Saturday marks the hundred-day point for President Donald Trump. It's an arbitrary demarcation, to be sure – though one the Trump campaign embraced in a hundred-day "contract" with the American voter – but this is the period in which presidents tend to be their most popular and their administrations most active. As such, they're a good window into how effective a presidency will be.
Trump's first hundred days, by any objective measure, has been unequivocally disastrous. Ignore the polling (40 percent approval in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the lowest ever recorded in that poll's 100-day mark and about 20 points lower than Barack Obama was in 2009). Ignore, too, the growing Russia scandal from which the administration has been unable to escape: the lies that cost National Security Adviser Michael Flynn his job, the FBI and congressional investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin's government. Even ignore the racists, white nationalists and unqualified hacks installed into the highest levels of government, not to mention the avalanche of conflicts of interests that surround the president everywhere he goes and the narcissistic Twitter tantrums sparked by even the slightest criticism.
What has he accomplished? In short, he put a guy on the Supreme Court. No small accomplishment, but that had less to do with Donald Trump than with Mitch McConnell's ruthlessness, first in refusing to so much as hold a hearing for President Obama's nominee last year, then in eliminating the filibuster after Trump's nominee failed to secure 60 votes. He launched some missiles at a Syrian airbase and raised hostility with a nuclear-armed North Korea. He's also signed 28 bills into law, about half of which reversed Obama-era policies on things like the environment; most of the others were housekeeping. None were major pieces of legislation.
His biggest initiatives thus far have both been spectacular failures: the first, his two efforts to restrict travel to the U.S. from majority-Muslim countries, was struck down by the federal courts as unconstitutional. The second, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, was an abysmal malpractice of policy and politics, crafted hastily despite the fact that Republicans have theoretically been working on it for seven years. It crashed and burned after the Congressional Budget Office found that it would kick 24 million people off health care rolls while giving rich people a fat tax cut. There's been talk of reviving it, but right now that seems unlikely.
Trump has some bigger immediate issues to address. This week, Congress must reach a budget resolution or the government will shut down. Trump is insisting that his foremost campaign promise – the idiotic border wall, which is opposed by all border-region Republicans – be funded as part of that agreement, or else he'll cut off funding for Obamacare subsidies, creating a health insurance death spiral. Democrats, of course, won't go for it, and because spending votes are subject to the filibuster, Trump needs Democratic votes. Democrats know that. And whether or not Trump's savvy enough to realize it – clearly the fact that it's unethical to threaten to make millions of people materially worse off just to gain leverage never occurred to him – if the health care market implodes on his watch, he'll be blamed. Democrats know that, too.
So the first hundred days has been something of a mess. Of course, the 1,361 days remaining in the first term is plenty of time in which to wreak havoc – to stumble into a catastrophic war or kick-start a depression. Presidencies are just as often defined by what happens to them as what they set out to do, by events beyond their control as their own initiatives, and Trump's will be no exception. But what seems clear from this first leg is that there is no new Trump, no grown-up Trump. The petty man-child on the campaign trail is the petty man-child in the Oval Office, just as dangerous and thin-skinned and ignorant and uncurious and mercurial, surrounded by too many mediocrities and incompetents.
It won't get better. It will only deteriorate, become more unstable; the best case is that Trump limps along and manages to be utterly feckless, somehow steering clear of catastrophe until after the 2018 midterms, when an angry opposition dismantles unified GOP control of D.C. and puts a check on Trump's power.
There's a lot of work between now and then. But the good news is the seeds of that victory have already been planted. You see them in the recent special elections in Kansas and Georgia, which revealed an energized progressive base that nearly stole two very red congressional seats. You see them in last weekend's March for Science or in the massive Women's March or in the countless other protests and rallies that have taken place all over the country. You see it in record-smashing donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the swell of angry phone calls to members of Congress who want to dismantle Obamacare.
The resistance is winning. But only if we keep fighting.