Trump Studies


Over at The Atlantic, Ruth Graham writes about scholars’ fascination with Donald Trump. Here is a taste of her piece “What ‘Trump Studies’ Is Telling Us.”

Here is a taste:

The presidency of Donald Trump is many things, depending on your point of view: an inspiration, a threat to democracy, a gold-plated boondoggle. But the one thing Trump’s fans and his critics can agree on is that it is unprecedented.

For scholars of American politics, history and even psychology, that makes it fertile ground. “From a purely academic and intellectual standpoint, it’s like an experiment,” says Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “Here’s what people thought about the presidency for a very long time, and suddenly there’s something radically new.”

After 16 months of campaigning and seven months of the Trump presidency, it has become clear: We didn’t understand America that well at all. Parties ultimately have control over their primaries? Trump ran away with the Republican nomination with almost no early institutional support. Republicans support limited government? The winning candidate promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure and offered “insurance for everybody.” Politicians can’t violate major social norms and still get elected?

Trump appeared to make fun of a disabled reporter onstage, bragged about how his followers wouldn’t care if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and was caught on tape talking about how fame gave him carte blanche to grab women’s genitals.

It’s the job of academics like Posner to figure out what’s really going on, and the pop-up field of “Trump studies” has quickly arrived to help explain how so many could be so wrong about so much. Posner, for example, published a working paper in January that branded Trump’s political style as “personalism” and suggested it would run into trouble when it came time to actually govern. Trump has already been the subject of scholarship on an unusually wide variety of topics: the moral psychology of his voters; whether he is susceptible to impeachment; and how the president’s tweets affect the stock prices of the companies he mentions. While “Trump studies” in general is still in its infancy, it is already revealing that the stories we have long told ourselves about America might be idealistic fictions.

Read the rest here.