On Tuesday, 2 May, 2017 the Monroe Group at the University of Reading hosted a one-day conference to mark the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency. As well as recognising this milestone, the event also marked the launch of this research network. Comprised of figures from Reading’s Politics Department and its Department of History, the Monroe Group is dedicated to the study of history and politics in the Americas. The Reading Vice Chancellor’s Endowment Fund, as well as the British Association for American Studies generously sponsored the event.
The first event of the day was the keynote address by Professor Andrew Rudalevige of Bowdoin College (Maine, United States). Reviewing the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, Rudalevige argued that the incumbent President has achieved short-term tangible results of little substance. In the case of his foreign policy, for example, Trump’s tough rhetoric belies that little action he has taken. Explaining this, Rudalevige speculates that Trump is hamstrung by a combination of the legacy of his predecessors and naivety on what the role of a politician entails.
Following on from this fascinating, insightful keynote was the first panel of the day, which placed Trump’s first 100 days in historical perspective. Dr Mark Shanahan (Reading) began proceedings by comparing Dwight D. Eisenhower with Trump. Professors Mark White (QMUL) and Iwan Morgan (UCL) followed, exploring the differences and similarities between Trump and John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan respectively. After the lunch break, the second panel explored the origins and motives behind Trump’s political thinking, as well as his impact on minorities in the United States. Dr Eddie Ashbee (Copenhagen Business School) placed the Trump administration in the context of the recent populist surge across the US and the wider western world. Richard Johnson (Nuffield College, Oxford), similarly, explained why so many white Midwest voters, who are typically Democrat voters, opted for Trump in November 2016. Professor Kevern Verney, finally, analysed the incumbent President’s approach to Mexican immigration, most notably his notorious proposal to erect a wall across the US-Mexico border.
The Third Panel of the day explored President Trump’s domestic policy. Professor Lee Marsden (University of East Anglia) explored the current White House administration’s ties with Alt Right figures. Likewise, Dr Clodagh Harrington (DeMontfort University) speculated on the fate of reproductive rights during the Trump Presidency. Following on from this, Dr Alex Waddan (Leicester University) undertook a broad overview of President Trump’s social policy.
The one-day event culminated with a foreign policy roundtable, involving Dr Jacob Parakilas (Chatham House), Dr Maria Ryan (Nottingham), Darius Wainwright (Reading) and Dr Mara Oliva (Reading). The participants all discussed aspects of Donald Trump’s foreign policy to date, as well as speculating on future directions the incumbent President’s diplomacy will take.
A total of 60 people attended the event. These included scholars of US presidency around the country as well as postgraduate students from Reading and other institutions. The one-day conference was also live streamed on facebook. 9,000 people followed the keynote address.
BAAS generous support allowed for 29 postgraduate students to attend the conference at a reduced rate. One of them, Richard Johnson (Oxford) also presented a paper on Trump’s electoral success.
The conference proceedings will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in September 2018, just on time for the mid-term elections. A contract was signed on 2 November 2017.
Mara Oliva is a lecturer in History at the University of Reading