The First 100 Days of President Trump’s Critics Went Surprisingly Well

6 minute read

President Trump’s first 100 days have gotten mixed reviews. But his political opponents think their first 100 days have gone surprisingly well.

In fact, among leaders of the so-called “resistance” movement, there is widespread disagreement about what exactly was their biggest triumph. Some cite the enthusiasm for protests on inauguration weekend. Others think it was their rapid response to the two travel bans. And still others highlight the legislative failure of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

For the opposition groups, Trump’s first 100 days have been marked with a string of unexpected victories, such as Trump’s legal setbacks, and a few defeats, such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, which they anticipated. Overall, they say they’re doing better than they had hoped while avoiding what they feared.

Protestors Rally At JFK Airport Against Muslim Immigration Ban
Protesters rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at JFK International Airport on Jan. 28, 2017, in New York CityStephanie Keith—Getty Images

“There were three threats,” says activist and pundit Van Jones. “First was that psychologically, people would just adapt themselves to Trump. Second was that the courts would prove to be an ineffective barrier. Third was that with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, there would be no way to stop him legislatively.” So far, he said the opposition has avoided all three.

The anti-Trump forces have also coalesced quickly. Groups that didn’t exist six months ago have now become the center of a left-wing activist machine. The Women’s March, which started as a Facebook group and drew roughly 4 million people the day after Trump’s election, now controls a network of 480 local organizers in all 50 states, tapping into more than 5,600 small groups of activists called “huddles.” Indivisible, which started as an online Google doc put together by former congressional staffers, now has two groups in each Congressional district. Organizers say those Indivisible groups mobilized roughly 400,000 people to participate in at least 600 town halls to pressure their representatives on everything from immigration to Obamacare repeal.

And three months after the record-breaking Women’s March, there is so much anti-Trump energy that organizers can’t find enough weekends to schedule protests. In April, nationwide protests were scheduled on three consecutive weekends (the Tax March, the March for Science and the People’s Climate March.) There are so many people marching that some are even buying T-shirts with the slogan “protesting is the new brunch.”

Portraits of Dissent: Stories From the Women’s March on Washington

Cheyenne, 17, Calvert County, Md. With the type of president that we now have elected, I feel like a lot of rights that we have are in danger. And along with the vice-president that he has, who is someone that supports electroshocking people like me to turn us into people that we aren’t, it’s terrifying. So that’s why I think we’re out here, it’s because we’re scared and this is the only thing we can think of to at least try do to help make things better. It’s always a slow march for change, but we’ll get there. Jody Rogac for TIME
Lib Jamison, 62, Portland, Me. I was here 35 or 38 years ago. It was a march for women’s lives, a pro-choice march and my mother went with us. She was the same age then, that I am now, 62. I’ve been doing this my whole adult life. Jody Rogac for TIME
Janice Posnikoff, Washington DC area I’m here representing the territory of my mother, Lillian Posnikoff from Alert Bay Canada and her ancestors, the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw people. Can’t you feel what we’re getting out of this march? It’s unity, it’s solidarity, it’s everything that we all wanted. It’s sending the clear message that absolutely, absolutely he’s not the popular president and we’re going to fight every inch of the way, every time it looks like corruption is happening or injustice is happening, and all of it.Jody Rogac for TIME
Lisa Beattie Frelinghuysen, 50, New York City I brought my family ( youngest daughter pictured ) down here for the march because I believe in equal rights, and I’m a board member of Planned Parenthood and I stand with Planned Parenthood. Jody Rogac for TIME
Darshan, age 68, Virginia I’m here because I’m a Sikh, and I want to make sure there’s respect for all religions. And also I have a daughter and a daughter-in-law and granddaughter and I want to make sure that the rights that we fought for get represented for generations to come. I think the march will bring people’s awareness to how much women matter. Jody Rogac for TIME
Alfredo Augustine Weeks VI, 31, Washington, DC I’m here to support feminism. Honestly I never knew how true it was till I had a daughter. I’m only hoping for a brighter future for her.a brighter future for my wife. And hopefully my daughter can keep paying it forward. Jody Rogac for TIME
These members of the Democracy Defense League came from Flint, Mich. to make sure that city's water crisis isn't forgotten. "We are women and we're standing up for our rights to clean water," says Carrie Younger-Nelson (third from the left). Jody Rogac for TIME
Meaghan Delmonico, Millburn, N.J. I have a 6-year-old son and I’m a widow... It’s extremely important to me to show him what it means to be man in this type of an environment. I want him to believe in love over fear. And I want him to know that his mom is a strong woman who stand up for what we believe in and for what’s right. Jody Rogac for TIME
I’m Orly’s mom. (Six-year-old Orly is pictured here.) We’re from Chicago, but I grew up in Mexico City so this is also very close to me. We’re here for many reasons. I’m here because of my kids, I want them to be here and to remember this. Jody Rogac for TIME
Diane Lawson, Springfield, Va. I’m with my daughter Ryan. Ryan is trans so we are fighting for all kinds of rights. We’re seeing everything slip away lately. And it’s time to do something about it. Hopefully Mr Trump will understand that he really is supposed to represent us and take care of us. We do want to make it known that we’re not ok with what he’s doing and saying. Jody Rogac for TIME
Jamie Faucet, 74 and Kathy Faucet, 67, Raleigh, N.C. This is personal for us. Our son has cystic fibrosis and our grandson has McCune-Albright Syndrome with Fibrous Dysplasia which means there are tumors in every bone in his body. He’s four and he’s has had 30 fractures already. It’s so rare that there’s very little research. We lost funding [for research], but got it back during the Obama years. Now we’re petrified it’s going to be cut again. Our son didn’t want to go on disability. He wanted to show the world he could work, but he was denied insurance. Jody Rogac for TIME
Katie, Philadelphia, with her daughter I’m here because my daughter is a beautiful powerful girl who will grow up to be a powerful woman some day and I want the world to be ready for her when she comes. I’m here because we also believe in Black Lives Matter, and because i’m a mom and daughter and sister of people with disabilities. I want all those things to be represented and I want the people to hear that all those things matter to a lot of people.. Protest marches don’t necessarily create a concrete result immediately but it sends the message that there’s a lot of people out there who really care about some of the issues that are not on the agenda for the current administration...We’re out there and we’re watching and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that they do. Jody Rogac for TIME
Aidan, 16 and his brother Liam, 12, North Plainfield, N.J. We’re here to support all women, especially our families. Everyone should have equal opportunity in this world. Jody Rogac for TIME
Dana Mosa-Basha, 22, Michigan The crisis [in Syria] is so prevalent right now with the refugees coming in, that’s why we’re here right now, to be a voice for the people who don’t have this safe haven, and these opportunities that we were given. Especially being Muslim, covered, and Syrian, I want to represent the people who have their identities stripped of them. I just graduated from the University of Michigan. Jody Rogac for TIME
Cindy Otis, 33 I’m here for a lot of reasons, I’m here mostly to express my great frustration with the state of our political system, our frustration that people aren’t really talking and listening to each other. There’s so much hate and anger focused on predominantly minority communities. Immigrants, LGBT, people of color, people with disabilities. I'm still in shock that someone who was elected to the highest office in our land based on that platform, and I just felt like it was important to get out here and show that I’ve my brothers and sisters from every community and I will not accept intolerance and bigotry, racism. I think we have a long fight ahead.Jody Rogac for TIME
Shemeal, Arlingon, Va. I’m happily married. And I have a mother and sister, and we came to protest any kind of discrimination or inequality that we actually see. And just want to stand here and peacefully protest in solidarity with everyone who’s here. We’re originally hailing from Trinidad, their mother is Russian, and we live in Arlington and we love our city.Jody Rogac for TIME
I’m from Ithaca, Ny., I’m retired. I ran a natural food store and worked in a lumber company until I retired. This whole situation politically. It’s pretty horrible. So this is… what else could I do? It seemed like I had no choice but to come. Jody Rogac for TIME
Casey Camp-Horinek, an elder of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma I’m a mother a great grandmother and grandmother, sister and aunt and daughter. I’m here today for all those reasons I just told you. On behalf of our true mother, the one true mother we’ll share is our mother the earth and she’s under threat right now. We want our lives to continue the way that our ancestors have, we want that for your children as well, and even for his (Trump’s) grandchildren. In Oklahoma we’re suffering from environmental genocide We feel it’s necessary to speak for all of those without voices, those that fly, those that swim, the sacred water itself, the very breath that the creator gave us, on behalf of our mother the earth those that have roots and sway in the wind, all of those things are begging for all of humankind to pray for them and nurture them as well. Jody Rogac for TIME
Stella Davis 21, Lexington, Ky. We drove 8 hours to get here. We didn’t want to miss this we wanted to be a part of history, and it’s our duty to be here and represent women and equality. Someone saying it’s been a long time coming but a change is going to come. Jody Rogac for TIME
Benjamin Barnes, 20, Lexington Ky. It’s the first movement I’ve been a part of personally and I couldn’t sit home cause I’m gay myself and I’m an activist and I saw this opportunity to make a difference, to do something about it So I got my girls together and we came. Jody Rogac for TIME
Hundreds of thousands of protesters attended the Women's March on Washington.Jody Rogac for TIME

