by Taylor Godfrey ’19
While it seems like only yesterday everyone watched a very rain-soaked and supposedly well-attended inauguration, we have now reached the 100th (or rather 105th by the date of this publication) day of Donald Trump’s presidency.
This is the mark by which a president’s term is often judged and the news sites are all covered with articles either exalting or denouncing Trump’s accomplishments, or lack thereof, during what are possibly the most important days of his term. While political scientists as well as half of your Facebook friends will probably discuss the ramifications of the past 100 days for years to come, all of the commentary begs the question, is this evaluation even worth anything?
The significance of the 100-day milestone for presidencies has been around since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, when the pressures of the Great Depression necessitated a swift course of action from the president in a very short period of time. In a press conference on April 19, the White House claimed that Trump has had a more successful first 100 days than any president since FDR. Presidents love to compare themselves to this historically beloved figure, but unless a country is in such dire straits as Roosevelt’s was, this 100-day landmark is arbitrary and not necessarily indicative of a president’s overall success.
Why should a president passing a bill in his or her first hundred days make that bill any more or less important than legislation they pass at any other point over next four years?
If anything, the pressure to succeed in such a short amount of time only encourages a quantity over quality mentality. And if there is any job in the world that should focus more on valuable work and less on volume of work, it is the president of the U.S.
This magnifying glass centered only on the first 100 days of a presidency also encourages a president to put the reputation of the office above all else. When Trump’s White House claims that he has been more successful than any other president since FDR, his office does not care whether or not it is true. What is important is that the country thinks it is true and the claim will therefore bolster the trumped up superiority of the 100 days.
However, Trump, and most likely the presidents that follow him, are trying to live up to a standard that is unrealistic. The country should not want the president to have to do as much in his or her first 100 days as Roosevelt did because that would mean the U.S. was facing a problem as catastrophic as the Great Depression.
In addition, the mystique of this arbitrary time period causes presidents to make wild promises that they cannot possibly keep because the public is expecting a fully loaded docket of plans for those three fleeting months.
Trump promised in the 100-day plan he released in October 2016, to, among other things, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, eliminate corruption in Washington and “drain the swamp,” suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions,” and lift “roadblocks” against projects like the Keystone Pipeline, according to NPR.
The latter two he has at least addressed, though to varying degrees of success. He has not suggested any legislation to “drain the swamp,” and his administration’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare have been an abysmal failure so far. He has not succeeded at most of the things he promised to accomplish in 100 days, though his administration claims he has been wildly successful.
The most problematic thing is not that Trump has not accomplished all of these goals (whether you agree with them or not), the problem is that Trump still has 1360 days left in office. We must not stop scrutinizing his decisions or being as vigilant after these 100 days are over.
We must try to block out all of the voices yelling about this important milestone, because Trump’s presidency is far from over and it would be foolish to think that the actions taken during these 100 days will be the only ones that matter.
Instead of overanalyzing the past three months, we should wait and evaluate Trump when he is out of office. Only from that vantage point, or even better from a few years from now, can we truly evaluate the good and the bad of his term. For Trump, as for every president, the first 100 days are just the beginning. Rather than trying to figure out if Trump’s short time in office means he will be an effective leader, let’s remember how much time we have left still and focus all of our energy encouraging him to be one.