Donald Trump has been a busy man during the first one hundred days of his presidency, but in regards to individual liberty, his accomplishments so far are a bit of a mixed bag. According to the White House, President Trump has signed twenty-eight bills, thirty executive orders, and thirteen Congressional Review Acts (CRAs). For the first one hundred days in office, that’s more legislation signed than any president since Truman, the most executive orders since FDR, and more CRAs than any other president in American history.
Individual liberty tends to thrive best when the government exerts the least control over people, and the White House very clearly presents that view with the statement:
GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE WAY: President Donald J. Trump has done more to stop the Government from interfering in the lives of Americans in his first 100 days than any other President in history.
Despite this, many of these actions do not directly address issues of liberty, and therefore fall under the ambiguous category of things that might someday have some effect under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
President Trump promised to safeguard individual liberty by shrinking the government and repealing unconstitutional laws. Since fourteen of the twenty-eight bills signed by Trump so far – a list including only six new acts – actually removes or nullify previous regulations, he seems to be well on his way to doing exactly that. In the same spirit, one of Trump’s executive orders requires that all proposals for new bills come with suggestions and a plan to remove at least two existing ones.
In a more focused show of support for Liberty, Donald Trump signed legislation that repeals the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which added Social Security disbursement records to the mandatory background checks required to buy firearms. The goal of the 2007 act was to use Social Security records to prevent anyone receiving checks for mental disabilities from purchasing firearms, which effectively made suffering from depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as damning as committing and being convicted of felony crimes.
Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of Trump’s first one hundred days is the nomination and successful confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Though he has yet to flex his judicial muscle on the Supreme Court, Justice Gorsuch is an Originalist – which means he interprets the Constitution with the framers’ original intent in mind. In addition to an originalist’s protection of Constitutional rights, Justice Gorsuch shares President Trump’s belief in reducing legislation. According to Business Insider, Gorsuch criticized the growing bulk of legislation in criminal law during a speech in 2013:
Without written laws, we lack fair notice of the rules we must obey. But with too many written laws, don’t we invite a new kind of fair notice problem? And what happens to individual freedom and equality — and to our very conception of law itself — when the criminal code comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity?
President Trump’s reduction of legislation can cause problems for individual liberty as well. One of the federal regulations Trump rolled back was the FCC rule Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services. By dismissing this rule, the Trump administration denies the consumer’s right to make an informed decision when choosing broadband services – as well as the right to individual privacy. Though this seems more of a corporation vs. individual rights issue, the U.S. government often requests user data from these companies. The Google Transparency Report shows that the U.S. government has submitted thousands of user data requests in 2016 to Google alone!
Conspicuously missing from the bevy of executive actions is the previously promised complete removal of unconstitutional laws limiting the first and second amendments and the successful repeal of Obamacare. Though these are inactions and failed actions rather than successful actions by the president, they still impede the advancement of liberty.
While President Trump raises some serious concerns in the area of individual privacy, he has laid some promising groundwork for reducing the federal government in general. Though only a small percent of his executive actions thus far have shown it, President Trump has espoused an unyielding support for the first and second amendments specifically. With such mixed results, it ‘s hard to say how Donald Trump will affect liberty throughout his presidency. Some argue that the one hundred day milestone is an unfair and inaccurate measure of a president’s success, and perhaps that is so. Much can change in the remaining 1,360 days of Trump’s first term.