If you've been experiencing a bit of news fatigue over the past couple of months, you're not alone. The Trump administration, although still new, seems like it's been going on for decades. It's hard to keep track of the things you need to know about Trump's presidency when the important news keeps coming so fast and furiously, but that's going to be the trick to getting through it.
This administration, you see, is all about distraction and deflecting. Trump has become a master of distraction, which is a useful skill when your administration is having as little success as his is. You, as an informed citizen, can't let him get away with it. Your difficult task over the next four (or fewer) years is to keep your eyes on the ball — although Trump and his associates are making that very difficult, because there are currently a lot of balls to keep track of.
Beyond and embedded in the news, there are certain themes running through all of it. These themes, rather than the news itself, are what you need to take note of.
Think of the themes as the climate, generally steady and slow to change, whereas the news is the weather, changing on a daily basis. When the weather is just too exhausting, here are 15 threads of the climate that you should grasp onto.
1Russia, Russia, Russia
Every time a journalist pulls at a thread in the tapestry that is the whole Trump-Russia scandal, something huge and damaging comes out. So far, it's come out that numerous Trump officials from both the transition team and the administration had often undisclosed contact with Russian officials. Most recently, it came out that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and general go-to guy for just about everything under the son, failed to disclose contact with Russian officials when he was applying for his security clearance.
All of this is pretty sketchy, especially when taken together with the well-founded evidence that the intelligence community has that Russia worked to get Trump elected. Now there are numerous investigations going on to find out whether the Trump team colluded with Russia, and more and more very suspicious evidence has been popping up. If there's anything that the administration wants to deflect attention away from, it's this — which is exactly why you should keep following it like a hawk.
2Nepotism, Nepotism, Nepotism
Trump has been funneling more and more power to two people: his daughter Ivanka, who has just gotten a shiny new title in the White House, and her husband Jared Kushner, who has been given control over everything from making American business more innovative to building peace in the Middle East. Neither of them has any relevant education or experience for their jobs. However, the president trusts his family above all — and so Jared is representing the U.S. in Iraq and Ivanka is sitting next to Angela Merkel. This is nepotism, plain and simple, and it's definitely not cool — and may also be illegal.
3Potential Business Conflicts Of Interest
Trump's businesses and the conflicts of interest that could arise from that were a major focus before he took office, but everything else arising in the news has kind of obscured it. There's no doubt, though, that Trump's various businesses are massively benefitting from him being the president — from his decision to meet with foreign leaders at Mar-A-Lago to the Defense Department renting space in Trump Tower. A lot of it is effectively unmeasurable (free advertising he's getting in the form of news coverage, for example), but there's no doubt that Trump, his family, and his businesses are benefitting — often financially — from his presidency.
4The Trumps' Expensive Lifestyle
Melania and Barron Trump staying in New York is costing taxpayers — specifically New York City taxpayers — about $150,000 a day. Donald Trump's frequent weekend trips to Mar-A-Lago cost about $3 million a pop. For a president so focused on cutting government spending, this stuff is pretty rich.
5Angering Longstanding Allies
Foreign policy, even before the Syrian missile strike, has been one of Trump's serious weak spots. His exchanges with German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been downright embarrassing. He's gone back and forth on his support for NATO. He started his presidency by offending such important allies as Mexico and Australia. Oh, plus he's had some strange messages of support for countries like Egypt and Russia, with whom the U.S. has not exactly had smooth sailing recently.
6Constant Competition In The White House
Despite their efforts to put on a nice face, it appears as though the Trump team isn't functioning like, well, a team. Trump himself has expressed frustration with all of the leaks coming out, some of which have been quite damaging. Constant power struggles and a revolving door of high level aides don't a successful administration make — but that's what this administration's got.
7Too Many Empty Government Positions
Trump has left hundreds of positions unfilled across all sectors of government. He claims it's a strategy — something about trimming out the fat in government — but previous administrations didn't just have these positions for fun. This is a dangerous game he's playing, and it's going to leave a lot of key work left undone.
