It’s been a hundred days. It felt longer, though, didn’t it? Every single one of them brought new scandals, reversals, surprises, spectacles, or confusion. Although the President managed to take some time off (in fact, Donald Trump has spent about a third of his Presidency so far at Mar-a-Lago or another Trump resort), the rest of us were not as fortunate. Unless you’ve turned off the TV, cancelled the paper, tossed the smart phone into the freezer, and dropped the radio into the bathtub, it has been impossible to ignore America’s auto-de-fé.
The most exhausting part of this has been our collective emotional journey. The entire world has been stumbling through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief, each more wrenching than the last.
From Election night to Inauguration Day, we mostly stood there in shock and denial. President George W. Bush summed it up after listening to Trump’s “American Carnage” inaugural address when he was heard to say: “That was some weird shit.”
I stood among the sparse crowds on The National Mall, watched the President walk off the dais, and I told myself: it won’t be that bad. I wasn’t the only one. We talked about how America’s institutions were intentionally designed to check the tyrants and the fools. The Republicans, international allies, even Fox pundits would rein him in, we reassured ourselves. I and others argued that even if these restraints failed, the cold hard facts of reality itself would stop him from abandoning trade deals that supported millions of American jobs.
Our denial turned to anger literally overnight. I returned to the Mall the next morning to find it filled with chanting marchers in pink hats as millions of people across America and around the world announced what they called “the resistance”. There was furious indignation that a man who boasted about grabbing women “by the pussy”, would now occupy the White House. A few days later, when Trump announced a ban on travellers from several Muslim nations, the airports were crowded with shouting protesters. Even the television news anchors began to grind their teeth in anger, kicking some of the President’s more mendacious surrogates off their shows in frustration.
But anger only got us so far. We tried bargaining. The allies quickly flew to Washington, Prime Minister May from London, Shinzo Abe from Tokyo, Justin Trudeau from Ottawa. Each to take the measure of the man, but also to try negotiating him back from his more worrying promises, to kill NAFTA, to leave NATO, to tear up the Paris Agreement. Trump’s erstwhile allies in Congress were not far behind. When the President announced his intentions to replace Obamacare, the Republican caucus surprised everyone by haggling with him beyond the limits of his attention span.
It turned out that the man who approved the galley copies of the “Art of the Deal”, was not very good at negotiations. Even the Mexicans, who no one was betting on, called his bluff, forcing the President to concede that they would not, in fact, be paying for the wall. Persuaded by either White House staff, foreign leaders, Fox News, or a casual glance at the facts, Trump reversed himself on almost all of the things he promised to do in his first 100 days.
You would think that his total inability to implement his campaign promises would have lifted our spirits. Unfortunately, we slid right into the fourth stage of grief: depression. In the media, we began to blame ourselves for this mess. We were too fixated on Hillary’s emails. We didn’t take the Russian accusations seriously enough. It was our fault for not paying enough attention to Americans hurt by globalization, for not batting back the fake news, for simply not believing Trump was possible.
But here we are, on a warm spring morning in April, and the world has not yet fallen apart. North Korea has not launched any attacks. The Paris Agreement still stands. There is no wall on the Mexican border. Trade still flows. The markets are sound. It turns out Donald Trump is just as bad at leading as we expected. He still lies every day. He is still uninformed. But, more importantly, he is far more incompetent than anyone expected. He has passed no bills, his Cabinet is not fully confirmed, and he hasn’t even named a candidate for more than 85 per cent of the jobs he must fill. He is an utterly inept President. And it is that revelation which has finally brought us to acceptance and hope, the final stage of our grieving process. Donald Trump will be a terrible President—but that’s ok, he’ll be so bad we’ll survive.