Trump’s strong start on policy

Conservatives of various types have thus seen progress on their agenda in 2017. Economic conservatives got tax cuts and some deregulation. Legal conservatives got judicial appointments and an executive branch more mindful of the limits of its policymaking authority. Social conservatives also benefited from the judicial appointments and welcomed Trump’s policy of blocking international family-planning funding from going to organizations that promote or perform abortions.

Many Republicans credit Trump for presiding over a strong economy, too. It’s a point that requires some context. Job growth has not been quite as fast as it was in Obama’s last year, but you’d expect it to slow after an expansion this long. Republican economic policies may have played a role in keeping the expansion going. Certainly the predictions of economic doom made right after the election by some Trump opponents — chiefly Paul Krugman — have not come to pass.

It’s not the only bad outcome that has been avoided. Trump has started no trade war and has not blown up the World Trade Organization. He has merely engaged in the low-grade protectionism that is routine for presidents of both parties, and withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — which may not have been able to win congressional approval even if Trump had stayed in. NATO is still standing, too, and Trump’s complaints about allies’ burden-sharing may be arresting Western Europe’s slide into functional pacifism.