In a society ostensibly ruled by the whims of president Donald Trump, getting the lay of the land isn’t always an easy task. Zzyzx, Whiteside, LadyFabulous, ThePiedSpicer and Commissar try to get their collective finger on the pulse of the Trump administration one hundred days into… whatever this is.
Zzyzx: Donald Trump was inaugurated 100 days ago. The shift in governing style, intragovernmental chaos, attacks on women’s and LTBQT rights, the crackdown on immigration (both undocumented and legal immigrants), profligate deregulation, the bolstering of the carceral state, the Cold War against the Deep State, the atmosphere of open racial hostility and tacit of approval of same, the attempted repeal of Obamacare, the specter of World War 3 and the sheer exhaustion of having to pay attention to a megalomaniac day in, day out makes it feel like 1000 days. So innocent and carefree we were on January 19th – or even further back, November 7th. I’m not trying to romanticize the past, since America had myriad problems before Trump, but it wasn’t this. It’s time to reflect on what could be the first stage of an arduous journey and get a sense of where exactly we are now.
So – where the hell are we?
Whiteside: Apparently our entire federal government is now being staffed by homophobic Russian lizard hackers in bed with the Red Chinese.
Zzyzx: And billionaires, let’s not leave them out in the cold.
Whiteside: The billionaires couldn’t possibly be out in the cold. They have climate control.
Zzyzx: The only climate-related issue most of them believe in.
Commissar: I think many people have a good sense of what this moment means and its potential dangers, at least on the Left. However the Left has proven to be ineffective in confronting these forces.
A good example is what went down in Berkeley California recently. Fascist forces marched freely for hours, and the Left was forced into retreat.
Zzyzx: For all this talk about “the resistance”, there’s very little in the way of substantial large-scale organization to meet the material challenges of what that entails. I suppose we could differentiate between leftists and mainstream Democrats, but doing so leaves us with slim pickings numbers-wise. If there’s going to a mass resistance it requires more than we’ve seen so far. Does anyone here disagree on that?
ThePiedSpicer: I disagree on organization. I think it’s more a lack of a leader. You can’t watch all the political protests, marches and town halls and say there isn’t organization.
It may not be inspiring to everyone because they haven’t accomplished a lot but that doesn’t mean that are useless or lack organization. I’ve observed more than a dozen town halls and protests since the election: each one been exceptionally coordinated and effective at the local level of getting their message out. And while the Democratic party is less than reassuring, they still are making inroads. Again, their faults falls on a lack of a unifying leader to rally around and craft a clear message, but their organizational framework is already in place and arguably improving.
Whiteside: It’s same problem that lost the election for Hillary Clinton. Democrats haven’t done well providing the party with a clear leader. Bernie was a start but he didn’t unify everyone.
ThePiedSpicer: One of the reasons Dems lost with Hillary is they wanted to retain power without actually promoting any change. Which was why that recent reveal regarding Clinton’s team mulling using a slogan of “it’s her turn.” It was so astounding.
LadyFabulous: On the LGBTQ side, I see a lot of energy regarding the resistance. The gays are kicking and screaming the whole way through. It’s like the babysitter is here and we don’t like him and we’re going to make it’s super difficult for him until Dad gets back home. Big groups like GLAAD and the HRC are rallying around small situations and cases like Gavin Grimm’s to give them greater visibility.
Zzyzx: All fair points. There is energy both on a local and national level. And the emergence of a recognizable leader/several leaders may prove a catalyst to further success. I’m not sure I effectively communicated my doubts, so I’ll elaborate: I’m wondering about organization that meets the material challenges of being an effective resistance. By which I mean, people are organizing, they’re marching, but what is actually being accomplished other than leading Trump to send off a string of angry tweets? One exception I can think of that had a clear and immediate impact were the initially ad hoc protests at airports after the first travel ban executive order was issued. The groundswell of resistance showed they weren’t going to fucking take it, and after two days the courts reached the same consensus.
Full disclosure: both Commissar and myself would describe ourselves as hard Left, so our ideas of what constituted effective resistance may vary from your own. If something like a general strike was pulled off, there’s a very real chance the collective threat of people not showing up to work for a week and flooding the streets would more than nudge Trump out of power. Money is the great motivator in American politics, after all. Some of the organizers of the Women’s March held what they called a “general strike” a month or two back, except they were telling women if they couldn’t get off work they could be there in spirit… which defeats the purpose.
