Lessons Learned from Trump’s First 100 Days
There has been a lot written about Donald Trump’s first 100 days. Most are keeping a scorecard of which promises are being kept. FiveThirtyEight looked at the big picture–what the first hundred days tell us about Trump. FiveThirtyEight is the site that analyzes the polls. It should be noted that they did report on the late movement in the polls against Hillary Clinton, leading up to the election.
FiveThirtyEight draws ten “lessons.”
1. Trump isn’t a “normal Republican” … but he isn’t a populist, either.
Trump campaigned as a populist (in rhetoric if not always in policy). He railed against undocumented immigrants, “job-killing trade deals” and “elites” of all stripes. He promised to bring back jobs, avoid foreign entanglements and to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Trump hasn’t exactly governed as a populist, however. He repeatedly turned to Goldman Sachs and its alumni network for top advisers. He made nice with China, rolled back financial regulations and just this week proposed a huge tax cut for businesses and the wealthy. His health care bill would have reduced insurance subsidies for many of his rural supporters.
2. Trump is doing what he said he’d do … except when he isn’t. . .
The lesson of Trump’s first 20 days, then (give or take), was that we should forgo the admonition to “take Trump seriously but not literally” — that he didn’t really mean the things he said during the campaign. But since then, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that we shouldn’t expect him to fulfill all his promises, either. Or, in some cases, even to try.
Trump, for example, pledged during the campaign to label China a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office. He didn’t, and now he has abandoned that promise altogether. Trump campaigned on a promise to avoid foreign entanglements and (in 2013) warned then-President Barack Obama not to attack Syria; less than three months into his presidency, he launched missile strikes on Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons. And Trump said repeatedly during the campaign that he would protect Medicaid from cuts; the Republican health care overhaul that Trump backed would have cut billions from the program.
3. Obama’s legacy is vulnerable (and so is Trump’s).
Trump may not have passed many bills or enacted many policies in his first 100 days, but he has managed to dismantle many of his predecessor’s policies. Trump, with help from the Republican-controlled Congress, has reversed, suspended or delayed dozens of rules put in place by Obama, including on core issues such as financial regulation and the environment. . .
Such reversals highlight the inherent impermanence of policies enacted through executive action, as many of Obama’s were, particularly after Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 election and the Senate in 2014’s. But if Obama’s legacy is at risk, then so will be Trump’s. Trump has so far leaned almost exclusively on executive actions to enact his agenda — actions that can be undone by the next president.
4. Watch what Trump does, not what he says (or tweets).
On Jan. 26, less than a week into Trump’s term, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the president was considering imposing a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for his promised border wall. . .But within hours, Spicer walked back the comment, and the border tax hasn’t been heard from since. . .
Trump was reportedly considering an executive order weakening protections for LGBT individuals; he never signed it. The Department of Homeland Security was preparing to use the National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants; the White House quickly distanced itself from the proposal. Just this Wednesday, anonymous White House aides indicated Trump was on the verge of signing an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA. By 11:30 that night, the idea was dead.
5. Trump really means it on immigration.
If there is one policy area in which Trump has been consistent, it is immigration. Sure, there have been a handful of inconsistencies and reversals — he has wavered on when and how Mexico will supposedly pay for the border wall, and the rumored “deportation force” never materialized — but unlike in foreign policy or trade, Trump has never backed away from his hard-line stance on immigration.
6. Some political rules do still apply to Trump.
During the campaign, Trump often seemed to defy political gravity, surviving scandals that would have felled more traditional candidates. . .As president, Trump has continued to make bizarre and sometimes false statements, and has continued to survive them. But that doesn’t mean there have been no consequences: Trump is deeply unpopular (though only modestly more so than when he took office), and his approval ratings took a particular hit after the high-profile failure of the Republican health care bill.
7. Facts still matter (sometimes).
Trump’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts didn’t hurt him in the election (at least not badly enough for him to lose), so maybe it’s unsurprising that he has continued the practice since taking office. Most famously, he tweeted that Obama had tapped his phone during the campaign, a claim for which no one has ever produced any supporting evidence. He has also claimed that the U.S. murder rate is at a 47-year high (it isn’t), that he has created 600,000 new jobs (he hasn’t) and, repeatedly, that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in November (there’s no evidence to support that claim). In one particularly peculiar incident, Trump said he was sending an aircraft carrier off the coast of Korea, when it was in fact moving in the opposite direction.
8. Trump still isn’t into details.
As a candidate, Trump didn’t offer many detailed policy proposals. That hasn’t changed much as president. The tax plan he announced this week was actually less detailed than the one he offered during the campaign. Many of his executive orders have been little more than memos laying out broad principles and directing federal agencies to study ways to comply with them. And on the biggest piece of legislation his administration has tackled so far — the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act — Trump largely left the policymaking up to Congress.
9. There is no ‘Trump administration.’
Political reporters routinely write about the executive branch as if it is a single person. . .
That does not appear to be how the Trump administration works. This month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley gave contradictory descriptions of the U.S.’s policy on regime change in Syria. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has called publicly for the U.S. to pull out of the Paris climate accords, a position other members of the administration do not seem to share. Trump’s various economic aides often seem at odds over the administration’s position on free trade.
10. Trump isn’t the only story, or at least he shouldn’t be.
A short, very incomplete list of things that have happened in the world since Trump took office: North Carolina repealed its controversial “bathroom bill” targeting transgender individuals; Arkansas executed two men in one night in a rush to carry out death sentences before the state’s stock of lethal injection drugs expires; the U.S. retail sector began to collapse; Turkey edged closer to dictatorship; Venezuela descended into chaos.
You’d be forgiven for missing many of those stories. Trump has dominated the media landscape like no other figure before him.