Live revision! Join us for our free exam revision livestreams Watch now

In the News

Biden's first 100 days - with video

Mike McCartney

30th April 2021

How is he doing, and does it really matter?

What is the significance of the first 100 days of the presidency?

This is from the

"The idea began in 1933 with Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR didn’t plan to put himself under scrutiny. Rather, he had in mind measuring the New Deal achievements of the first 100 days of a special congressional session that year.

In a July 24 Fireside Chat, FDR referred to “the crowding events of the 100 days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal.”

In the decades since, journalists, historians and political scientists continued the practice of looking for accomplishments in the early months of a presidency.

During those 100 days, FDR got many major bills through Congress to battle the economic crisis of the Great Depression. These bills created the Public Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide job opportunities, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to insure bank deposits and the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide rural electricity. This flurry of activity became the standard by which future presidents would be judged."

So is the 100 days 'milestone' a useful metric to judge presidents by? This article from Vox online argues it isn't, giving three reasons:

"The conventional wisdom about the importance of the 100 days goes something like this: When a new president takes office, he begins with a “honeymoon” period in which he’s quite popular. However, there’s a time limit on this as presidents tend to see an approval rating drop as they stay in office. Therefore, time is of the essence. The new president should rush to enact as much of his agenda as possible before the honeymoon ends because he’ll find it more difficult to do so afterward.

But there are a few problems with this analysis. First off, the presidential “honeymoon” approval boost is no longer so apparent in our age of polarization — Biden isn’t really getting one and Trump didn’t either. (Neither did George W. Bush, for that matter.)

Second, since FDR’s presidency, it has been quite rare for major legislation to get passed in the first 100 days. In times of crisis, both Biden and Obama managed to pass large stimulus bills quickly, but most other signature legislative accomplishments for presidents fell outside the 100-day window. The true deadline here is probably the 2022 midterm elections, which are still a way off.

Finally, when it comes to executive actions, there’s no real reason the president’s important accomplishments “have” to come during the first 100 days, and indeed, they’ve often historically come later. In part that’s because presidents tend to turn to executive power more once their hopes of scoring major legislative victories are frustrated."

There are lots of intelligently argued points in the article, and it is worth reading in full:

The first 100 days may be too short a time to provide any indication of how well a POTUS will have done by the time he leaves office. Indeed, the success of a President often doesn't really receive a fair assessment until sometime after they leave the White House. A good example here would be Jimmy Carter, whom many believed to be a failure even before a crushing defeat by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.

But Biden does face a massive race against time. In an era of intense polarisation, he relies almost entirely on congressional support from within his own party. And with two years until the mid-terms, he has a small window, with the House, following historical precedent, highly likely to switch to the GOP in 2022.

So, yes, the 100 days mark may well just be a journalistic device but as an early indicator of the rush to get things done within the framework of what will effectively be a two-year presidency, it is still useful to pause and take stock.

This CNN clip is excellent in highlighting, yet again, how hyper-partisanship plays out in America. The differential figures for approval and disapproval among Democrat and Republican supporters in relation to Biden are quite staggering.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.