As we assess the report card for President Donald Trump after his first 100 days in office, it is useful to recall that during the campaign there were three moments that solidified then-candidate Donald Trump’s support among evangelicals and voters of faith.
The first came in May 2016, when Mr. Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. This was the first time in U.S. political history such a list had been released by a major party presidential nominee. The second was Trump’s selection of full-spectrum conservative and Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. The third came during the third and final presidential debate (just days after the release of the Access Hollywood tape), when Trump made a deeply personal and impassioned plea on behalf of unborn life in response to a question on abortion. After Hillary Clinton blithely dismissed concerns about late-term abortions, Trump shot back that “if you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me.”
These inflection points (what strategist Lee Atwater once referred to as “defining moments”) helped Trump win an astonishing 81 percent of the evangelical vote, and in his first 100 days in office, he has delivered on his promises to those voters of faith. Arguably the most important factor in winning their support was his iron-clad pledge to choose a Supreme Court nominee from the list of 21 names released in May of last year.
First and most critically, he won confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch was an outstanding nominee with an Ivy League and Oxford education, a clerkship at the Supreme Court, a senior role in the Justice Department, and a decade on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Intellectually, he is a strict constructionist steeped in natural law theory. In ideological pedigree he is a conservative, his mother having served in the Reagan Cabinet. In personality and temperament he is measured and humble, displaying an independent streak, his sharp mind leavened with good humor and respect for others. His knowledge of the law was astonishing. He performed ably in his hearings and won confirmation easily. This was a major victory for the Trump White House, not only keeping a central campaign promise but doing so quickly and with relative ease, marking the first time a Supreme Court nominee has been confirmed in the first 100 days of a new administration since 1881. Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats sweetened the victory with an ill-advised filibuster of Gorsuch, forcing the Republicans to change Senate rules, costing the far-Left its only real tool to block future Trump nominees to the High Court.
The Gorsuch pick was not an isolated decision. If personnel is policy, Trump deserves credit for assembling one of the most impressive teams in modern times. His national security team of former General Jim Mattis at Defense, H.R. McMaster at the National Security Council, and Rex Tillerson at State is gold-plated. He also won confirmation of men and women of faith and solid conservative credentials like Betsy DeVos at the Education Department, Dr. Tom Price at Health and Human Services, Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department, Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development, Rick Perry at Energy, Sonny Perdue at Agriculture and Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency. His White House staff includes advisors of solid faith and stalwart conservative credentials like chief of staff Reince Preibus, senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell.
Policy decisions by President Trump have been equally conservative and pro-life. In his first 72 hours in office Trump restored and strengthened the “Mexico City policy” that prevents U.S. tax dollars from being used to promote or perform abortions in overseas family planning programs. He signed a Congressional Review Act into federal law that overturned an Obama directive forcing states to fund Planned Parenthood. Because of President Trump’s leadership, for the first time since Roe v. Wade, states can end funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers under state Medicaid programs.
In foreign policy, Trump’s welcoming with open arms of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House (a needed thaw after 8 years of chill in the U.S.-Israeli relationship under Obama), dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal on terrorists in Afghanistan, and launching Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian Air Force after it gassed innocent civilians (including children), sent a clear and powerful message that there is a new sheriff on the international stage. The release of American prisoners by Egypt after a meeting between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Trump shows he is already learning the importance of personal diplomacy.
While repealing and replacing Obamacare remains an unfinished task, it hasn’t been for lack of trying on Trump’s part. He has personally lobbied members, invited wavering legislators to the White House for meals and bowling sessions, and called Senators and Congressman with blazing frequency, sometimes multiple times a day. At this writing the House is inching closer to repealing Obamacare, and Trump deserves credit for gently but firmly moving the ball.
Finally, while little noted by the media, Trump’s proposed tax cut relieves the crushing tax burden on family-owned small businesses by slashing their tax rate to 15 percent. If passed, this tax cut will strengthen the family, create millions of new jobs, and give Mom-and-Pop family businesses on Main Street the same tax treatment as multinational corporations. This is a long overdue reform. The Trump tax cut also expands the standard deduction to $24,000, insuring that the basic needs of a middle-class family for housing, food, and other necessities are free from taxation. The expansion of the child care tax credit helps working moms without empowering bureaucrats.
There is much work to do. But after 100 days, evangelicals and others of faith are pleased by the early accomplishments of the Trump administration. Little wonder, according to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll that over 70% of evangelicals approve of the job he is doing as president. On personnel and policy Trump has delivered for social conservatives, and that is a blessing as well as a relief considering that the alternative was four to eight years of Hillary Clinton.