Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: “These Are Our First 100 Days, Too”
John F. Kennedy once said that his plans for his presidency will “not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days … nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.” In other words, change takes a long time to happen, and real change sometimes takes forever. But those first 100 days really do matter.
Historically, the first 100 days represent a presidential honeymoon period when new presidents are personally popular, and they routinely take advantage of their high approval ratings and unilateral power to direct the executive branch, enact legislative policy and reverse policies from the previous administration. Franklin D. Roosevelt passed 76 bills into law during his first 100 days. Harry Truman passed 55. John F. Kennedy passed 26. Ronald Regan passed nine. And Barack Obama passed 11. President Obama also reversed at least two issues that had been vetoed under George W. Bush: He expanded health insurance coverage for children in low-income housing, and he enacted the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an initiative that was designed to combat wage discrimination. For the American people, such early initiatives and policy decisions provide some insight into the focus of a new administration and highlight the issues that the new president will focus on.
We are now less than two weeks into Donald Trump‘s 100 days, and it is less a honeymoon period than a prelude to a divorce, with great upheaval, unrest and massive resistance. On the day of his inauguration, hundreds of people protested in Washington D.C., throwing bricks, breaking windows and starting fires. Police officers used flash bang grenades and pepper spray and arrested over 200 people. On the day after his inauguration, an estimated 5 million people worldwide marched in peaceful protest of his potential policies and past bigoted actions.
Despite the backlash and having arrived into office with the lowest approval rating of any president in modern history, Mr. Trump’s work to distinguish his administration from the previous one has begun, with a dozen executive actions taken within his first week. Some of them are massive, expensive and controversial, but all of them clearly signal a new direction in America’s national and international policies. He has announced plans to build a border wall, step up deportations; block federal grants to sanctuary cities, resume controversial oil pipeline developments, withdraw the U.S. from all Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, block federal dollars from organizations that provide abortion services, freeze all regulations that were signed in the final weeks of the Obama presidency, and allow agency heads to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act to the maximum extent permitted by the law.
These are complex issues and orders that face clear obstacles to enactment, but they send one clear message: Now is the time to launch four years of mobilizing, protesting and on-the-ground local activism. This is the time to find a way to get involved and stay engaged. Some ideas:
•Make a commitment to become a grassroots activist and join a local activist group;
•Raise awareness about civil liberties and constitutional rights and then work to share this information through teach-ins and community gatherings;
•Challenge and pressure your state and local officials to show up to work and vote on your behalf;
•Turn your attention to the mid-term elections and concentrating on voting more women and people of color into office;
•Develop an attitude of intolerance toward racist, sexist, and classist policies, statements, jokes and behaviors.
This is our first 100 days, too, and how we respond matters. If we want real change to happen, we must do everything we can to hold this administration accountable and to never doubt, as Margaret Mead once said, that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead is an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland and the creator of Trump Syllabus K12. She can be reached at email@example.com. A version of this editorial was aired as a public commentary on WYPR 88.1, Baltimore’s NPR station.