Donald Trump said he would be a “President for all Americans”. But a year after he took power, Chris Burn speaks to those in the US more divided than ever about their controversial leader.
His inaugural address promised a presidency that would bring an end to the “American carnage” of empty factories, poverty and gang crime but for much of his tumultuous first year in power, Donald Trump has often appeared to be creating chaos rather than solving it.
The controversies have been almost too numerous to count and have arrived on a seemingly daily basis; often prompted by the President’s online comments to the 46 million followers of his infamous Twitter account.
He has tried to enact a travel ban on most travellers from seven Muslim nations which led to global protests, boasted about the size and power of his “nuclear button” in an ever-escalating war of words with North Korea and fired FBI director James Comey in a move that ultimately led to the hiring of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate potential Russian interference in the 2016 election. Several members of Trump’s campaign team have been indicted in connection with the ongoing Mueller investigation, despite the President’s insistence that allegations of collusion are a “total hoax”.
From suggesting there had been “very fine people” marching alongside Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in protests against the planned removal of a Confederate statue in Virginia to calling on the owners of American Football teams to fire players protesting against police brutality towards black people by taking a knee during the national anthem, Trump has courted controversy at every turn.
Last weekend, in response to a new book raising questions about his mental fitness for office, Trump said he considers himself to be a “very stable genius”. But despite outraging his many critics with almost his every pronouncement and increasing unfavourable opinions about the US around much of the world and particularly in Europe, Trump still retains support from a large proportion of the American population.
Political website FiveThirtyEight’s poll of polls shows the President currently has the approval of 38.7 per cent of voters in The States - up on a low point of 36.6 per cent in August last year around the time he was threatening to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea, leading to fears of an imminent nuclear war.
While his disapproval ratings are much higher and currently stand at around 55 per cent, millions of Trump supporters continue to stand by their man - even when it comes at a personal cost. Ziyad Rahaman Azeez is almost diametrically opposite to the stereotypical view of a Trump supporter; he is a 22-year-old university graduate from New York City and a Muslim.
Azeez supported Trump in the 2016 election because he didn’t trust Hillary Clinton and saw the Republican candidate as someone who was anti-terrorism rather than anti-Islam. He now says that he is generally impressed with Trump’s record in office so far; particularly in his use of stricter immigration controls, appointment of conservative judges and repeal of Obama-era regulations on businesses.
But Azeez says it is rarely easy to openly support the President. “Personally, I have taken a lot of heat for supporting the President and defending him. Many liberals who learn of my support quickly become triggered, probably over the fact that I’m of West Indian descent and a Muslim.
“In February, I went out one night with a few friends and I was telling someone about how proud I am that the President appointed Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education. As I was walking back home, I was screamed at by a liberal who started ranting about everything from immigration to drugs to the Access Hollywood tape.
“Many friends have taken my vote and support personally, always confronting me over every little thing. But it doesn’t really bother me. It has changed my life in that it is habitual to be called out or there is some attempt being made to shame me. I was at a party and a few friends walked in with a Palestinian female friend. Before introducing me to her, they told her that I had voted for Donald Trump. They did this with one intention, which was to try and get her to bait me into an argument.
“As soon as I was introduced to her, she asked me why I voted for Trump and demanded to have a conversation with me about him. I point all of this out to show how many liberals act nowadays over this president – they truly believe that if they call out or attempt to shame Trump voters, they are soldiers of a ‘resistance’. But believing that Trump supporters are a monolith is factually inaccurate and leads to intolerance by the same people who preach diversity, multiculturalism, and believe that singing Kumbaya will stop hatred towards America.
“Life has changed in America because of Donald Trump and I think that is a good thing. I admire this President’s opposition to political correctness and how he is unapologetic about it he is. I hope that this, along with much of the success that has been achieved, continues to shape and change America’s future in the 21st century.”
But while many of those who support Trump have not wavered during his first year in office, those who fought against his election have become even more determined in their opposition.
Dorian Harvey, a 52-year-old real estate broker from Detroit, says Trump has emboldened racism and believes the resident is proving himself incapable of high office.
“It is embarrassing. We were shocked he even won but it is a fact of reality that has always existed that we are a very divided nation. Now that racial division has a platform it can stand upon and that is Donald Trump.
“I used to stay away from the news because I needed positive information to run my business. But now I am fixated just to see what is next. Some nights are sleepless for me watching the breaking news headlines.
“I really think he is not of sound mind. He is probably the most unsound individual in that office that I have had in my lifetime. It is unnerving, we are on edge. Bigotry is more obvious and public now; the lack of greeting, the aggressiveness, the rudeness. You always knew it was there but after civil rights came in, there was some reserve and some tact. Today it is just in your face.”
Harvey says he comes across very few Trump supporters in his daily life - or at least people willing to openly identify themselves as such. “A lot of them won’t speak out or reveal themselves. You might see a sticker every now and then but you saw more months ago. They are going undercover.”
He says Trump’s reaction to the NFL protests had shown the president’s “true colours”. “That was why I fought hard and encouraged people to vote against him. I had my suspicions and now he has proved me right, I was hoping he would prove me wrong.”
Harvey is particularly infuriated by Trump’s frequent attacks on his predecessor Barack Obama.
“The recovery was in place during the eight years of Obama’s term and Trump is trying to take credit for it. He is using Obama as a yardstick which he will never exceed. When Obama took over, with the recession the train had crashed and just to get things back on the road was impressive. For Trump to claim credit for that is despicable.”
He says he is hopeful Trump will not win a second term in office. “I think his supporters know how unstable he is now. I hope they recognise how poor a president he is. He is not a leader.”
For some, though, the best way of dealing with the Trump presidency is to try and stay away from news about it as much as possible.
Joanne Palmer, who is originally from South Yorkshire but now lives in California with her husband Ben, says it is wearying to keep up with the latest political developments.
"There has been no direct impact on Ben and I since Trump took charge, as, thus far, we do not fall into the categories targeted by the president and his administration. However, we are a little worried whether our visa renewals, which are due later this year, shall be affected by this new administration.
“I can no longer stand to watch the news, as every day we hear of something new and truly awful that Trump has said or tweeted. It is becoming very tiresome.”
Idea of Oprah presidency challenge is 'dystopian'
The idea that talk show host Oprah Winfrey will run for president against Donald Trump has been described as “troublingly dystopian”.
Winfrey has been at the centre of speculation that she may seek the job following her rousing speech about equality at the Golden Globes on Sunday, with Trump saying he believes he would beat her if she did decide to run.
But Family Guy creator and former Oscars host Seth MacFarlane said: “Oprah is beyond doubt a magnificent orator. But the idea of a reality show star running against a talk show host is troublingly dystopian.
“There has been no direct impact on Ben and I since Trump took charge, as, thus far, we do not fall into the categories targeted by the president and his administration. However, we are a little worried whether our visa renewals, which are due later this year, shall be affected by this new administration.
“We don’t want to create a world where dedicated public service careers become undesirable and impractical in the face of raw celebrity.”