On January 24 2017, the American and Canadian Studies Centre organised a panel discussion to evaluate President Donald Trump’s first year in office. The event was held on campus, and despite the rain, was a full house, with the audience space completely filled, and people sitting on the stairs!
The panel was chaired by Dr Steve Hewitt, and was made up of four academics: Professor David Dunn, Dr Clodagh Harrington (De Montfort University), Dr Adam Quinn, and Dr Michell Chresfield. Professor Dunn began by discussing the Trump administration’s foreign policy during this first year. Professor Dunn pointed out that Trump has appeared largely uninterested in the details of foreign policy and has instead devolved a great deal of power to the armed forces hierarchy. Instead, Dunn argued, Trump prefers a flashy, ‘America First’ style of foreign policy to distract from the failures to pass domestic legislation. Dr Harrington then continued the discussion with a presentation on the Trump administration’s policies on women, as well as the impact of presidential rhetoric. Harrington argued that the way Trump speaks about women is just as important as his policies, because presidential rhetoric is highly influential. Dr Chresfield then spoke on Trump’s first year in relation to race. Discussed were Trump’s response to the Charlottesville riot in August 2017, the ongoing issues with race and the national anthem in the NFL, and the recent revelation that Trump called countries including Haiti and certain African nations ‘shithole countries’ in a discussion about immigration. Despite Trump’s insistence that he is not racist, the key take away from Chresfield’s presentation was a quote from Maya Angelou: ‘if someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ Dr Adam Quinn then rounded out the presentations with a discussion on politics and policy in the last year, examining Trump’s own relationship with conservatives and the Republican party. The floor was then opened to questions, with insightful audience participation and queries, such as Trump’s similarities to President Ronald Reagan, and the likelihood of impeachment or Trump resigning.
Despite the panellists’ overall pessimistic perspective on the first year of the Trump presidency, the event ended on a hopeful note, with questions leading the discussion towards the prospect of the 2018 midterms. There was also a mention of names of possible candidates for the 2020 presidential election on both sides of the aisle, including well-known names such as Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but also up and coming possibilities such as Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
Event report by Rosie Dods, Final Year History and American and Canadian Studies student.