As President Donald Trump approached his 100th day in office, TIME History asked a variety of experts to weigh in on a single question: What will historians of the future say about President Trump’s first 100 days?
Despite acknowledging that the question is impossible to answer with any certainty, they drew on the lessons of the past to hazard a guess as to which of Trump’s actions thus far will make it into the history books — and how they will be interpreted with the added perspective of hindsight. Below is a selection of the answers they submitted by phone and by email.
Ibram X. Kendi, historian at the University of Florida and author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America:
What I daydream future historians will say about Trump’s first 100 days is different than what I suspect future historians will say. I suspect future historians will speak of the start of Trump’s presidency as literally a crash-and-burn course for the rookie politician — and that they will contrast these lowly first 100 days with the high points of Trump leading Republicans to wartime victories during the 2018 and 2020 elections. As frustrated Democrats lost their economic appeals to white voters and blamed their electoral defeats on the low turnout of non-whites, the best historians will point out the shrinking electorate through Trump-backed voter ID laws, gerrymandering and mass-incarcerating policies.
On the other hand, I daydream of a future historian titling her book 100 Days of Resistance, framing Trump’s election as the defibrillator of a revived American democracy. After overcoming their heartfelt shock of Trump’s election, Americans found their courage and their durable marching shoes, and the ability to unerringly resist bigotry, poverty, inequality, war, climate change, mass incarceration and alternative facts. Their 100 days of resistance laid the foundation for mass organizing, power grabs in the 2018 and 2020 elections, and then for new local and national policies supporting universal voting and getting money and gerrymandering out of politics. Other Trump historians, speaking in this future democracy, shall chronicle these 100 days as the beginning of the end of their America. Trump tried, they will say, to lay the groundwork to make America great again and failed.