That said, there are encouraging signs in the examples you cited, and it’s only been a little over three months. I’m concerned with Cheeto Mussolini’s tendency to want to shut all criticism down, though. I wonder if I’m overreacting to wonder how much time we have to effectively protest. I hope I am.
LadyFabulous: Oh Jesus. I can’t even think about that ish.
Zzyzx: Unsettling, right?
Let’s turn our attention to the things that haven’t gone so well during the first chapter of this post-apocalyptic novel. We’ve talked about the Deep State battle and the administration’s dubious Russian connections ad absurdum, so I think it suffices to say it’s not a good look, but it also hasn’t brought down the whole operation (at least, not yet). What would you classify as failures to deliver on promises/threats? What, legislative or otherwise, have been his biggest blunders?
ThePiedSpicer: It goes without saying that Healthcare is by far the largest blunder so far. Trump’s handling of the executive orders come next.
Then you have to consider how awful the transition of power has been and the fact that a large portion of government vacancies still haven’t been filled, including vital positions in the State Department that include diplomats and ambassadorships.
And there’s a list of his 100 day plan and he’s largely whiffed or failed to deliver on. The exception is finding a Supreme Court justice, which, to be fair, he exceeded by successfully appointing Neil Gorsuch.
LadyFabulous: Yeah. And the Dakota Access Pipeline executive order was waaaay supervillainy.
ThePiedSpicer: Not to mention the big ones involving Muslims. Those will be bogged down in the courts for years.
He really can’t brag about much so far except Gorsuch and giving generals autonomy to drop bombs, call air strikes/raids (killing civilians). Even then, I wouldn’t call that last one a bragging point. He’s also backed out of calling China a currency manipulator through a bizarre display of learning politics on the fly.
Despite all this, he thinks he’s succeeding.
Zzyzx: Politico interviewed former Trump associates who pointed out that it’s classic Trump to crash a car, stumble out, watch the wreck burst into flames and claim he was building a fire so he could roast marshmallows all along.
The administration’s mad scramble to pass anything by the 100th day, anything at all, that they could pass off as an accomplishment gave lie to that outwardly projected confidence. But then, what is Trump if not a “confidence man”?
ThePiedSpicer: The Trump administration also urged business officials to release comments supporting administration ahead of 100 day mark.
Zzyzx: I feel like there’s a good word to describe begging the business community to give give him a pat on the back.
Oh, I know!
ThePiedSpicer: “Please clap.”
Whiteside: I think the biggest blunder that the Trump administration made is optics. If you look at what they’ve actually accomplished it’s not very much, for good or for bad. They could have easily spun things so as to not appear as incompetent, evil or compromised. How hard is it to kind of keep your head down, try and get something done and not draw attention to your missteps? Instead the president crowed about the smallest achievements, drew major scrutiny from the press and made crazy hyperbolic statements which vacillated wildly depending on the last person Trump talked to. Sean Spicer has to be the worst press secretary ever.
Everyone expected a lot out of the first 100 days, but Trump set the bar so low for so many he could have easily gotten away with just doing nothing. His administration clearly came into power with no idea what they were doing. Half the executive orders he signed are for studies he could have conducted as a candidate while building his platform. If he could have curbed his ego and his intense desire for ratings for a couple months, the only thing he would have had to deal with is the Russian question. It wouldn’t have been the most productive 100 days but he would have avoided a ton of the terrible press he received.
And while he’s made some really questionable moves so far as president, the actual legislation he achieved is pretty minor and could easily be overturned by a different organization. The country as a whole has already moved past transgender rights. Those protections will be coming back. The Muslim ban won’t survive court. Silicon Valley and the green energy industry have plenty of money to lean on the admin over their treatment of the EPA and national parks system. He’s really achieved nothing besides making himself and his party look bad. I think a freshman communications major from the University of Fucking Nowhere on a cocktail of molly and cocaine could do a better job spinning this administration’s faults than they have done.
Zzyzx: I think, though, there’s a fatal flaw with the “first hundred days” yardstick. The fourth estate and new administrations fall into the trap of judging success or failure via this arbitrary tradition. 100 days is only the smallest part of the 1,460 days that comprises 4 years or 2,920 days for 8 years. If we look at Obama’s record in the first 100 days we have the passage of the stimulus package, true, but that was born out of the panic on both sides of the aisle that capitalism was collapsing around them. Most of his other achievements were undoing things the previous administration had done, a tact the Trump administration took as well.
