Trump to mark anniversary with Mar-a-Lago bash as thousands get set to protest

Donald Trump will host a lavish celebration of his first year as US president at his private estate in Florida on Saturday, with tickets starting at $100,000 a pair, even as thousands of women take to the streets to protest against his divisive leadership.

Trump had been due to depart Washington on Friday but postponed the trip for a day as the government stood on the brink of its first shutdown since 2013. Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill were locked in a stalemate over a funding agreement on immigration, the military and other issues.

What is a government shutdown?

When the US Congress fails to pass appropriate funding for government operations and agencies, a shutdown is triggered. Most government services are frozen, barring those that are deemed “essential”, such as the work of the Department of Homeland Security and FBI. During this shutdown, around 25% of the government workforce is placed on unpaid furlough and told not to work. Workers deemed essential, such as active duty military personnel, are not furloughed. 

Why might the government shut down?

The president and members of Congress are at an impasse over what should be included in a spending bill to keep the government open. 

How common is a shutdown?

There have been more than a dozen government shutdowns in the US since 1981, although ranging in duration. The longest occurred under Bill Clinton, lasting a total of 21 days from December 1995 to January 1996, when the then House speaker, Newt Gingrich, demanded sharp cuts to government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and welfare.

This shutdown is on course to be the longest in US history.

What would be the cost of a shutdown?

A government shutdown would cost the US roughly $6.5bn a week, according to a report by S&P Global analysts. “A disruption in government spending means no government paychecks to spend; lost business and revenue to private contractors; lost sales at retail shops, particularly those that circle now-closed national parks; and less tax revenue for Uncle Sam,” the report stated. “That means less economic activity and fewer jobs.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are not receiving regular paychecks in this shutdown. In previous shutdowns, furloughed employees have been paid retrospectively – but those payments have often been delayed.

Sabrina Siddiqui

Saturday’s anniversary finds America trying to digest a year of shocks and upheavals. Trump has sought to claim credit for a strong economy, with the stock market at a record high and unemployment at a 17-year low, as well as crushing Islamic State and rolling back hundreds of federal regulations, claiming he is fulfilling his promise to “make America great again”.

But opponents argue that Trump has fanned the flames of white supremacy at home and destabilised old alliances abroad, putting the world at risk of climate change and nuclear war. Some, pointing to authoritarian tendencies and questioning his fitness for office, demand his impeachment.

On Friday, Trump was set to appeal to his conservative base by becoming the first sitting president to address, via satellite from the White House, the March for Life, an anti-abortion rally held annually in Washington, ahead of Monday’s 45th anniversary of the landmark Roe v Wade supreme court ruling that firmly established a woman’s right to abortion.

Kaylie Hanson Long of Naral Pro-Choice America, an advocacy group, said: “This administration is the worst we’ve ever seen for women and families. Its attacks on reproductive freedom are relentless and aren’t supported by the majority of Americans. His presence at this march is an extension of his same unpopular agenda, and his obsession with demeaning women.”

On Saturday, Trump is expected to visit his “winter White House” of Mar-a-Lago for the 12th time since his inauguration, for an event hosted by Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), and the casino magnate Steve Wynn, raising funds for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and the RNC.

A mass email offered supporters the chance to “win dinner with President Trump at the best spot in Florida on the ANNIVERSARY of the people’s inauguration”. It added: “While liberals will be taking to the streets outraged over the success of President Trump’s policies, you could be spending the anniversary of such a landmark moment in American history with the president himself.”

The swipe at “liberals” anticipates a weekend of protest 12 months on from the historic demonstrations that saw 5 million women and men take part in marches and rallies worldwide, many wearing pink “pussy hats” in reference to the president’s recorded boast about grabbing women’s genitals. Tens of thousands of people have registered on social media to join events in cities including Washington, New York and Los Angeles, as well as the UK, Nigeria and Japan.

Neil Sroka, communications director for the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, said: “You’d think he’d be taking a victory lap at this moment but his presidency has been marked by so much incompetence that he knows in his psyche he couldn’t hold a rally on the National Mall and get a tenth of the crowd at his inauguration. Even Trump can no longer deny he’s loathed across the country.”

Sroka, who served under Barack Obama at the commerce department, said there was little reason to believe Trump would change course in 2018. “If there’s anything we’ve learned over the last year, he’s not going to change. He will continue to be a doddering bigot with a Twitter account.”

Trump’s inaugural address a year ago presented a dark vision of inner-city poverty, rusting factories, a dysfunctional education system and a population terrorised by drugs, gangs and violent crime, summed up in the phrase “American carnage”. It has remained a guiding principle for him in the Oval Office.

Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington and former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said: “He genuinely believes the country has gone to hell and it’s his mission to sort it out. He doesn’t believe in statistics; if he did, he would know the truth about crime in the cities. He reflects the sentiments of the people who put him in the White House. American carnage is not in retreat in his mind.”

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Friday found Trump with an approval rating of just 39%, a record low for any US president at the end of his first year in the modern era.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, said: “Very few presidents have had worse first years. We’ll see in the end whether Richard Nixon receives the revisionist historical treatment for respecting democratic norms by voluntarily leaving office. Trump makes everyone else subject to revisionism, such is the baseline.”

Trump’s singular major legislative achievement has been a sweeping tax cut that Democrats say will benefit the rich and hurt the middle class. Blumenthal added: “He has one accomplishment which is the tax cut. He achieved that with complete party control of both houses of Congress. Talking about infrastructure is fantasy. We have reached the end of Trump’s legislative record, more or less.”

Two dark clouds loom over the White House in 2018. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump election campaign and Russia could reach its climax. In November, with the president proving a toxic figure for opponents, the Republican party could lose the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate in crucial midterm elections.

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said: “If the election was held today, it would be a resounding Republican defeat.”


David Smith in Washington

The GuardianTramp

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