Just as it has been in past tallies, Trump’s impact on the Supreme Court seems to be his most lasting constructive achievement. But whereas before Trump had placed one justice on the Court, Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has given the president a second slot to fill, and in Brett Kavanaugh he has a nominee likely to win confirmation. Trump could have two appointees on the Supreme Court by the midterm elections. It’s a notable example of a promise kept. During the presidential election, Trump wielded the power to nominate as a weapon to keep conservatives from defecting from his campaign. While some social conservatives have grumbled about the nomination of Kavanaugh over other contenders, Trump has kept to his pledge to nominate conservative judges, despite no demonstrable interest in conservative jurisprudence before his entry into politics.
The president is already seeing payoffs. After a series of defeats in lower courts, the White House was dealt a win in late June by the Supreme Court, which deemed Trump’s travel ban constitutional. (Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated early in his term after Republicans successfully blocked Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, joined the majority.) Trump also continues to name a large number of nominees for lower federal judgeships. In fact, Trump has nominated more judges in 2018 than he did in 2017.
Another major moment in the last few months was Trump’s June summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in Singapore. Although experts worried that the president simply handed Pyongyang a major propaganda victory by granting Kim a glitzy meeting of equals, Trump also loved the spectacle and the breathless American news coverage that attended the meeting. He has since claimed victory, saying he has ended the threat of North Korean nuclear proliferation.
Shortly before Christmas, Trump signed into law sweeping new tax cuts. The reductions are not, as he is fond of claiming, the largest in history, but the bill represents Trump’s greatest legislative achievement to date. The legislation moved over the doubts of analysts who doubted that Congress could produce a slate of tax cuts on the abbreviated timeline the president demanded, and it came after a series of notable legislative failures, especially to repeal Obamacare.
Coinciding with the tax cuts has been a streak of positive economic news. The economy is consistently adding jobs every month, the unemployment rate is down, wages are rising (slowly), and the Dow, while below its peak earlier this year, remains strong.
As for Obamacare, Trump has managed to find ways to pick at and undermine the law even without managing to repeal. On July 7, the administration quietly stopped payments intended to balance out risk among insurers. That is likely to jack up premiums, making health insurance less alluring to citizens—and with the individual mandate to hold insurance also repealed, there’s less motivation to buy a policy.