Going back further to George W. Bush’s first hundred days, the consensus was that the 43rd president hadn’t accomplished a whole lot. History will offer many judgements on Bush the Younger’s legacy, but “not accomplishing a whole lot” isn’t one of them.
If Trump can stay in office a full four or eight years, he can effect a great swath of change. In fact, I would argue in some ways he already is.
ThePiedSpicer: Regardless of what you think about “the first 100 days” as a measure for success, Trump touted it repeatedly on the campaign trail and even throughout his first days as a unit of measurement. I think all the criticism is fair from that standpoint. You make your bed, you sleep in it. I think it’s dumb but they walked right into this one.
Zzyzx: Right. The criticism is valid, but it the hundred days measurement had some severe limitations.
ThePiedSpicer: What’s even more ironic is the federal government almost shut down before the 100th day.
Whiteside: I’m not sure that doesn’t play right into the ideals of his administration though. A broken, shut down government is exactly what Steve Bannon wants. Trump ran on the idea of dysfunction in the federal government and a shutdown would have been perfect for his base. Who cares if that dysfunction is caused by his own administration, right?
ThePiedSpicer: I honestly think he’s been adjusting for a post-Bannon administration for a while.
Whiteside: Without a doubt. But there’s still the ghost of Trump wanting to burn it all down.
ThePiedSpicer: You talked about optics before. This would be bad optics.
Whiteside: Right, but they don’t really have good optics or know how to have good optics. I could still see Trump causing a shutdown at some point. He’d get praise from his small base and equate that as the tone of the rest of the electorate.
ThePiedSpicer: Eh. The best thing he can do is blame Democrats for not wanting a wall.
Zzyzx: Trump’s attempts at optics were nothing short of manic ahead of the deadline (see: scrambling for comprehensive tax reform, which was always achievable in the span on two weeks!)
So it was messy. Chaotic, even. But until someone else comes along and maybe undoes what Trump is doing, he has the opportunity to corrode the things that have so far held him back. He may not have done it in 100 days, but it’s pretty clear that’s what he wants. Trump is an authoritarian, and we’re seeing things warp towards a legal/administrative positivism. He’s the leader and he thinks his word goes. We’ve been lucky so far that his lack of discipline has helped undermine him somewhat, and there are people especially in the courts resisting him. I do think barring his removal, he’s going to keep trying to force through his key issues.
Is there anything you’ve noticed Trump has been especially successful at?
Commissar: He’s changed culture, even at a smaller level. Local events have become extremely politicized. Something like what happened in Portland, Oregon recently wouldn’t have occurred pre-Trump.
ThePiedSpicer: I guess I would just point to this Atlantic article. It gives Trump credit for reducing immigration, which he has.
Zzyzx: Yeah, he definitely… reduced it. And had ICE agents deport Dreamers and nab people at courthouses. And did his best to discourage legal green card holders. But in the sense that this all falls under something he promised, it’s somewhat of a success for him.
LadyFabulous: He’s succeeded at motivating the opposition. People are educating themselves. The biggest mistake we made during the election might have been that the country assumed that the more politically savvy among us would be enough to save us. I don’t know a lot about Washington and I assumed my vote would be enough. Holy RuPaul, was I ever wrong. Citizens like me coasted and allowed this whole tangerine takeover to happen. If anything positive can be said about this insane outcome, it’s that more of us are trying to educate ourselves on how this fucking country operates and what we can do to support the kinds of changes that we want to see.
Whiteside: As I keep saying, don’t think that the Trump admin is incompetent. They just have no idea how to sell their brand of fascism to the American people and end up looking inept. Trump’s agenda isn’t lasting, but it’s still an attempt to transform our culture.
And I want to say that LadyFabulous’s point about coasting was poignant. I voted against Trump purely as opposition and was horrified when he won. If liberals can’t accept their culpability in allowing Trump to happen, we will be doomed to a full 8 years.
Zzyzx: Well put. Thanks, everyone!
All hail the lizards!
Commissar, LadyFabulous, Whiteside and ThePiedSpicer: All hail!
(Year Zero/Day One Hundred)