As a kid, I puzzled over a lot of hypothetical questions. One that kept coming back was presidential terms were only 4 years. I understood the history of why only two terms, but the initial term limit was a mystery to me. And it remains so to this day, I just moved on to wondering about other things. But an obvious question I had was what if term limits were ten years? That’s somewhat arbitrary too, but it acknowledges that the US society is a big, complicated one, and any changes are going to take a long time. Wouldn’t it make sense to give someone at least a chance at enacting big changes? Maybe make the impeachment process easier, but still difficult, in case we elected someone crazy? But that isn’t the system we have. Until now.
I am not the first to remark on how long it feels like it’s been since Trump was elected. The idea of a black man as president is now so far off it feels like it belongs in history books and not my Facebook feed. Obviously that isn’t because he’s been there longer, it’s just that so much stuff has happened, and so much stuff that typically takes years to occur has happened so early. His approval ratings are down you would expect someone’s after 2 or 3 years. He’s already started his first mid-east war. I think Dubya waited more than a year for that. He’s having a hard time getting his legislative agenda passed, despite the fact his party controls Congress. Again, these are things that you don’t expect within a president’s first hundred days. Hell, even his executive orders are typically things a president does towards the end of a term, when it’s harder to get things done. If he hasn’t set a record for so many orders so quickly, he has to be close.
In addition to that, those who oppose him are very energetic and motivated. I’m not aware of any historical examples of such widespread protests so quickly after an election. Usually, protestors wait until the president has actually done something they disagree with before taking to the streets. In this case, just Trump talking about what he wants to do is enough to get people off their butts.
So this means, metaphorically speaking, we are learning what it’s like to have a president in office for ten years. If his first hundred days feels like his first three years, what will three years feel like? Protestors will have a huge runway to really get motivated. Does that mean their energy will peter out, or build higher and higher? Will it make his agenda easier to pass, as he sidelines people who oppose him, or will it give more opportunities to create more enemies? Will he learn newer and better ways getting things done, or will his learning curve be so steep he will never try anything really new? People evolve in their views, usually over the course of months or years. Trump changed policy for Syria in less than a week. The man can change direction on a dime. Will he grow to be more inclusive of the whole country, including those who voted against him, or get more and more insular and exposed to only his most rabid fans? I truly have no idea.
In a lot of ways, Trump’s administration feels like the inevitable outcome of the world we’ve been building since World War 2. Technology has moved very quickly in the last 80 years or so. This has allowed us to get more done in less time. At first some forward thinkers said this meant we would only have to work a few hours a week to get by. It turns out it just makes people impatient to get things quicker. This has led to a world that’s unstable, dangerous, and with more potential than any time in history for both amazing growth and catastrophic collapse. If that’s not a good description of Trump’s presidency, I don’t know what is.