One year since taking office, President Donald Trump remains a singular figure in U.S. political history. Trump is beloved by many on the right for his nationalist, America-first agenda. But his tax and immigration policies, his rhetoric on race and other issues, and his unconventional approach to the presidency are despised by many on the left, making Trump one of the most controversial politicians in recent memory.
As he enters his second year in the White House, Americans across the country and the political spectrum are taking time to reflect on Trump’s time in office so far. Their feelings about the president and the changes he’s brought to the country ranged from hopeful to disgusted. Here are their stories, edited for length and clarity.
DESTINY HERNDON-DE LA ROSA
The day after Trump’s inauguration, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa marched down the streets of Washington, D.C., with thousands of other women in what would become one of, if not the, largest protest in U.S. history.
De La Rosa stood out from the Women’s March crowd not because of her purple-dyed hair, but for the sign she was holding: “I AM A PRO-LIFE FEMINIST.”
De La Rosa is the founder of New Wave Feminists, a Dallas-based group that advocates for women’s rights and against abortion, two ideas many see as incompatible. “I wanted to see a pro-life element in the feminist movement,” De La Rosa said reflecting back on that day.
A year later, her mission has flipped.
“Now I’m working equally hard to see a very woman-centered element in the pro-life movement,” she said.
The #MeToo movement touched De La Rosa personally, inspiring her to share her own story of being drugged and date-raped.
#MeTooI woke up shivering. The glow of an aquarium off in the distance lit up a room I didn’t recognize. Above me hung…
De La Rosa said she has been frustrated by the GOP’s support of Roy Moore — who lost the closely-watched Senate election in Alabama last year — and Trump, despite the accusations of sexual assault both men face. But she doesn’t see a political home for herself in the Democratic Party either, which has fought its own internal battles this year regarding abortion. Until Democrats make room for opponents of abortion, De La Rosa said she will remain an independent.
At the same time, De La Rosa said she’s felt some hope in recent months. Like when her group collected donations of feminine hygiene products for women affected by Hurricane Harvey. Or when she attended the Women’s Convention, which was sponsored by the Women’s March organizers, in Detroit last year. De La Rosa found common ground with women on issues such as harassment in the workplace.
“In my perfect utopia, we would be able to cut through all of that rhetoric and understand that for the most part we’re good people and we want to help others,” De La Rosa said. “That would be my ideal America.”
— Reported by Gretchen Frazee
ANNA SCOTT MARSH
A year ago, in the rain, Anna Scott Marsh smiled as Trump delivered his inaugural speech. She didn’t know what to expect from the nation’s new leader, but she hoped he would usher in an era of conservative values and politics.
Marsh would spend the next year finding courage to speak publicly about an encounter that occurred in November 2016. She was sexually assaulted while attending Furman University in South Carolina.
Marsh was crowned “Miss North Carolina International” last April. She built her platform, which she called “Stand Up to Sexual Assault,” on the issue: “If it’s happened to you, it’s not your fault.”
Marsh said she wants more bipartisanship from the #MeToo movement. She says she’s frustrated Republicans haven’t incorporated sexual assault into their party platform. At the same time, she says, Democrats shouldn’t use the subject for political gain, either.
“I don’t want to see people campaign on other people’s hurt,” she said.
She voted for Trump in 2016, but hasn’t committed to a 2020 vote yet. With plans to attend her seventh Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Marsh said Trump’s re-election could further divide a fractured Republican Party: “He’s just not a career politician, and there’s so many other leaders in the Republican Party who have set their whole lives up for this.”
— Reported by Laura Santhanam
For 24 years, Mustafa Ali worked at the Environmental Protection Agency as head of its environmental justice program. But he quit his job two months into the Trump administration, frustrated by scaled back budgets and programs — the agency’s Superfund program is one example – and threats to the Clean Power Plan.
Ali submitted his resignation letter in early March 2017. He now works with the Hip Hop Caucus to engage people in the civic process through the “Respect My Vote” campaign. He also collaborates with artists and musicians to talk about the environment and climate. During a year of cross-country travel, Ali said he noticed a common thread: lost trust.
“Vulnerable communities have had people lie to them,” he said. “They’ve had broken promises. They’ve been dealing with not having resources to be able to make change happen. People have lost faith in their government, and that is a hard thing to reclaim.”
