What has Trump accomplished in his first 40 days? Richard Wagner takes a close look. 

Despite some recent claims by certain media pundits that President Trump’s first 100 days are proving to be relatively unproductive, the President is actually a very busy man.  However, Trump’s actions have focused more heavily on executive orders, negotiations with businesses, and negotiations with Congress.  It is fair to say that Trump has made little progress on any landmark legislation so far.  Despite that, President Trump did sign two bills in his first 40 days.

Women in Science

Both bills signed into law today deal with women in science.  “INSPIRE” (HR321) directs NASA to “women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), pursue careers in aerospace, and further advance the nation’s space science and exploration efforts…”  The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act” (HR 255) applies to the National Science Foundation, and encourages women in science to pursue careers in the commercial sector.

During the campaign, Ivanka Trump promised that her father’s administration would help career women.  Signing these two bills into law is certainly consistent with campaign promises, but neither bill is very partisan or controversial and both passed with overwhelming support and very few “nay” votes.

WOTUS Executive Order

The President also, after discussing this with a small number of farmers, issued an executive order to review an Obama era regulation, known as the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), which was rooted in the Clean Water Act.  The original Clean Water Act was one of President Nixon’s landmark pieces of legislation, but like many such laws, the wording is very broad and gives much discretion to the Executive Branch.  According to President Trump, these Obama era regulations “started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were major industrial polluters.”  

So far, President Trump hasn’t made any actual changes even to how the Clean Water Act is being applied, but this executive order is likely the first step towards changes to come.  

The Clean Water Act will still stand, of course, but how it is applied will likely change.  President Trump has expressed concern that during the Obama era, the Clean Water Act was negatively impacting farmers who were making changes to their own farm land, such as digging wells.  

It is too soon to tell if this will help small farmers, or perhaps the large scale factory farmers who are partly responsible for the large amounts of water pollution in the US, according to the EPA.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBUC)

President Trump made a strong effort to appeal to black voters during the campaign.  Though black support for President Trump did not significantly increase compared to black support for Republicans in the recent past, there was a small increase, despite the accusations of racism directed at Trump and his supporters.  The overall low black voter turnout likely also reflects the disappointment many in the black community have with the Democratic Party and their 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Hoping to make inroads into black America, the President has signed another executive order today – The White House Initiative to Promote Excellence and Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  The order focuses heavily on gaining stronger private sector and non-profit support for HBUCs, but includes “strengthening HBCUs’ ability to equitably participate in Federal programs and exploring new ways of improving the relationship between the Federal Government and HBCUs.”  If fully implemented, this could be of great benefit to both the finances and prestige of many HBUCs, as universities often thrive on government grants and research projects.  

The order also includes, “partnering with elementary and secondary education stakeholders to build a “cradle-to-college” pipeline.”  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 54.6% of black high school graduates enrolled in higher education, compared to 71.1% for whites, 83% for Asians, and 68.9% for Hispanics.  As Hispanics only slightly trail their white counterparts, blacks are further behind than whites and Hispanics are to the small but thriving Asian American community.  

The wording of this executive order is broad and only time will be able to attest to the success of its implementation.  

Trump is still learning

Trump is usually described as brash.  During the campaign, he was frequently criticized for his lack of experience and knowledge of government.  Now he is criticized by some in the mainstream media for how little he has accomplished so far, during this entire month and a half.

Fareed Zakaria has stated that Trump’s executive orders are “mostly hot air — lofty proclamations that direct some agency to “review” a law, “report” back to him, “consider” some action or reaffirm some long-standing practice.”  

President Trump’s election made history, as he is one of only two in our nation’s history to be elected to the highest office in the land without a background in politics or military (the other was Hoover).  

The gamble in electing a man like Trump is that his inexperience and colorful background might lead to sweeping reforms that are too far outside the box for conventional politicians to think of – the greater the risk, the greater the reward.  But such risk can easily lead to disaster.  It is therefore prudent for Trump to spend his first 100 days gathering information about a government he doesn’t understand on the same level as his rivals in both parties, (or even Libertarian Gary Johnson for that matter).  

Trump’s broad executive orders which lay out mostly intent of action and direct certain people to gather information could be seen as just bluster, or “hot air”.  But they may also be the actions of a man humbled by a responsibility that few are ready to take on.  If an inexperienced man is to be an effective President of the United States, and not lead our nation into disaster, than he should take some time to learn about the different departments and agencies that make up the Executive Branch and exactly how they could carry out his agenda.  The price we pay is that President Trump takes longer than most Presidents to put thought into action.  But that is the price of electing a man with big ideas and little experience.  Despite this, President Trump spent little time contemplating TPP.  The controversial trade deal was repealed within Trump’s first week, and renegotiations of NAFTA are already underway.  As an international businessman with a campaign for which trade was the linchpin, this isn’t surprising.  But on most other issues, Trump has much to learn, and needs to do so quickly

Read more: Will America Finally Become Free From Partisan Reporting?

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is...

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