Vortrag: USA Update

On 2nd October 2017, Dr. Markus Hünemörder, an expert on American politics, gave a talk at our school. About 200 students and teachers were listening while he gave us an update on America in the age of Donald Trump divided into three parts. In the first part on “Trump’s Presidential Victory”, Hünemörder explained that Trump is the most controversial president in recent history.

While running for presidency, he deliberately broke rules and challenged political consensus. His rhetorical transgressions such as insults, racism, sexism and contradictions strengthened his profile as an “anti-politician” and guaranteed him constant media coverage, which was helpful for his electoral success. Furthermore, Hünemörder mentioned that both Trump and Clinton were deeply unpopular candidates, so for many voters it was a choice for the lesser evil. In the end, Trump won the election due to narrow victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Traditionally, those are democratic states, but because of economic troubles, Trump was the more appealing candidate for most voters in this so called “rust belt”.

The second part of the presentation was titled “The Trouble with Trump – the Politics of the Trump Administration”. Donald Trump often changes key personnel, which according to Dr. Hünemörder can be explained by the power struggle between “normal” Republicans and radical populists as well as Trump’s personality. Additionally, he seems to lack clear goals or priorities, and Republicans in Congress are divided. Therefore, little significant legislation or policy has been enacted. Several other topics, such as “Race Relations under Trump”, “Trump and Environmental Policy” and “Trump’s War with the News Media” were discussed as well. At the end of the second part Markus Hünemörder talked about the new administration’s foreign policy. After the isolationist campaign rhetoric, it is surprisingly conventional. Trump limited involvement in Syria and lraq, but he didn't make any major changes in relations with Russia. But he has, and that’s probably the worst part for us Europeans, damaged relations with the EU by cancelling free trade negotiations, questioning NATO and withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

The topic of the last part was “Trump in Trouble – the Russia Investigation and Other Problems”. It’s a fact that Russian hackers manipulated the 2016 campaign against Clinton. The big question is if Trump’s campaign team knew about that or even collaborated with the Russians. Even if this turns out to be wrong, Trump is still upset because of the damage it does to his presidency. By far Trump’s biggest problem seems to be that his approval ratings have dropped quickly due to a lack of tangible results and achievements, yet a premature end of the Trump presidency still seems very unlikely short of unexpected devastating revelations of the Russia investigation.

After the presentation, students and teachers had the chance to ask their own questions such as “Will there be a war with North Korea?”, “Will Clinton run for presidency again?” and “Why did Trump want to become president?” After all our questions had been answered precisely, a very interesting talk sadly came to its end.

Laurenz Fuchs, Q12

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