You would have thought that the “political experts” who failed to understand, let alone predict, the rise of Donald Trump in 2016 might have learned something by now. They haven’t. While they obsess over silly side issues that do not concern most Americans, President Trump has been methodically making stunning progress in his pledge to undo the policies of his predecessor and pursue others that are improving the lives of working men and women.

Despite the hundreds of hours of media reports about the number of times Trump played golf, staff turnover at the White House, his television viewing habits, and of course the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, we see that the American public is generally feeling better about the direction of the country and their own lives. It turns out that Donald Trump’s style — at times brash, unconventional, and even unpredictable — is largely irrelevant to voters who just want more control over their own lives, more money in their pockets — a shot at a better life.

By Day 500 of his presidency, Trump was the most popular Republican president among members of his own party since World War II, with the exception of George W. Bush after 9/11. The 87 percent of Republicans approving of his job performance were focusing not on cable chatter, but on some of his achievements.

Trump’s record at that point:

  • Quarterbacked tax reform that saved more than 80 percent of Americans money and spurred massive job growth and investment in the United States.
  • Appointed dozens of phenomenal judges to the federal courts, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
  • Cut the federal payroll by 24,000 jobs.
  • Eliminated 16 regulations for every one added.
  • Boosted our energy sector by removing barriers to the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • Historically low unemployment rates for African-Americans.
  • Withdrew from the Paris climate accord.
  • Repealed the Obamacare individual mandate.
  • Defunded Planned Parenthood funding via Title X.
  • Reinstated an expanded Mexico City policy blocking foreign aid from being used for abortions.
  • Overhauled the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Enacted new protections for religious liberty.
  • Cracked down on MS-13, “sanctuary cities,” and deported thousands of criminal aliens.
  • Successfully renegotiated our trade deal with South Korea and began process with Mexico and Canada (the North American Free Trade Agreement).
  • Reset our trade relationship with China after years of bad faith actions by the communist regime.
  • Held historic talks with North Korea toward the goal of averting a nuclear showdown in the Korean Peninsula.
  • Moved America’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which prior presidents promised but never delivered.

As impressive as the above list is, it’s far from comprehensive, and Trump’s team insists they are just getting started.

Contrary to what the Bushes, Obamas, and Clintons contended, Trump’s “America First” approach to governance hasn’t and doesn’t result in isolationism, nativism, and/or protectionism. If properly executed, it results in more prosperity for more Americans, less dangerous and wasteful military interventionism — more happiness, and less hopelessness here at home.

Plus, let’s face facts: With $20 trillion in debt and budgets still wildly out of balance, pragmatism had to replace idealism. Globalism had to give way to a conservative populism.

Policies that don’t work had to be abandoned in favor of ones that return power to the people, where it rightly resides.

Of course, plenty has not gone smoothly. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when a disrupter like Donald Trump rolls into Washington. From my personal interactions with him, I know that he’s a man impatient for change. I happen to think that’s a good, not bad, quality. For decades he observed our government from afar, enriching other countries with mega-trade deals as our own people struggled. He saw Europe fail to live up to its financial obligations for NATO’s military budget.

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He saw our borders overrun. Smart people should be able to fix this, he thought, and it shouldn’t be that difficult or take that long. Well, anyone who has worked in government knows nothing transformative happens easily or quickly.

Trump, a newbie to the workings of Washington, stumbled unnecessarily out of the gate. The executive branch is a labyrinthine behemoth that will swallow you up if not staffed and managed correctly. He needed to hire more personnel in key positions who knew how to work with Congress, prioritize policy goals, understand the rule-making process, and manage the nastiest characters of all — the press. In other words, staff who know the system. There’s simply no time for “on-the-job training” when you’re president. Crises happen. Domestic and world events take over. If everyone isn’t rowing in the same direction, you’ll find yourself going in circles.

At the Trump White House, they found themselves defending a hastily worded travel ban instead of pushing a robust tax reform or an infrastructure bill that included a border wall.

For more than a year, Trump’s Presidential Personnel Office was understaffed and slow to move on new hires. People with zero history of supporting the Trump agenda were advanced into positions that would have been better served by others. Former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson was never suited for the job of secretary of state. Replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo was an astute move. Tom Price was similarly a swing and a miss. Just because he had served ably in Congress and practiced medicine didn’t mean he was suited to run a department as massive and unwieldy as Health and Human Services. To his credit, Trump saw Price’s weakness and slotted in the guy who many of us thought should have gotten the job in the first place — Alex Azar, former deputy HHS secretary under George W. Bush. (Disclosure: He is a close personal friend going back to our Supreme Court clerkship days.)

Of course, the high rate of senior staff turnover and occasional controversies among certain Cabinet members became a favorite narrative of the media always desperate to paint an administration in a constant state of chaos. “Trump Cabinet Turnover Sets Record Going Back 100 Years,” NPR reported.

More white noise to Americans who by the summer of 2018 were really feeling the strong Trump economy kick in for themselves and their families.

But he tweets too much! He publicly criticizes his own Cabinet! He’s erratic! (Kim Jong-un’s “rocket man” one day and a summit partner the next.) He’s too thin-skinned! His older sons are still doing international business deals! His wife looks unhappy! And what the heck are Jared and Ivanka doing in there?

