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Expect a lot more of the same if Trump wins a second term

  • Published at 05:34 pm November 3rd, 2020
US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump gestures as he leaves after holding a campaign rally at Fayetteville Regional Airport in Fayetteville, North Carolina, US, November 2, 2020 Reuters

If Trump gets another 4 years in office, there’s no indication of any big policy shift

President Donald Trump has consistently pointed to tax cuts and regulatory relief as key successes of his first four years in office. 

He has repeatedly pushed for the end of the Obama-era health law but has yet to deliver a plan to replace it. And he has spent most of this year defending his response to the coronavirus pandemic while fighting openly with scientists and medical experts about vaccines, treatments and more.

If he gets another four years in office, there’s no indication of any big policy shift.

A glimpse at how a second Trump term might look:

Economy, taxes and the debt

Low unemployment and a soaring stock market were Trump’s calling cards before the pandemic. While the stock market clawed its way back after cratering in the early weeks of the crisis, unemployment stands at 7.9%, and the nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost since the pandemic began exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-09 Great Recession.

And by Friday, Wall Street had closed out another punishing week with the S&P 500 posting its first back-to-back monthly loss since the pandemic first gripped the economy in March. Much of the market’s focus has been on what’s to come for the economy when coronavirus counts are rising at troubling rates across Europe and the United States.

Trump has predicted that the US economy will rebound in late 2020 and take off like a “rocket ship” in 2021. He promises that coronavirus vaccine or effective therapeutics will soon be available, allowing life to get back to normal. His push for a payroll tax cut over the summer was thwarted by stiff bipartisan opposition. But winning a second term — and a mandate from voters — could help him resurrect the idea.

An analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Trump’s plan would increase the debt by about $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s on top of the $13 trillion in deficits the country is already expected to run up during that time.

Coronavirus pandemic

Trump insists that the country is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic and has stepped up calls on Democratic governors to lift coronavirus restrictions in their states.

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But Trump’s sunny outlook belies the ground truth in many states — including several critical to his path to 270 Electoral College votes — that have seen a surge in the virus.

The president has often disputed medical experts in his own administration, among them infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, on key issues surrounding the virus, including the timing of a vaccine, the need for social distancing and the importance of masks to contain the virus. His campaign rallies were filled with people gathered less than 6 feet apart without masks. His announcement of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was widely regarded to be a super spreader event after he and several other people in attendance were diagnosed with the virus.

Trump spent three days at Walter Reed National Medical Centre after his diagnosis. One of the drugs he received, remdesivir, has since been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of Covid-19.

Trump also says he’s “pretty damn certain” that vaccines and new treatments for the virus are coming in the not-so-distant future. Scientists are more cautious about the timing.

Congress passed and Trump signed into law a more than $2 trillion coronavirus relief package earlier this year, but the two sides have been unable to agree on an additional aid package.

Health care

As a candidate for the White House, Trump promised that he would “immediately” replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law with a plan of his own that would provide “insurance for everybody” with lower costs. Americans are still waiting for a pan that Trump has been teasing for many months.

He may be counting on the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear a case challenging “Obamacare” soon after the election. The court now has a solid conservative majority with the confirmation of Barrett as a justice.

Trump officials say the administration has made strides by championing transparency on hospital prices, pursuing a range of actions to curb prescription drug costs and expanding lower-cost health insurance alternatives for small businesses and individuals. But those incremental steps fall far short of the sweeping changes he promised.


Trump worked through his first term to sharply curtail both legal and illegal immigration. Expect that to continue if he wins a second term.

One of his top priorities would be to use agreements with Central American governments as models to get countries around the world to field asylum claims from people seeking refuge in the United States, a top adviser, Stephen Miller, recently told The Associated Press. He said the agreements would help stop “asylum fraud, asylum shopping and asylum abuse on a global scale.”

Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the US border with Mexico was a hallmark of his first presidential campaign and four years in office. Trump is expected to continue to trumpet progress after having completed nearly 400 miles of wall construction, though most of that replaced existing smaller barriers.

Trump has yet to outline second-term immigration priorities in detail, though he has openly toyed with trying to repeal a constitutional right to citizenship for anyone born in the United States.

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His administration has long pursued a zero-tolerance policy to crack down on illegal immigration, and thousands of children were separated from their parents after crossing the border illegally. The administration was roundly criticized for its actions.

Foreign policy and national security

Trump’s foreign policy centres on his mantra of “America First,” but in the months leading up to the election, he engaged in plenty of international diplomacy.

The Trump administration scored a big win in recent weeks by nudging three Arab states — Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates — to normalize relations with Israel, and Trump says more countries will follow. Historically, Arab nations have refused to recognize Israel until the Palestinians’ goal of an independent state was realized. Trump is aiming to create an alliance of countries against Iran.

Trump also pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was one-sided in favour of Iran. He’s announced that the US is withdrawing from the intermediate-range nuclear missile treaty with Russia and the Open Skies Treaty, which permits 30-plus nations to conduct observation flights over each other’s territory. He later said he might reconsider pulling out of that treaty.

The president has reduced to about 3,000 the number of troops in Iraq. The US plans to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan to at least 4,500 in November, although Trump wants them all withdrawn by the end of the year.

Public health and environment

A Trump second term would begin to see a US transformed by the scores of public health and environment rollbacks in Trump’s first term, when the administration weakened protections in landmark pollution laws that had stood for a half-century.

Trump’s biggest environmental rollbacks include removing federal protections for millions of miles of wetlands and waterways. That means mining companies and other industries will be freer to dump waste into the fragile habitats or destroy them outright, removing buffers against storms and flooding and making it harder for cities downstream to clean public water supplies, environmental groups say.

Another major rollback means neighbourhoods nationwide will find themselves having less say about highways or other big projects tearing through their communities. Other rollbacks enacted in Trump’s first term — in regulations ranging from endangered species to oil and gas and mining in federal wilderness to power plant pollution to water-thrifty dishwashers — will take effect.


Trump believes that a key to economic recovery from the virus is fully reopening schools, though Americans are wary. Only about 1 in 10 think day care centres, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs.

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He is calling for the expansion of charter schools and school choice programs, including a proposed tax credit for people who contribute to scholarships sending students to private schools and other education options. Under his watch, the federal government has also increased funding for historically Black colleges and universities — an effort he often cites as one of the things he has achieved for Black Americans.

Trump frequently rails against what he has described as “radical left indoctrination” in schools. He is pledging to create a commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools. Amid complaints that conservative voices are stifled on college campuses, he also sought to cut federal funding to colleges that do not protect speech rights.


Before becoming a presidential candidate, Trump described himself as a strong abortion-rights proponent. But after coming to Washington, he pushed for overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that 47 years ago established a constitutional right to abortion.

Anti-abortion groups hope the addition of Barrett to the Supreme Court will provide a majority to overturn Roe. Barrett has declined to characterize Roe as a “super-precedent” that must not be overturned, although she says that she sets her personal views aside when weighing cases.