Warren Dockter of Aberystwyth University describes the impact of the Donald on America and the world
For Napoleon in 1815, 100 days marked his flight from Elba, uniting of the French Army, securing control of France, being declared an outlaw by the Congress of Vienna, his ignominious defeat at Waterloo and his second exile to St Helena.
The American fascination with the 100 day milestone began during President Roosevelt’s administration in 1933 when the Great Depression had economically crippled the US. Roosevelt pushed through the New Deal, called an emergency Congress and passed 16 important bills. Since this monumental accomplishment, several US presidents have been measured against this record with various degrees of success. Kennedy struggled with the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, while President Obama was able to pass a major stimulus package and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
As we approach Trump’s 100 days, much will be written on the successes and failures of his administration during this period. Evaluating his level of success will largely reveal more about those designing the rubrics than the Trump Administration itself.
Trump’s election cut across the traditional American politics of Republican vs Democrats, and has formed odd political bedfellows.
One is as likely to find a Trump voter on Wall Street as one is in Detroit car factories. But it is clear that two perspectives have emerged, embodying the Trump supporters on the one hand - who are typically Washington outsiders from more rural and industrial regions - and his detractors on the other, who are more urban, cosmopolitan, and more tapped into the American body politic.
Despite a relatively low approval rating of 41% according to a Gallup poll, Trump’s supporters will rate him well on a number of his victories. The most obvious and perhaps most lasting was his triumph in appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, a conservative constitutionalist reflects the world view of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Justice he is replacing. But even so, this appointment will leave Trump’s mark on the highest court in the United States as long as Gorsuch sits on the bench.
Trump supporters are likely to point to raising confidence in the economy and his wielding of executive orders to reverse Obama era regulations on banking and business. Though unpopular with some on the moderate right, Trump’s pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is also counted among Trump’s triumphs, though Clinton explored the notion of restructuring the agreement as well.
Populists and hawks in the Trump camp will undoubtedly see tighter border security and stronger military presence on the world stage as proof of Trump’s success. Illegal immigration on the southwest border is the lowest it has been in years. Trump’s use of Tomahawk missiles in Syria acted as a strong rebuke to Assad’s regime while signaling a change from Obama’s often criticized policies in the region.
It also sent a clear military message to North Korea, as well. Moderates will rejoice at the thought of Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon being pushed outside the President’s inner circle and will comment on Trump’s increasing moderation on NAFTA negations, foreign policy, and NATO.
Trump’s detractors will rightly argue that he has no legislative triumphs whatsoever. Increasingly, Trump’s campaign promises seem empty and in some cases ridiculous. His attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act lies in ruins, infuriating his base and revealing his novice levels of political acumen.
There is no credible plan for his trillion dollar infrastructural investment or funding his border wall. His promises to reform the tax code appear increasingly hollow for most of Middle America and only useful for large investment banks and the swamp Trump claimed to drain is crawling with more Goldman Sachs members than a Wall Street cocktail party.
Beyond this, Trump’s first 100 days has many of his critics fearful of how much lasting damage they may cause and what they say about the United States. Trump’s deregulation of Obama’s environmental policies, his inclination to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the administration’s flirtation with walking out of the Paris Agreement have led to serious alarm that Trump’s administration will have detrimental effects for the environment. National Geographic has felt compelled to maintain a catalogue of how Trump’s policies are changing the environment.
A more immediate and obvious example of Trump’s failures might be seen in the abhorrent and illegal ‘Muslim ban’. For while not only illuminating the ugly and Islamophobic character of this administration, it also clearly painted a White House that was unprofessional, out of its depth, and incapable of serious engagement with the complexities of constitutional governance and modern international politics.
These interpretations surrounding the administration’s success thus far teach important lessons about US politics at this moment. Trump’s administration is a lot like his campaign; chaotic and ruthless, with conflicting and at times, contradictory goals.
While the Trump administration fights itself and the Republican Party in Congress, the eyes of the nation will be on them and the US Right will continue to dominate the news cycle. The space and publicity required to nurture new leadership on the left and fill the vacuum left by Hillary Clinton will remain woefully elusive.
Consequently, if the Democrats do not get their house in order for the midterm elections and offer a credible opposition with a singular voice, the next 100 days may feel much longer.