Related: ‘Busting the Barricades’ by Laura Ingraham: Unique Insights, Abundant Acumen into Donald Trump

The more popular and successful the president becomes, the more unhinged the anti-Trump “resistance” becomes. Ultimately, their hatred for the president blinds them to what’s happening all around America — more people are working and taking home more pay. The hard-core Left and the bitter Never Trump Right seem to be cheering against America when they fail to recognize that the policies of this administration are delivering real results and insist that Trump be removed from office.

The media complex will continue to be a barrier to Trump, but he manages to bust through daily. By communicating directly to the people through Twitter, using talk radio, Fox News, OAN, social media, and various websites, the Trump administration is able to reach more Americans than ever before, without the usual filter of bias. Trump has made a decision that appearing on networks like CNN or MSNBC is generally not worth the aggravation. That may or may not be the right decision, but it seems to be working for him.

The Mueller investigation also remains a constant distraction. Rod Rosenstein never should have been appointed deputy attorney general and, in turn, he should never have appointed a special counsel in the first place. The more we learn, the worse the story gets. An FBI director — Jim Comey — who lectured others against leaks but who leaked memos to the press to spur the appointment. FBI agents who expressed their political animus against the presidential campaign they were investigating in text messages and their talk of an “insurance policy” as the campaign was drawing to a close. Dozens of “unmasking requests” made by Obama U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and still others by his national security adviser Susan Rice. Applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants that failed to disclose Hillary Clinton’s funding of the Christopher Steele “dossier” that contained dirt on Trump. News that a “confidential informant” was placed by the FBI in the Trump campaign to investigate its possible ties to the Russian government. Questions swirling about what President Obama and his top staff knew about the investigation into Trump’s campaign and when they knew it.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was cleared by Jim Comey and the Obama Department of Justice for conduct that would have gotten any low-level government staffer or U.S. soldier prosecuted. That’s Washington “justice” for you. One set of rules for the Clintons. Another for everyone else.

What is most heartening is that Republicans (and I bet a lot of independents) are able to separate the distractions from the reality of President Trump.

Elites always maintained that refashioning our global trade agreements was too complicated, that if we revisited these old decisions the nation would be imperiled. That was total poppycock. Trump’s instincts were right and theirs were wrong.

They were also wrong on China becoming a member of the World Trade Organization. They were wrong about allowing open borders.

They were wrong about admitting so many unskilled, poorly educated workers. They were wrong about the formation of the European Union. They were wrong to support German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s wave-in of millions of mostly Muslim, male refugees from Syria.

While they keep hoping for a world that will never be, Trump operates in the world as it is. It doesn’t mean he won’t make missteps. But what it does mean is that before every decision he makes, he will ask the question — how does this affect the life of that working-class family of four in Kentucky? Is America’s interest advanced?

This is the whole point of America — freedom. We were supposed to govern for ourselves. We created the richest, most powerful country in history of the world because our system worked better than others.

Populists don’t care how policies make elites feel while at their international forums. They care if they work. Policymaking is supposed to exist for the betterment of your own people first. We tried ceding our authority, our sovereignty, to international organizations and courts, and it was an abject failure. When liberals say other countries don’t respect us any longer with Trump as president, they get it exactly backward. Trump demonstrated that America will not be bullied by other governments into losing ground. We have power and we should use it for ourselves — he instinctively understands this. Imagine trying to be Hungary or the Czech Republic or Poland and at odds with the entire EU over the key issue of immigration. In America we decide our own destinies.

This is the whole point of America — freedom. We were supposed to govern for ourselves. We created the richest, most powerful country in history of the world because our system worked better than others.

Their policies were good for rich elites but not for most people who prefer that we have a middle class.

In 2020, Democrats are going to have to answer this question: How are you possibly going to get better unemployment numbers, better growth, and a better policy toward China? That’s a tough climb.

When Democrats aren’t railing on about how “embarrassing” Trump is, they’re embracing the same high-tax, big government, open borders policies that the voters rejected in the 2016 election. As they spin their wheels, Trump will work to do what George W. Bush could not — expand his base of support.

Why should African-American and Hispanic voters buy into the stale old game of identity politics and feel compelled to stick with the Democrats? Because Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer support removing Confederate statues and celebrate kneeling for the national anthem? How will that create more jobs? Democrats, once the party of slavery, talk a good game about civil rights as they relentlessly push policies that obliterate religious liberty. Their leaders march for “social justice,” but preside over cities where violent crime is the norm and two-parent households the exception.

Today, thanks to a president who is determined to forge a new path, and leave behind the failed ideas of the past, America is back on the right track. Twenty-five years from now, I hope my children will look back on the 2016 election the way I look back on 1980 — the time when a man who so many of the “smart people” dismissed, ridiculed, and maligned restored faith in the American experiment.

Excerpted from “Busting the Barricades: What I Saw at the Populist Revolt” (All Points Books/St. Martin’s), preface copyright 2018 by Laura Ingraham, used by permission of All Points Books. Best-selling author Laura Ingraham is host of “The Ingraham Angle” on Fox News, host of “The Laura Ingraham Show,” heard coast-to-coast on 225 radio stations, and co-founder of LifeZette.