The way it usually works is someone goes around telling people what he would do if he were in charge. He (it's almost always a he) gets up on stages and in front of cameras and before clusters of reporters' recorders and says that the last guy was doing it wrong, that he (the new guy) can do it better, just give him a chance, and if enough people buy it, they fill in the little bubble next to his name and he becomes the leader.
Donald Trump is not the way it usually works. He was a singular presidential candidate because he didn't care about the rules. Trump ran mostly on the idea of Trump. He was great, he was fantastic, only he could make America great again—when pressed for details on how he would do that, he responded vaguely, or with positions that he'd be forced to disavow after public outcries. Remember when he said that women would be punished for having abortions if the procedure was made illegal? Or when he told 60 Minutes that the government would pay for citizens' healthcare?
One theory of Trump's campaign is that his connection with the voters is based so powerfully in emotion—he's given unhappy white people a voice, he's fighting back against the despised elites in big cities—that they don't much care what he does in the White House. Many of his voters have a connection with Trump not unlike the connection some Barack Obama supporters had with him; he's a face on a T-shirt, a symbol of the hope or anger you secretly hold in your heart, your favorite celebrity.
Still, despite the popular conception of politicians as liars, political science studies have found most candidates at least try to keep most of their promises once they're in office. And like any president, Trump will be constrained by various pressure groups who will have an interest in making sure he does some of the things he said he'd do. Congressional Republicans will surely push him to repeal Obamacare and cut taxes, his more extreme supporters may cry foul if he softens his stances—last week, the far-right, usually pro-Trump media outlet Breitbart ran a headline that said "BROKEN PROMISE" in response to reports that Trump wouldn't encourage the prosecution of his former opponent Hillary Clinton.
Trump's notorious changeability combined with his well-known habit of straight-up lying makes his presidency difficult to predict. Still, we might as well start as we would for any president-elect: by looking at public statements he made during the course of the long campaign. What follows is a list of every pledge Trump made on his website, on his Twitter account, and on the campaign trail.
First, some disclaimers: This list is probably incomplete, simply because Trump and his campaign said so many different things over the past year that it's hard to compile them. (We will be updating it as we find more.) Also, we've tried to focus on promises that are specific enough that whether they're kept or not will be obvious and checkable. "Making America great again" and "strengthening America's military" are too vague to qualify; "building five new aircraft carriers" is not.
That said, we've split this list into three categories:
Promised Policies: These are the things Trump has said he'll do as president. Some of them may require Congressional approval, some of them he can do himself if he really wants to, some may be impossible for reasons having to do with physics or the Constitution. Doable or not, here they are.
Personal Guarantees: So much of Trump's campaign has been about what a great guy Trump is, and he's naturally made a lot of promises about how he'll comport himself in the office. This category also includes statements he's made about how his staff and his family will behave, since a major campaign issue was corruption and conflicts of interest for both Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Flip-Flops: A lot of the stuff Trump said during the campaign he has already taken back, or modified to the point where it's not clear if he still believes it. Those statements go here.
As the Trump administration progresses, some of his promises will be broken, either because of their impossibility or because he'll have changed his mind. Others will be fulfilled. As that happens, we will update this list and annotate it. Think of this as a checklist that probably no one in the Trump White House will keep.
-Put in place a hiring freeze on most civilian federal government employees. UPDATE 1/23/2017: He issued an executive order that did just that on his third full day in office.
-Build a wall along the Southern border—a wall that may partly be a fence. UPDATE 1/30/2017: An executive order has been signed that at least reaffirms Trump's commitment to the wall.
-Make Mexico pay for that wall. UPDATE 1/6/2017: Mexico is going to pay the US back for the wall "later," according to Trump's Twitter feed.
-Suspend immigration from parts of the world with a "proven history of terrorism." UPDATE 1/30/2017: Trump issued an order on Friday, January 27, that at least temporarily banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US—though it left out some countries, like Saudi Arabia, whose citizens have been responsible for high-profile acts of terrorism.
UPDATE 3/24: After multiple court rulings that resulted in a temporary restraining order on his this initiative, the White House rewrote the "travel ban"—and the second version was also temporarily blocked by courts.
-Refuse entry to all Syrian refugees. UPDATE 1/30/2017: The same order on January 27 indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from entering the country.
-Build a "safe zone" in Syria for refugees.
-Deport 5 million undocumented immigrants—or the 2 to 3 million that Trump says have criminal records.
-Make it harder for companies to hire skilled foreign workers.
