to extreme sides of the spectrum and cling to their ideological labels, they often lose their ability to understand opposing points of view.

The ability to not only understand, but address the opposing argument is one of the most important characteristics of a strong argument. However, people instead tend to not even seek out other views at all. 47 percent of Clinton supporters and 31 percent of Trump supporters say they have no close friends on the opposing side, according to a 2017 study from Pew Research Center.

The tendency to listen to what we agree with extends to news as well—people tend to watch channels that lean the same way as them. According to Pew Research center, the Fox News audience was 14 points more Republican than the general public, and the regular CNN audience was 15 points more Democratic than the general public.

We listen to what we agree with, and we in turn foster an inability to understand opposing viewpoints, leading to partisan antipathy.

According to Pew Research Center, the number of Republicans who have very unfavorable opinions of the Democratic Party has increased from 17 to 43 percent in the last 20 years, while the number of Democrats with very negative opinions of the Republican party has increased from 16 to 38 percent.

Data shows that parties are separating, but why? And why should we care?

Because as antipathy rises, conservatives are more consistently pegged as ignorant racists, homophobes and fascists, while liberals are pegged as baby-killing, anti-gun snowflakes. Without discussions between the parties, these stereotypes grow and in turn breed more animosity.

Those who don’t want to be pegged as either of these extremes resort to identifying themselves as moderate or independent. Because independents can’t vote in the closed Republican or Democratic primaries, we continue to elect such polarizing figures (i.e. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.) The people electing candidates are often extreme in their own beliefs.

See the problem? It’s a vicious cycle.

I’ve been terrified to share my own beliefs in a socratic seminar after a classmate said, “I’m ready to tear [people with opposing views] to shreds.” I’ve judged people by their political beliefs because I expected stereotypes to be true. And I’ve seen people get verbally attacked, without getting a chance to articulate their opinion.

We need to challenge ourselves by seeking out the opposing view and actually listen. Watch unbiased news. Try taking the other side of an argument once in a while. We need to deny stereotypes, and understand that others may actually know something you don’t.

If we can’t have difficult, but necessary discussions, we can’t expect to find common ground or change.

Our founding fathers were onto something: as political parties divide, we can’t lose the ability to reason.

We have to start listening.

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No two words at a Donald Trump rally electrify the crowd like “Fake News.” The term is a rallying call for people on the right and a thorn in the side for people on the left. With President Trump calling the more liberal-leaning stations fake, liberals feel threatened.

Fake news has never had anything to do with the validity of the news sources; the problem is the bias that distorts the truth and the blatant ignoring of stories that target the media’s liberal counterparts. By calling the mainstream media fake news, all Trump is doing is drawing attention to how slanted the mainstream media is.

Trump’s fake news argument was a tenet of President Trump’s campaign that helped propel him to the Republican nomination and eventually, to the presidency. It resonated with the American people and many Americans agree with Trump on fake news. According to a Harvard-Harris poll conducted back in May, 65 percent of voters think there is a lot of fake news in the media.

CNN and the New York Times are the greatest offenders. Fake news has nothing to do with the news itself, but the way liberal bias impacts everything the mainstream media does. Whenever Trump does something good, they will report it briefly then move to the Russian investigation. This happens almost every time. When positive numbers come out about the economy, nothing. When Trump makes any sort of slip up, CNN jumps on it like a dog seeing meat for the first time.  But when AntiFa, an “anti-fascist” group that takes to the street for violent protest, attacks actual peaceful protesters, nothing.

I would be ignorant to say that this is all one sided. Of course this happens with Fox News as well, but not to the same extent. During President Obama’s first year in office, one of Fox News’s headline shows, Special Report, 27 percent of their reporting was positive towards President Obama, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Where we stand today in the early days of the Trump Presidency, only five percent of the news media coverage about President Trump has been positive, according to Pew Research Center. The notion that Fox News treated President Obama just as badly as the media is treating President Trump is garbage and there are numbers to prove it.

This study took into account news outlets ranging from CNN and Fox News to talk radio and NPR.  CNN and the New York Times choose to ignore stories at times to keep up with their anti-Trump shtick.

For example, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez’s trial. He and one of his cronies are being charged with 18 counts of bribery and fraud. A U.S. senator being accused of bribery and fraud sounds like a pretty big deal, right? A big enough deal to be the top story in an evening newscast, right? Well, not to CNN, you rarely hear about it. Instead, all they focus on is the Russian collusion investigation.

During the presidential campaign, the New York Times and CNN decided that Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States and decided to make candidate Trump’s life difficult. Both news outlets went out of their way to create negative press about Trump, trying to poke holes in him throughout the campaign, but were unsuccessful. The most prominent example of this was when the Access Hollywood tape was leaked to the media and plastered on every TV in America for days.

The media and the Democratic party still don’t understand and probably never will. They all take the term fake news too literally. This signature punchline completely disarms anyone from CNN and the New York Times when they ask him questions. Trump has successfully painted their legitimate, but heavily slanted, coverage as fake to his supporters. Once you get that reputation as a news agency, it is hard to get out of that shadow.

Anyone remotely close to the Trump Train doesn’t, and will probably never, believe a thing CNN or the New York Times says, without taking it with a grain of salt. It’s the same principle of a Republican getting called a racist during a political debate. Once you have been labeled a racist, nobody will take your opinions at face value.

The constant negative coverage causes his supporters to become more polarized behind Trump, while everyone else is polarized to the other side. This is what is causing the vacuum between parties and the increased division in this nation. The mainstream media has become so skewed that people are being forced to pick sides when they should just be able to stay in the middle. These same independents can’t find decent news to watch since the only news is either skewed to the left or to the right.

The fake news media should stop with the constant negativity toward Trump and come more towards the center on the political spectrum. They should consider throwing some of the positive things that President Trump has done into their news cycles once in a while. They should do their job and report all of the news, not just moan about how bad Trump is around the clock.

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Kaleigh Koc

Senior Kaleigh Koc is co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harbinger Online. She is also involved in choir, Coalition and is a SHARE chair. In her free time, she can be found taking accidental three hour naps. She is most excited to befriend new staffers and watch them fall in love with journalism. Read Full »

Reser Hall

Reser Hall is a senior at SME and is the co-editor of the Harbinger Online. He is also a copy editor and on the editorial board. In addition to Harbinger, Reser is the Vice President of the Young Republicans Club, member of DECA, Student Court Committee Chair on Student Council and is a member of the golf team. When Reser is not in the J-room, he can be found on the golf course or at the Village Chipotle. Read Full »

Lila Tulp

Lila Tulp is a sophomore at Shawnee Mission East and is starting her second semester on staff as Print Features Editor and Ads and Business Manager for The Harbinger. When she's not procrastinating on her stories or forgetting to sign up on the Trello boards, she enjoys playing tennis, running and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy. Lila can’t wait to build on her skills and work with the other staffers throughout the year. Read Full »

Avery Walker

Avery Walker is a senior at Shawnee Mission East and has been on staff for one year. He is the Video Editor. When he isn’t making videos for The Harbinger you can find him working and hanging out with friends. He is excited to improve his skills as a staffer this year and learn as much about journalism as possible. Read Full »

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