Trump’s biggest campaign promises: Did he deliver?

Building ‘the wall’, cutting taxes and a Muslim ban are among the promises Trump made during his 2016 campaign.

President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in North Carolina [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

As Election Day approaches, President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are making their final pitches to American voters, touting what is to come and, especially, boasting about their accomplishments.

Here, we break down Trump’s five biggest promises from his 2016 campaign to measure the progress he has made as president:

Border wall

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised: “We will build a great wall along the southern border – and Mexico will pay for the wall.” And throughout his presidency, Trump has repeatedly claimed his administration has achieved “the most secure border in US history”, noting that the wall is being built at a rate of “[16km] 10 miles a day”.

A border wall section allegedly built with money from Trump supporters who donated in the crowdfunding campaign called We Build the Wall is seen along the US-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico [Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

Trump also continues to claim Mexico will be covering the cost. At a Florida rally on October 12, Trump stated: “Mexico is paying, they hate to say it.” Trump has suggested tariffs on Mexican imports and “a small fee at the border” would fund the wall.

The border between the US and Mexico is approximately 3,145 kilometres (1,954 miles) long. According to the US Customs and Border Protection, 597km (371 miles) of the wall had been constructed as of October 19, but approximately 8km (five miles) of that are new construction – the rest is an extension or refurbishment of existing structures.

Further, Mexico has not paid for any portion of the wall. Rather, the US government has spent billions of dollars of taxpayer money on the expansion. The government experienced an historic 35-day shutdown starting in December 2018 when Trump demanded $5.7bn to build the wall. Trump has since redirected federal funds to cover the expenses. The details and timeline of the “fees” suggested by Trump remain unclear.


‘Repeal and replace’ Obamacare

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to “immediately repeal and replace Obamacare” if elected as president, stating that a failure to do so would “destroy American healthcare forever”. Although neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence offered a concrete replacement for healthcare during the campaign, they did promise to “protect Americans with pre-existing conditions”.

Supporters of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, react with boos when he mentions Obamacare during a rally in Harrington, Delaware April 22, 2016 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Officially known as the Affordable Care Act, the plan has long been criticised by Republicans who see it as government interference in a private matter, as well as a “job killer”, given the costs imposed on businesses by the act.

Trump has managed to make minor changes to the law, such as eliminating the fine for not purchasing health insurance and shortening the enrollment period, but Obamacare remains largely unchanged. He has also suggested he will issue an executive order to require health insurance companies to cover all pre-existing health conditions. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) already does this. The law states: “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage.”

To date, Republicans and the Trump administration have been unable to repeal or reform the bill. Obamacare remains the law of the land as it awaits a ruling from the Supreme Court, which is not expected to come until 2021.


Under Trump’s proposed tax reform plans, all Americans would see a tax cut. This included corporate tax cuts as well as providing tax cuts for working Americans. In May 2016, Trump stated: “Everybody is getting a tax cut, especially the middle class.” Trump’s plan also included lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017. The signature piece of legislation on Trump’s watch, it did lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and Americans across the income scale saw their taxes cut.  But wealthier households – those in the 95-99th percentiles of income – got a way bigger break according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center.

The tax cuts produced by the TCJA are set to expire in 2025. Republicans have suggested future governments could simply renew these provisions.

But overall, Trump has been successful in achieving his promise of tax cuts for both corporations and working Americans.

Muslim ban

One of Trump’s most infamous suggestions during the 2016 election was a ban on all Muslims. Following the San Bernardino, California, shootings in December 2015, President Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”. He later amended his statement to say that the ban would affect Muslims “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism”.

Demonstrators spell out #No Muslim Ban during the Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders to protest US President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts January 29, 2017 [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Trump implemented his administration’s first attempt at a Muslim ban in January 2017. This law, along with later versions of it, was knocked down by federal courts. However, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that the third iteration of the law could go into full effect. The ban primarily affects travellers coming from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Trump expanded the ban in January 2020 to include travellers from Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar.

During his time in office, Trump has been able to significantly restrict Muslim travellers from entering the country. However, he has not been successful in implementing a worldwide ban on all Muslims.

Creating Jobs

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump pledged to “create a total of 25 million new jobs” and achieve a growth rate of 3.5 percent over the next 10 years. He boasted he would be the “greatest jobs president that God ever created”.

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa programme used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs during a visit to the world headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool manufacturer, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, US, April 18, 2017 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Trump did not come close to creating 25 million jobs. Between January 2017 and February 2020, about 6.8 million jobs were created, which is roughly on par with the growth rates achieved by the Obama administration.

According to the Labor Department, US businesses added just less than 11.4 million jobs from May through September 2020 – meaning the economy recouped roughly half of the 22.1 million jobs lost in March and April as pandemic lockdowns swept the nation.

Unemployment currently stands at 7.9 percent – nearly half of its pandemic April high of 14.7 percent, but more than double February’s pre-pandemic rate of 3.5 percent. If Trump leaves office in January, he is poised to have the greatest number of job losses on record of any president.

After the US economy contracted 31.4 percent on an annualised basis in the second quarter – the biggest drop on record – it grew at its fastest pace on record in the third quarter, rebounding at an annual rate of 33.1 percent, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said on Thursday.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies