He has shaken up Washington, despite achieving few legislative victoriesby Iwan Morgan / April 27, 2017 / Leave a comment
“I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” Donald Trump boasted in a recent interview, a remark betraying breath-taking ignorance of history. This rhetorical pomposity makes it tempting to dismiss his early record as insignificant, but that would be to underestimate what the 45th president has done to change Washington DC. If Trump can build on this foundation beyond the artificial 100-day mark, his could be a consequential presidency, but he will need to up his game significantly for this to happen.
However shocking his antics to foreign eyes—and many American ones—Trump has restored the presidency to political pre-eminence after years in which it was hamstrung by partisan polarisation. He has redefined the style of the office to dominate headlines, set the policy agenda, and frame the terms of political debate. Accordingly, he has followed through on his promise to shake up Washington, but he will soon need to add substance to his style. Trump faces a problem in this regard: most presidents make progress on key legislation in their first year when their popularity is usually at its peak, but Trump has the lowest average Gallup approval rating for the first 100 days on record—41 per cent compared to 55 per cent for Bill Clinton, the next lowest, and 74 percent for the top-rated John F Kennedy.
Trump has what can best be termed a spotty record of delivery on the unrealistically ambitious promises for his first 100 days in his pre-presidential “Contract with the American Voter,” issued at Gettysburg on 22nd October last. This two-page document contained 38 promises, 10 of which have been delivered so far. Arguably his two most significant achievements have been to restore conservative ascendancy on the Supreme Court through the successful nomination of Neil Gorusch as Associate Justice, and the withdrawal of the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Trump has mainly advanced his agenda through issuance of executive orders. Often overlooked, however, is that he has signed twelve pieces of legislation enacted by congressional Republicans under the provisions of the Congressional Review Act permitting rescindment of executive orders by earlier presidents. The combined effect has been a substantial clawback of Obama administration rules pertaining in particular to immigration, firearms control, energy, environmental issues, education, and healthcare.