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100 Days of What?

100 Days of What?
AP Photo, File

Dear Reader —

Tomorrow is the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the commentariat has wasted no time measuring the president’s policy achievements (or lack thereof) against that timeline. Where does this convention come from?

On July 24, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invoked the concept to tout the record-breaking number of new laws passed between the “opening of the special session of the 73rd Congress on March 9 and its closing on June 17.” Trump did not take office amidst an unprecedented economic depression. But the context of FDR’s 100 days is nevertheless illuminating. As historian Anthony Badger puts it

“When Roosevelt took power on March 4, 1933, many influential Americans doubted the capacity of a democratic government to act decisively enough to save the country. Machine guns guarded government buildings…[H]is audience responded most enthusiastically to Roosevelt's promises in his inaugural to assume wartime powers if necessary. That sense of emergency certainly made Congress willing to give FDR unprecedented power.” 

Though machine guns are not (as of this writing) guarding government buildings here in the nation’s capital, many on the Left and Right nevertheless feared Trump’s election would produce a presidency with unprecedented power, unchecked by a Congress that has already ceded much of its authority to the executive. That has not happened. Instead, the administration has proved incapable of cajoling even a small caucus of House conservatives into backing a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — one of the few issues around which there was consensus when the GOP assumed historic majorities last November.

Like Trump, FDR also pledged in his inaugural address to reignite the engine of American industry — and to wield the mechanisms of government to do so. But neither President Trump nor the 115th Congress have delivered much in the way of substantial legislation in these first 100 days. What we have, instead, are ongoing and deep disagreements over policy among Republicans, a stubbornly dysfunctional legislative system, and an administration that has yet to coalesce around a governing style or even political theory.

Of course, a lot can happen in four years — or even before the next midterm. 100 days is an arbitrary convention, after all. Still, all sides seem to have underestimated just how deep the divisions are within the GOP and overestimated the power of party leaders — who now count the populist insurgents among their ranks — to compromise, build consensus, and thus effectuate policy.

What of executive power? The 100-day period originally designated a session of Congress. It surely says something about our inflated hopes (or fears) for executive power that the 100-day mark has come to be a measure of the president’s success. 

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy


The Stunning Disappearance of Candidate Trump. According to The Nation’s Robert Borosage, President Trump’s shift away from populism provides an opening for the Democratic Party to reevaluate its policy agenda. 

The Looming Collapse of the Elite. In The Week, Damon Linker argues the “global elite” has not come to terms with the populist backlash nor critically evaluated its own role in bringing it about.

GOP Sells Tax Break for the Rich as “Small Business Relief.” In RealClearPolicy, Chuck Marr argues the proposal to cut taxes on “pass-through” income will benefit the wealthy, not small businesses. 

First, Do No Harm to Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions. In RealClearHealth, John Meigs Jr. discusses how the AHCA takes a major step backward in regards to health security for those with pre-existing conditions. 

The Case Against Single-Payer. For Washington Monthly, Joel Dodge makes a progressive case for voluntary public health insurance. 

The Trump Administration Might Squander Its First Year. In National Review, James C. Capretta contends the administration is wasting its “first months in office figuring out what its real agenda is” rather than trying to pass legislation.

Trump Is a Real Republican, and That’s a Good Thing. In The New York Times, Charles R. Kesler argues that Donald Trump should be understood in the context of the Republican Party’s history rather than “movement conservatism.”

Georgia’s Warning for Republicans: Reform, or Else. In our own pages, John Hart urges the GOP to keep health-care reform a top priority. 

Today’s Nullification Crisis. City Journal’s Myron Magnet suggests that today’s defenders of “sanctuary cities” echo Civil War era “nullification” advocates. 

Untangling the Meaning of “Nationalism.” Also in National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru considers whether the debate on the Right over nationalism and patriotism is substantive or largely terminological. 

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