Reflections on the First Year of the Trump Presidency: A Roundtable
by Elliot Luke
Level 1 History undergraduate
Monday 12 March 2018, Jackson Lecture Theatre, Minerva Building.
On the evening of Monday 12 March, a roundtable composed of three academics was hosted by the Historical Association in conjunction with the University of Lincoln’s School of History and Heritage. The academics included Dr Lorenzo Costaguta, visiting from the University of Birmingham, Dr Emma Long from the University of East Anglia, and resident lecturer in International Relations, Dr David Hughes.
The evening began with Dr Costaguta discussing Trump and the issue of race, and he argued that Trump’s use of a travel ban and his ‘othering’ of Muslims accorded with his other nationalistic principles. However, in the interest of balance, Dr Costaguta made repeated references to the Democratic Party’s recent failures and how their overemphasis on race and identity politics led to the alienation of white Americans. Dr Costaguta argued that Trump’s nationalistic, populist ideals appealed to lower-class white voters who felt (rightly or wrongly) that they had been ignored by the previous Obama administration, and that they found it increasingly difficult to sympathise with the Democrats due to the politically-correct nature of their identity politics. In his conclusion, Dr Costaguta focused on what the Democratic Party needed to do in order to remove Trump from office at the next presidential election, and this primarily focused on a return to realisable policies that promote equality as opposed to unachievable ambitions that have worked to polarise American society.
Secondly, Dr Long discussed Trump’s relationship with the courts. Dr Long, who specialises in issues relating to the constitution, focused on two main areas. First of all, she focused on elements of Trump’s manifesto and their constitutional viability and legality; then she moved on to Trump’s dealings with the Supreme Court. Dr Long opened by stating that she had tried to find good things to have come out of the Trump administration, but that she had failed, and this statement essentially set the tone for the rest of the evening. Dr Long continued by explaining how the Supreme Court is yet to reach a conclusive verdict on any of Trump’s campaign promises and as such we are yet to witness any real reaction to it. She discussed President Trump’s continual attacks on the courts including his aggressive attacks on sitting Supreme Court Justices. Despite this, I believe that Dr Long went on to inadvertently make an important point which highlighted the difficulties that Trump has faced during his first year. This related to the commission into voter fraud which he set up and the way the commission has refused to share voter information with him. Whilst this point was made in jest at Trump’s expense, it hinted at a bigger issue – namely, that the President is facing extreme hostility from his opponents, and that they have consistently refused to acknowledge any successes owed him however beneficial they might be.
Finally, Dr Hughes, a self-confessed Marxist and lecturer in International Relations at the University of Lincoln, took the stand. He accelerated the Trump-bashing nature of the night by opening with a description of the President as a nasty piece of work, before describing him as a ‘racist, fascist, misogynist and xenophobe.’ Dr Hughes then attacked Trump on matters of health care and his dealings with Obamacare as well as his retaliation in Syria to the chemical weapon attack by General Assad. Dr Hughes then touched on conspiracy theories regarding the motivations of Western nations to control the oil supply and described Trump’s policies as imperialistic. Dr Hughes later suggested that the gender and race struggles of America were a disguise which has distracted from the ‘real struggle’ – namely, class struggle – before going on to explain how Marxists had predicted such problems arising in the USA and with capitalism more generally. To conclude, Dr Hughes argued that capitalism was a social evil, and that Trump was a symptom of such a disease – the only cure for which was socialism.
Although the evening descended in to polemic, the Historical Association’s roundtable led to some extremely stimulating discussion around the theme of President Trump’s first year. If Trump’s second year is anything like as eventful as the last year, important debates like this one will undoubtedly continue to assess the exploits – be they successes or failures – of this extremely contentious President.