The movement has even activated reticent liberals in deep-red states. “When I first moved to this area, I thought ‘Oh, am I the only person who thinks the way I think?'” says Kathleen Peterson, 71, a retired health worker who helped organize the local Women’s March in Cheyenne, Wyo. “Because of our marches and our group, people are feeling ‘Oh, there are other people who feel the way I do.'” She says she expected double-digit turnout for a Tax March she organized in deep-red Cheyenne, but nearly 200 people showed up to demand Trump’s tax returns and they were met by supportive honks from passing truck drivers.

But organizers say they are most encouraged by the legal and legislative victories that have stymied two of Trump’s most ambitious goals: immigration restrictions and health care reform. After thousands of protesters flooded the nation’s airports to protest Trump’s travel bans, ACLU lawyers challenged his two executive orders on immigration and won. Trump repeatedly promised to repeal Obamacare, but Congressional efforts to repeal and replace the law have been thwarted in part by moderate Republicans who were confronted at town halls by furious constituents.

Activists argue that kind of momentum feeds on itself. “If we hadn’t had these legal victories, or the Women’s March, or our win against Trumpcare, I think a lot of people would be suffering more severe fatigue,” says Indivisible co-founder Sarah Dohl. “Those wins show people that what they’re doing matters.”

As Trump approached his 100th day in office, he criticized it as an unreasonable standard, with some justification. But those three months have been an indication for how things may play out, for the president as well as his opponents. Activists are proud of the apparatus they’ve built, but the decentralized authority and the anger powering it could become liabilities down the road.

Science educator Bill Nye joins tens of thousands of protestors walking along Constitution Avenue for the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2017.
Science educator Bill Nye joins tens of thousands of protestors walking along Constitution Avenue for the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2017.Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA

For one thing, the left does not have a deep bench of high-profile candidates for the House and Senate in 2018, much less an obvious frontrunner to challenge Trump in 2020. Though organizers like to repeat that the movement is “leaderful, not leaderless,” that could lead to infighting when it comes time to decide who to rally behind. Meantime, the anti-Trump fervor among many activists can be off-putting when it comes time to welcome his erstwhile supporters.

“They’ve framed these arguments in a way that makes it harder for Trump voters to cross the street,” warns Jones. “It’s not about whether Trump is a bad president, it’s about whether you were a bad person to support him.”

And the movement is still hobbled by deep divisions between far-left supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the more moderate Hillary Clinton supporters, a mutual mistrust that will be difficult to mend. “We have to take self-righteous politics, moral purity, and put it to the side, because there are people in our communities who are actively in danger,” says Linda Sarsour, a co-chair of the Women’s March and a vocal Sanders supporter. “The progressive left has no choice but to organize with people they may not have organized with, for the main purpose of protecting the most marginalized.”

Even if they can get over their internal divisions, the Trump White House may become more difficult to thwart. Some of the biggest wins for the resistance movement have come from unforced errors made by an inexperienced new Administration, like mistakes in the travel ban that made it easier to challenge in court. “Can we count on them to continue to be as incompetent as they are?” asks Faiz Shakir, political director of the ACLU. “I’m not sure that we can.”

Still, all are in agreement that even if the Trump resistance was born as a protest movement, it must quickly mature into an electoral machine. To that end, the Women’s March has recently registered as a political advocacy organization with 501(c)(4) status, while maintaining a nonprofit, nonpartisan entity. They are cultivating their network of millions of emails, grooming local organizers, and strengthening their network of “huddles,” many in conservative areas. “If there’s any time for the resistance to get on the same page, it has to be on electoral politics,” says Sarsour. She says the Women’s March plans to launch massive voter registration and engagement efforts, but that the DNC has not yet asked them for help.

Regardless of the challenges, the anti-Trump organizers insist they have an infinite supply of motivation. “A comedian came to town and said, ‘There’s no way these women can stay mad for four years,'” says Kathleen Peterson. “I said ‘You just watch us. Women can stay mad forever.'”

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