On Apr. 29, Donald Trump will have been president of the United States of America for 100 days. That milestone may be arbitrary, but it’s part of a long tradition in American politics to semi-formally review the early performance of the president. But instead of adding another piece to the pile of 100-days hot takes, it may be more instructive to take stock of the sustained resistance to Trump and his authoritarian tendencies.
A common belief among theorists who study power is that where there’s power, there is also resistance—or, at least, the potential for resistance. As human beings, we aren’t merely passive objects shaped and determined entirely by the world around us. As much as we are products of our time, conditioned by the structures, individuals, and institutions around us—the countries we’re born in, the governments we live under, the families who raise us, the economic system we operate within—we enjoy the freedom to respond, adapt and, when necessary, resist.
In the days and weeks that followed Trump’s win, America and the world were shaken. How had this happened? Why? What now? My initial concern was that Trump would display authoritarian tendencies alongside his incompetence—a concern that has proven true—but it was exacerbated by a worry that U.S. institutions would collapse under the weight of the Trump administration. Even worse, I wasn’t sure that American civil society was robust enough to mount a sustained defence against the 45th president. But so far, while the Trump presidency has been an omnishambles, the first 100 days have revealed that certain institutions are prepared to resist and that there’s enough left of the American resistance tradition to mount a defence in hopes of preserving what’s best about the United States and, indeed, extending it, too.
The grand dame of the post-election Trump resistance movement was the Women’s March, centred in Washington, D.C. but also held in cities across the world on Jan. 21—the first day of the Trump administration. The marches took place in more than 20 countries and drew millions—with Washington alone seeing a million marchers. Participants demanded social justice reform, including policies and legislation for women’s, immigrants, LGBTQ, and racial minority rights.
In April, there was the March for Science, a protest in support of the principle that “it is time for scientists, science enthusiasts, and concerned citizens to come together to make ourselves heard.” The issues addressed by the march went beyond Trump, but many in the streets took aim at the administration’s war on science. Climate change is real and a threat to humankind, the marchers urged, and added that Trump’s head-in-the-sand approach to climate change is a threat to us all.
Social media has been another site of Trump resistance, with renegade government-parallel accounts taking aim at the president. Concerned government employees (and non-government folks, too) launched accounts for the U.S. National Parks Service, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and several other bodies, aiming to challenge Trump’s claims and policies while advocating for what they think is best for their organization, America, and the world.
The U.S. court system has also proved to be inhospitable to Trump’s slapdash and heavy-handed executive orders. In the February and March, the courts blocked the president’s attempts at instituting a travel ban against several Muslim-majority countries. Around the same time, now-former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, instructed the Justice Department not to defend the ban (because she believed it was unconstitutional), an act for which she was fired. This month, a federal judge ruled that Trump could not defund sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with the president’s executive order on immigration. While these checks on executive authority are a form of resistance, they’re primarily an interpretation of the law—more specifically, an interpretation that Trump’s orders are illegal or unconstitutional.
There have been several other sites of resistance. Former labour secretary Robert Reich drafted a “The First 100 Day Resistance Agenda” as a concrete plan for pushing back against Trump. Filmmaker Michael Moore offered his own plan. Black Lives Matter have mobilized, too, driving protests and hosting teach-ins on human rights. Journalists, commentators, and concerned citizens have filled social media, newspapers, and magazines with fact-checks and critiques of the president, keeping a close, critical eye on his each and every move, with cable TV and media outlets holding him to account enjoying bumps in viewership or readership to match. Canadian journalist Daniel Dale has even been keeping a running list of the “false things” and lies spoken by the president. (As of his 95th day in office, there were 212.)
So far, the Trump resistance has proven broad, deep, and fairly successful at limiting what the president has been able to achieve. As the hearings over Russia heat up, protests continue, White House infighting rolls on, the courts block more of the president’s orders, and folks keep fact-checking and calling out the president, Donald Trump is set to mark 100 days in office with the lowest approval rating of any president ever recorded at this point. That doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to rebound; he has many days in office ahead. However, early indications suggest that he’s in for a long, tough fight against an empowered resistance—and it’s a fight he just might lose.
David Moscrop is a political scientist and a writer. He’s currently working on a book about why we make bad political decisions and how we can make better ones. He’s at @david_moscrop on Twitter. He lives in Vancouver.