Despite President Donald Trump publicly dismissing any 100-day evaluation, what Trump has been able to accomplish during his first 100 days is still a subject of contention among Duke community members.

The 100-day mark has been a traditional check-in for presidents throughout recent history. Although Trump has called the standard “ridiculous” and “not meaningful,” the White House has said that he has accomplished more than any other president in his first 100 days since Franklin Roosevelt.

Last week, Trump tried to add more highlights to his first 100 days. He announced that he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, proposed a new tax plan and issued executive orders intended to expand the use of fossil fuels. 

“[The 100 days] has always been this artificial goal post,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “But when the defining feature of this White House is government as a reality TV show, coming to the end of the first season takes on a great deal of momentousness.”

Executive orders and party divisions

Since taking office, Trump has issued 30 executive orders, more than any other president during his first 100 days since 1945. Trump’s orders have covered a variety of issues ranging from healthcare to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The orders do not necessarily equate to real change though, said David Siegel, associate professor of political science.

“I think by the standards of other presidents, the concrete accomplishments are few,” Siegel said. “But it is unclear what downstream effects various executive orders will have.”

Despite his many orders, Trump has been unable to get as much major legislation through Congress as many previous presidents. This immediate early-presidency time period is usually when presidents have the best relations with their own party and are able to work with Congress to pass a larger portion of their agenda. But that has not been the case with Trump, argued Peter Feaver, professor of political science.

“The Trump transition has gone even slower than normal transitions,” Feaver said, attributing the slow pace to a “hyperpoliticized, hyperpartisan environment.”

Feaver noted that many positions in the Trump administration have yet to be filled, which also contributes to the slowness of the administration’s transition.

In addition to the gridlock between Republicans and Democrats, Siegel said that Trump seems to be experiencing division within his own party. Siegel added that he would not be surprised to see Trump's support wane if his actions start to conflict with the policy preferences of other Republicans.

“A substantial number of Republican elites seem to be in his corner only insofar as he allows them to seek long-desired policy preferences,” Siegel said.

Trump has especially struggled to work with some Republicans on healthcare reform. During his campaign, Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act within his first 100 days in office. However, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have failed to round up enough votes from conservative and more moderate Republicans to move ahead on a repeal measure.

Still, despite the challenges involving healthcare, junior Colin Duffy, president of Duke College Republicans, noted in an email that Trump fulfilled his promise to get a Supreme Court justice—Neil Gorsuch—confirmed.


Trump’s immigration efforts over the course of his first 100 days have produced mixed results.

He suffered a public defeat on his executive order blocking migrants from seven countries—an order that drew large protest crowds and was labeled a “Muslim ban” by its detractors. That immigration directive was blocked by a federal appeals court in February.

Trump then signed an updated executive order in early March that removed Iraq from the list of countries covered in the initial executive order. But a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the revised ban, ruling that the order still discriminates against Muslims and hurts Hawaii’s tourist-dependent economy.

Another notable promise that Trump made during his campaign was to build a wall along the Mexican border. But that plan has also stumbled as Mexico has refused to pay for the wall and Democrats in Congress are unwilling to pass any spending measure that would fund the wall’s construction. Junior Amy Wang, vice president of Duke Democrats, attributed such setbacks to Trump’s political naïveté.

“President Trump’s first 100 days have been marred by absurdities and an evident lack of political capability, which explains his inability to achieve much of his political agenda as seen by his healthcare bill and immigration ban,” she wrote in an email.

But Duffy noted that there has been a drop in border crossings from Mexico as a result of the Trump administration’s aggressive policies on illegal immigration.

“Trump’s commitment to enforcing the existing immigration law is a return to a rule of law at the federal level,” he wrote. “Border patrol officials are also noting a roughly 40 percent drop in illegal border crossings.”

Foreign policy

Although Trump has pursued many of his domestic policy campaign pledges, he has reversed his position on several foreign issues.

After criticizing NATO during his campaign, Trump has said that the alliance is now rehabilitated. He has also acknowledged that China is not a currency manipulator despite his previous claims otherwise. To the surprise of many, Trump has even said that President Vladimir Putin of Russia may not be the “best friend” that he imagined and has taken a more aggressive stance against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

“Some of what I would call successes are his decisions not to carry through on campaign threats or campaign promises,” Feaver said.

Although civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East have increased, Feaver added that the Trump administration has also “handled the War on Terror pretty well.”

Meanwhile, closer relations with China have dovetailed with an increase in threats against North Korea, which the Trump administration has acknowledged is its most pressing international problem.

Still, other decisions like pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been questioned. Feaver argued that without the Trans-Pacific Partnership, former President Barack Obama’s economic strategy in Asia is incomplete, which leaves a power vacuum that is in China’s advantage.

Impacts on the University

Much remains to be seen about how Trump’s policies will actually affect Duke, but his budget proposal could have consequences for research.

The budget he sent to Congress, slashes funding to entities like the National Institutes of Health—which provides funding for scientific research at the University. The budget also eliminates funding for the National Endowments for the Arts, which awards research grants to faculty at Duke.

But as Congress parses out the portions of the budget they intend to keep or reject, the University has been lobbying for more agreeable funding allocations, noted Chris Simmons, associate vice president for government relations.

“Right now, nothing concrete has happened on the budget—we’re dealing entirely with speculation,” Schoenfeld said.

Duffy sees another way the University could address the issue.

“Luckily, money in Duke’s budget is fungible,” he noted. “Perhaps Duke can re-allocate money from the four-percent tuition hike.”