-Stop federal funds from going to "sanctuary cities" that don't comply with immigration officials looking to deport undocumented immigrants who have been detained by police. UPDATE 1/30/2017: Trump has declared he would do this via executive order, but it's not clear how and when this will go into effect.
-Bring back waterboarding. (Though one of Trump's reported candidates for secretary of defense, retired Marne General James Mattis, told the president-elect waterboarding didn't work, Trump still hasn't changed his mind.)
-"Go after" the families of terrorists—for what it's worth, Trump says he didn't mean "kill."
-Allow familes to deduct the cost of childcare from their taxes.
-Grant women (not men) six weeks of paid parental leave.
-Push colleges to lower tuition in exchange for continuing to give them tax breaks and funding.
-Grow the nation's economy by somewhere from 3 to 6 percent.
-Eliminate two regulations every time a new regulation is implemented. UPDATE 1/30/2017: Trump signed an executive order to this effect.
-Pay promised Social Security benefits. (Trump has hired people in favor of privitizing Social Security to his transition team.)
-Get rid of Common Core, a set of standards for what students should know in each grade.
-Make unspecified cuts to the Department of Education.
-Expand charter schools to the point where "every American child living in poverty" has access to school choice.
-Get NASA to focus more on human exploration of the solar system.
-Approve the Keystone pipeline. UPDATE 1/30/2017: During his first week in office, Trump started this process, encouraging the company behind the pipeline to reapply for permission to build.
UPDATE 3/24: Trump approved the pipeline.
-Enact a tax plan that would reduce the number of income brackets, cut tax rates (particularly on the wealthy), increase the standard deduction, eliminate the personal exemption, abolish the estate tax, and cut the business tax.
-Repeal and replace Obamacare—Trump's transition website leaves exactly what Obamacare would be replaced with fairly up in the air, but his earlier statements on healthcare line up with standard Republican positions. UPDATE 3/24: The bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—called the American Health Care Act—was defeated after Republicans couldn't find enough votes for it in the House. Trump now says he's going to postpone dealing with this issue because he thinks the ACA will "explode" on its own.
-Leave marijuana laws up to the states—he made that position clear in an interview with the Washington Post, though it's worth noting that Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for attorney general, is vehemently anti-pot.
-Enact a ten-point plan for veteran reform—essentially, fire any incompetent or corrupt VA employees and increase veterans' access to healthcare.
-Cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood as long as the group provides abortion.
-Appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices. UPDATE 2/3/2017: Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the court this week; Gorsuch doesn't have much of a record on abortion but has issued lots of rulings that religious conservatives agree with.
-Abolish gun-free zones entirely.
-Beef up the military to 540,000 soldiers in the Army and 350 naval vessels. (Trump also says he wants at least 1,200 aircraft in the Air Force, but the Air Force already exceeds that number.)
-Press US allies to pay America for providing them with military protection.
-Back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. UPDATE 1/23/2017: Trump did this via executive action.
-Will never hand over his mic to a Black Lives Matter protester as Bernie Sanders once did.
-Refuse to call Iran's leader by his preferred title—"I'll say, 'Hey baby, how ya doing?'"
-Give the Chinese president a Big Mac instead of a state dinner as a sign of Trump's unhappiness with China.
-Bar future high-level appointees from becoming lobbyists for five years, and from ever lobbying for foreign governments. UPDATE 1/30/2017: Trump has done this via executive order.
-Get the country to say "merry Christmas" instead of "happy holidays."
-Won't be "very big on vacations." UPDATE 2/6/2017: Trump spent the weekend at his "Winter White House," a.k.a. Mar-a-Lago, which seems kind of like a vacation.
UPDATE 3/24: Trump has spent several weekends there.
-A long, long time ago, Trump said he would release his tax returns. That hasn't happened.
-Trump promised that his business holdings would be placed in a "blind trust" run by his daughter and large adult sons. It was never clear how this would work, exactly, and it seems like his children will also be involved in at least an informal capacity in his administration. (As president, Trump couldn't be prosecuted under federal conflict of interest laws, but a lot of critics are calling for him to sell his assets or do something else to avoid the appearance of corruption.)
-Trump has said he would be in favor of some kind of database for Muslims entering the US from certain countries—or something. It's hard to sort out what he actually wants to do.
-Trump kept insinuating that Hillary Clinton was corrupt and had broken the law, and during a debate even said that she'd be in jail if he were in charge. But after the election, he immediately changed his tune and said that the Hillary-for-prison stuff is "just not something I feel very strongly about," prompting objections from right-wingers who made the mistake of taking Trump at his word.