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Here’s a report card for Trump’s first year in office

- January 22, 2018
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk in the inauguration parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017. (Evan Vucci/AP)

With a year of Donald Trump’s presidency in our rearview mirror, the Monkey Cage offered a week of posts evaluating his record from various points of view — and looking at what the citizen opposition has been up to. In case you missed them, here’s your chance to read them all.

Let’s start with an actual report card. Freshman presidencies are often notoriously difficult, but Trump’s record still stood out. Justin Vaughn and Brandon Rottinghaus collected responses to a survey from 155 experts on the U.S. presidency. Collectively they gave him an F overall, looking at such things as legislative accomplishments, foreign-policy leadership, maintaining institutional norms, and public communication.

The Monkey Cage’s Andrew Rudalevige, one of those experts on the presidency, pointed out that Trump has picked up where President Barack Obama left off in one important respect: He has been leaning on executive power to get things done unilaterally, without having to rely on the factional circus that is Congress. Executive orders, memorandums, regulatory freezes and changes, treaty withdrawals, statutory interpretation, prosecutions and positions in the federal courts — the executive branch has quite a toolbox for shifting the government’s direction.

But there’s an important way Trump is hobbling his ability to turn the ship of state: He’s setting records for how few people he has appointed — and how long they take to confirm, Heather Ba, Brandon Schneider and Terry Sullivan found. Be sure to scroll down to the graph that shows you just how much more slowly that’s going. It’s impressive. (Why does that matter? Rudalevige explained that to us a year ago. In the well-known words of Ronald Reagan’s transition team, “Personnel are policy.”)

And that’s just in the wider bureaucracy. Although he was quick to appoint his own White House staff members, he has had a record amount of first-year turnover. And according to expert Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, it’s about to get much worse.

Trump also does not seem concerned about Republicans’ keeping control of Congress after this year’s midterm elections — at least, not if you analyze his travel schedule. That’s what  did for us, showing that compared with other presidents, Trump’s public travel looks as though he’s taking a victory lap rather than trying to win over battleground states.

Those battleground will be heavily contested by what look to be record numbers of female candidates, most of whom will run as Democrats, the Monkey Cage’s Danny Hayes noted. Many of them say they were inspired by last year’s Women’s Marches, which the Monkey Cage’s Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman started counting with their Crowd Counting Consortium project; they have continued doing so since. They’ve reported that the nationwide set of marches started a trend, with people going into the streets by the hundreds of thousands every month of 2017. They have been posting here about the protests they count every month. On Sunday, Chenoweth and Pressman summed up their findings for 2017, reporting that the so-called resistance has been persistent, diverse and nonviolent and appears to be resilient. Look for more of both — protests, and our reports about them — in the coming year.