Despite that, Ali senses an undercurrent of hope. People are hungry for “the opportunity to vote and hold people accountable,” he said.
— Reported by Teresa Carey
Finding the energy for activism has been difficult for Andy Shallal since Trump became president.
People were thinking big under former President Barack Obama, said Shallal, the owner and CEO of Busboys and Poets, the popular Washington, D.C.-based local restaurant chain. Now, he says, “they’re too busy picking up broken pieces.”
“There’s been this sort of shift. As opposed to thinking ahead, people are thinking in the moment,” he said.
Shallal, an Iraqi immigrant, said Trump’s restrictive immigration policies have made him think twice about returning to the Middle East. His wife, who is Iranian, made her annual Nowruz trip before the 2016 holiday began so she could make it home before Trump was inaugurated.
“I know many people who feel much more vulnerable, who don’t feel like they have a voice and who feel like their voice has been even lost further. And they don’t feel like they’re part of the American fabric anymore,” he said. “That’s dangerous.”
— Reported by Jennifer Hijazi
Brandice Nelson didn’t vote during the 2016 election or support President Donald Trump during his campaign. But after a year, she says she’s been “pleasantly surprised” by his performance in office.
Nelson, 26, curates museum maps in Waco, Texas. She credits Trump with the strengthened economy, which she said has indirectly boosted her industry.
“If people have more money to spend on that kind of thing, it really helps us out in the museum field,” said Nelson, a registered Republican.
Nelson also backed Trump’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, first issued one week after his inauguration. She said while the ban is “not being executed well,” it makes her feel safer and isn’t “intended to be racist.”
Nelson, whose father is a veteran, also said things have improved at the Department of Veterans Affairs under Trump. “I don’t know if I can directly attribute that to this administration,” Nelson said. “But I feel like [the VA is] getting a lot better than it has been in the last eight years.”
— Reported by Ryan Connelly Holmes
Elvis Saldias has called Ohio home for 17 years. But by this fall he may be forced to return to Bolivia, a country he hasn’t lived in since he was 8 years old.
Saldias received protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which was established by the Obama administration in 2012. The program has protected more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants like Saldias who were brought to the country illegally as minors from getting deported.
Last year, Trump announced plans to end DACA this spring unless Congress acts to make the program permanent. But so far, lawmakers have struggled to strike a deal, an issue that helped cause the three-day government shutdown.
As an undocumented American, Saldias said he’s accustomed to challenges; growing up he picked strawberries with his mother and other migrant farmworkers to help make ends meet. But the uncertainty surrounding DACA, he said, has been especially stressful. Unless the nation’s leaders act, he loses his DACA status by the end of this summer.
“I went to college here, graduated high school here. I work here. I do things for the community here,” Saldias said. He added that ending DACA would be “a big loss.”
— Reported by Jennifer Hijazi
Chato Salisbury voted for Trump after voting twice for Obama.
Salisbury, a Hispanic business owner and Republican who lives outside Olympia, Washington, supports Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also backs Trump’s efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, and was pleased with the tax overhaul, Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress’ biggest legislative win since the 2016 election.
“I truly feel that giving tax breaks to business owners and the wealthy increases the opportunity for people like me,” Salisbury said.
Salisbury said he has become jaded by politics, one reason why he decided to vote for Trump. A businessman like Trump could chart a better course for the country than a career politician, Democrat or Republican, he said. “Both parties are failing. To keep doing what we’ve been doing isn’t working.”
— Reported by Jennifer Hijazi
For years, Adam Fagen guided the next generation of scientific researchers and educators at the Genetics Society of America. But starting with the 2017 rise of the Trump administration, Fagen said he has seen political attacks on scientific integrity and facts.
Fagen said he’s had trouble finding work, due to the uncertainty in the past year over federal funding for scientific research. He’s not alone. Early-career scientists often feel discouraged when funding caps, shutdowns and politics impact the peer-review process, he said. And federal shutdowns squeeze academia, which relies on government grants to pay for research that expands the public’s understanding of health and science.
“Science is generally not something that can stop and start on a dime, but requires long-term planning and consistency,” Fagen said.
— Reported by Rashmi Shivni