Since FDR, a president’s first 100 days offer an important – if arbitrary – measure for evaluating success. While it is unlikely any executive will again match the productivity of Roosevelt, most scholars of the presidency agree that this period still matters for advancing an administration’s agenda.
It has been an unruly 100 days since President Donald Trump took the oath of office. His administration has been plagued with scandals, protests and a critical media with a renewed sense of purpose.
As a scholar of the presidency and the press, I’ve found the beginning of the Trump administration morbidly fascinating.
Despite his boasts, Trump’s legislative agenda appears to be stalled. As we approach day 100, many will point critically to the dearth of bills coming across Trump’s desk. However, focusing solely on legislation overlooks a thriving aspect of the Trump presidency: the use of unilateral powers like executive orders, memoranda and proclamations.
Trump goes it alone
Trump hit the ground running with a flurry of unilateral activity. This burst of direct actions may seem surprising in light of Trump’s past statements. In 2012, he took to Twitter to criticize President Obama for “constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority.” According to the American Presidency Project, Trump has surpassed his power-grabbing predecessor in unilateral actions, and in less time.
Trump is clearly making a concerted effort to fulfill his campaign promises. In areas where he can act alone, Trump has made gestures – some symbolic, others more substantive – toward 14 of the 18 pledges outlined in his Contract with the American Voter. With a stroke of the pen, Trump attempted to reduce the number of people working for the government, “drain the swamp” and advance pipeline projects.