The first hundred days of Donald Trump’s America will soon be upon us.
Despite the breakout protests and outrage following Donald Trump’s surprise victory at the polls, most people still aren’t sure what to expect of his administration.
Will he fulfill his promise of making America great again, or will the next four years be a cartoonish nightmare?
Why the First Hundred Days Matter
The first hundred days of any president’s administration are critical. Trump may be a strong example, but the opening act of a presidential term sets the stage for the years to follow.
Trump has to choose his cabinet, and decide what policies to make priorities. Which of his campaign promises, if any, will make it to the Oval Office? For Trump, whose election platform offered few details on policy, but was rich with “personality,” the first hundred days will be a furtive glimpse into the future.
The start of the first term is also when most presidents have their highest levels of support, and therefore, the most potential to pass parts of their campaign agenda.
For those who don’t know, the precedent for the first hundred days was set by FDR during a radio broadcast in 1933, where he outlined a plan to pass the New Deal during the hundred-day session of the 73rd Congress. The phrase quickly changed meaning, and became a label for the first hundred days of FDR’s first term in office, and later, the first term for any new president.
Crash Course has a more detailed explanation of the New Deal and FDR’s early days in office. Take a look for a quick history refresher:
FDR’s first hundred days were productive ones. If Trump can be even half as effective as FDR was, it should be clear why liberal voters are worried.
President Trump: What We Know So Far
To recap, the first standard by which all United States Presidents are judged, established during one of the most difficult periods in American history by this guy:
…is now about to be applied to this guy:
Trump was so vague about his policies during the campaign that he really could do just about anything. All we have to go on is his recent “Contract with the American Voter,” released in late October.
It’s hard to make any real predictions on this yet, but some news outlets have made a stab at it anyway. NPR copied the whole contract into an article last week, and the San Francisco Chronicle published a similar article a few days ago.
The thing about government is that it’s not easy to summarize. For those who really want to know what Trump will do, the best information is still straight from his website, but some highlights are included below:
The Supreme Court, Social Justice, and Minority Activism
There are number of issues, such as the rights of the LGBT community, that Trump’s contract doesn’t address.
There are other issues, such as the Supreme Court and Obama’s executive orders, that it addresses thoroughly.
Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court is still vacant, and three more justices are past or approaching 80 years old. While liberal justices might decide to wait a little longer to retire, if they were to die in office, it’s likely they would be replaced by conservatives.
LGBT Americans are already concerned about what Trump’s administration will do, especially when he has a Republican Congress behind him, but if the Supreme Court becomes conservative, would it really be a stretch to see same-sex marriage get the axe?
What about America’s burgeoning police state, or movements like Black Lives Matter? How many Syrian refugees, if any, will be allowed into the country? Will President Trump get his wall, and if he does, what will happen to immigrants that are already here?
Conservatives may not always care for social issues, and they may even support the rollback of the last eight years of liberalism. Hopefully, they do not let ideology take precedent over disenfranchisement and human suffering.
Regardless of political affiliation, it would seem that for social issues, if the last eight years equaled two steps forward, the next four might equal a dozen steps back.
“Drain the Swamp” was a big rallying point for Trump’s campaign, aimed at reducing corruption in D.C. by limiting terms in Congress and curtailing the influence of lobbyists.
This is certainly a goal that most Americans can get behind. But it’s also hard to see Trump making much progress when his cabinet is a veritable rogue’s gallery of Washington insiders.
On paper, term limits curb corruption, since fresh people are always fed into office.
New blood could also help to pass more popular legislation. It’s easy to imagine government losing touch with people, since the average congressman is around 60, while the the median age in America is 36.
But term limits might be easier said than done. Even Trump knows that term limits would require a constitutional amendment, and members of Congress likely won’t support any bill that would force them out of a job.
If Trump somehow gets his amendment passed, it might create other problems. Members of Congress will cycle more frequently, but lobbyists wouldn’t be affected by term limits, creating a big shift in the balance of political power compared to what we have now.
But lobbyists wouldn’t be completely off the hook.
Restrictions on Foreign Lobbyists
It’s important to note that it’s already illegal for candidates in federal elections to take money from foreign donors, but not necessarily for foreign lobbyists to raise money on their behalf. Trump would eliminate this loophole.
White House officials would also be banned from lobbying for foreign governments, and would not be allowed to lobby in the United States for five years after leaving government.
The revolving door between the private sector and government is no secret. US officials with ties to foreign governments can (and should) make voters nervous, and this is still without mentioning that countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are some of the more generous contributors to the D.C. machine.
While it’s hard to pick any one reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, alleged ties to foreign governments were definitely a sticky point for her during the election.
Clinton may not have taken foreign money for her campaign, but she did accept it for the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state, despite President Obama’s wishes. Depending on how strictly Trump’s proposals would be enforced, gray areas like this might become more black and white.
Infrastructure and Energy
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave infrastructure in the United States a D+. The society suggests an investment of $3.6 trillion to fix this problem.
To address this, Trump has proposed the American Energy and Infrastructure Act. The act would rely on partnerships with the private sector to raise $1 trillion for infrastructure projects.
Trump has yet to specify how this proposal would work. What incentive will the private sector have to invest in public works projects? How will the government pay for their share? Where will the other $2.6 trillion needed to fix our infrastructure come from?
Will a Republican Congress really authorize funds for bridges, dams, and roads?
Maybe not. But they probably will support the Keystone pipeline and increased fossil fuel production, which Trump has also proposed.
This might help keep gas prices down, but it doesn’t bode well for the environment, or for the people who don’t want leaky pipelines in their backyard. Is the possibility of cheaper energy really worth flaming drinking water?
The Immediate Horizon is Cloudy, at Best
Trump, unlike most presidents, does not have a record of policy making and statesmanship behind him. He tends to act impulsively, and breaks with tradition often; he may not even live in the White House.
One hundred days does not a president make, one week after election day is not enough time to adequately predict the future of the entire country, and no pundit, liberal or conservative, was able to see any of this coming.
The reality of the situation is that we do not fully grasp the reality of the situation. If you’re a died-in-the-wool conservative, you probably won’t complain too much. If not, you probably won’t know what to make of anything for a while.
Until we do, we can only keep watching the news, and hope for the best.
Daniel Durand is a writer who like politics, but admits that it’s a lot less fun lately. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.