8Paying Attention To Conspiracy Theorists
Trump is, was, and has always been a conspiracy theorist — so why did anyone expect that this would change just because he became the president? He essentially rode into politics on the back of the absurd idea that Barack Obama wasn't an American citizen — and now he thinks that Obama was "wiretapping" him. There are so many problems here, but they begin and end with the fact that the president lives in a fantasy world of his own creation — a fact that will reappear in later themes as well.
9Labeling The Media As The Enemy
The media doesn't exist in Trump's fantasy world, so Trump has labeled the media as the enemy. He's gone back and forth on this and he still deigns to give interviews, but his relationship with the free press is one of the most frightening things for people who enjoy living in a democracy and not an autocracy.
10Republican Party Infighting
Intra-party disagreements are nothing new to Washington, but Trump once acted like he was above them — no longer. The failure to repeal and replace Obamacare exposed deep splits in the party — which Trump is now thoroughly embroiled up in. Considering that the GOP has both houses of Congress, the White House, and a Supreme Court soon to be leaning their way even more, party infighting could become more and more of a theme if it keeps impeding them — and their president — from accomplishing their campaign promises.
11Hawkish Foreign Policy
For a candidate who attacked his opponent's foreign policy as too hawkish, Trump sure has become an aggressive president. Actually attacking Syrian government forces was a huge break from how the country was previously handing the Syrian conflict, and further involvement could now be a possibility. After that, Trump sent a fleet of warships on a jaunt towards North Korea in response to another missile test by North Korea. The "rogue state" and the closest thing the world has to a remaining Stalinist dictatorship has long publicly flexed its muscles, but U.S. presidents generally respond with sanctions rather than warships.
12Aggressive Immigration Policies
Trump campaigned on changes to immigration policy, and this has already become a major theme of his administration — but it's not going exactly as planned. Even Trump seems to know that Mexico won't pay for the wall. Deportations are up, including undocumented spouses of Trump supporters. Trump's second travel ban attempted failed before it could even begin to be enforced. If Trump were a person who could learn from his mistakes, perhaps he would now know that governing is much harder than making racist statements on the campaign trail.
13Not Helping His Supporters
Even Trump knows that his healthcare plan wouldn't have helped his supporters — but his lack of loyalty doesn't stop there when you're talking about his supporters in the working class. His tax plan is geared towards helping the very wealthy, and his budget cuts certainly won't help the people who rely on all the government programs they're affecting. Will they notice it? Questionable, since Trump supporters are also unlikely to trust the mainstream media as regards the actions of their president.
14Unfriendliness Towards Diversity
With a couple of exceptions, Trump has surrounded himself largely with old, rich, white men. Hate crimes have increased in the Trump era, and Trump's not doing anything about it. His second travel ban was blocked because the court said it was clear he was trying to discriminate based on religion. Trump made his racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim leanings clear during the campaign — and none of them have changed or gone away during his presidency so far.
15The Constant Stream Of Lies
Trump's lying has gotten to the point where it would be laughable if it weren't so deathly serious. He lies about his ties to Russia, he lies about keeping jobs in the country, he lies about his golfing habit. So far, only three days of Trump's presidency have gone by without him lying. Even in the world of politicians, that is a deplorable ratio. With everything else going on and creating news around the president, this is the most important thing to remember: he is not to be trusted. The things he says are likely to be false, no matter what he's talking about. This has been proven again and again, in multiple contexts and by multiple sources. This means that whenever Trump says anything, it's worth fact checking it on multiple platforms to confirm its veracity. You already know that distraction is his game — this is how you can get through it.
I know that this list is just about as overwhelming as the daily news cycle, if not more so — but in this political climate, these are the themes that you really need to keep paying attention to. Maybe you don't have to pay attention to everything every day — but just keep them in the back of your mind, because they're sure to keep appearing again and again.