The First 100 Days: What to Expect

This article was originally published in The Westerner on February 2, 2017

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The peaceful transition of power saw President Barack Obama give the nation’s highest office over to Donald Trump on Friday, January 20. After being sworn in as President of the United States in Washington D.C., the Trump administration officially began, and so did the important first 100 days.

Traditionally, these first 100 days of a President’s new term in office are meant to set the tone for the way he governs in the next four years. The administration takes advantage of the short grace period a new administration has with the people and the press to get their agenda moving forward.

“You’ve got some momentum behind you, and you want to show your base you are keeping your promises,” said Tim Vercellotti, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Polling Institute at Western New England University.

But Vercellotti notes that unlike the typical Presidency, it can be expected that President Trump will face a relatively short grace period.

“These first few days of his administration seem as if the campaign never ended,” Vercellotti added, citing the President’s continued use of Twitter and the events of the administration’s first weekend.

In that weekend, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attacked the media who the administration felt unfairly characterized the crowd size at the Inauguration. Kellyane Conway, a White House advisor from Trump’s campaign team also made headlines saying Spicer used “alternative facts” to describe the event.

As pointed out during the latest session of “The First 100 Days” presented by The Springfield Public Forum and the Western New England University School of Law, Presidential Inaugurations tend to be an indication of how a Presidency might play out.

Speaking at the presentation, John Baick, Professor of History at Western New England University pointed to Andrew Jackson’s rowdy Inauguration and Ronald Reagan’s feel-good Inauguration as examples that foreshadowed the Presidency.

Besides the campaign like atmosphere that followed Inauguration in the first weekend, to Baick, one phrase in President Trump’s address stood out: America first.

Baick noted this phrase has its roots in the isolationist movement during WWII, when proponents of “America first” wanted to stay out of the conflict. Since then, the United States has become a global superpower, involved in many international affairs. Baick believes the President suggests a return to focusing on Americans at home, taking power from the “foreign elites” and “elites in Washington.”

Beyond the Inaugural Address, President Trump has already made a series of executive orders and statements that indicate further where the first 100 days are going.

President Trump took steps to eliminate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, promised to renegotiate The North American Free Trade Agreement and took action in moving forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline.

Besides these measures which are meant to focus on better deals and more jobs for American workers, President Trump has continued to make reference to “not defending our border.” As Sudha Setty, Professor of Law at Western New England University indicated during the presentation at the Blake Law Center, this could mean a few things we can expect to see take shape in the wake of President Trump.

“It could be reference to building the wall, limiting immigrants and refugees, or even pulling back from NATO,” Setty said.

Of those possibilities, it is the border wall on the Mexican-American border that is already being discussed. To pay for the border wall, the Trump administration recently supported a congressional Republican plan to impose an annual 20 percent tax on all Mexican imports.

“The Wall” was one of Trump’s biggest campaign promises. Among those promises included repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Vercellotti believes there won’t be much on that in the first 100 days.

“It’s interpreted to mean an undoing of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, but otherwise it’s pretty vague,” Vercellotti said. “Congress still needs a replacement,” the Polling Director added.

President Trump is beginning to meet with foreign leaders such as the United Kingdom’s Theresa May, with uncertainty over how “America first” will affect foreign policy. With disputes over the Mexican-American border wall, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico cancelled a planned meeting with President Trump saying “Mexico does not believe in walls.”

Other stories Americans will see unfold during the first 100 days include the continuing confirmation hearings of President Trump’s cabinet nominees, and an announcement of a nominee to the Supreme Court.

“These are not Republican or Democratic talking points, it’s just him,” Setty said of Trump’s Inaugural Address. In agreement, Baick said Trump’s movement isn’t purely conservative in one form.

“It’s just a little bit of everything,” Baick said, “Which makes it hard to know what to expect.”


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