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When it comes to social policy, President Trump embraces conservative politics as usual, continuing a nearly four-decades-long effort to make these policies more restrictive. (excerpt from NYT The Welfare Boogeyman (July 23, 2018) by Suzanne Mettler)

I definitely understand the main clause and know what the "continuing ---" sentence means, but I'm confusing whether it is a so-called participial construction. If so, does that mean that "President Trump" has continued a long-standing effort to make social policies restrictive? Or is there other grammatical/semantic subject?

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Yes, it's a participial construction: continuing is the present participle of to continue, and the "continuing a nearly..." phrase describes something about the main clause ("President Trump embraces conservative politics as usual").

You could think of it this way:

President Trump embraces conservative politics as usual.
This action (President Trump's embracing of conservative politics as usual) continues a nearly four-decades-long effort to make these policies more restrictive.

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