The Government and Politics Department were delighted to welcome Dr Adam Smith of University College London, for an evening lecture entitled The Resistible Rise of Donald Trump.
Dr Smith, a Senior Lecturer in History at UCL, is a specialist in both the American Civil War and American party politics, meaning he was well placed to explain the historical parallels and precedents for the election of the 45th President of the United States. His lecture, which took place on the evening of Tuesday 19th October, to an audience of St Mary’s Sixth Form students, pupils of other schools and members of the public, began by considering the circumstances that had allowed Trump to win the election. Dr Smith talked about just how dependent on an unlikely set of circumstances Trump’s election had been, given that his clear victory in the Electoral College vote contrasted so starkly with his substantial loss of the popular vote. He also traced parallels and themes within American history which suggest that Trump’s election was not so out of character for the self-styled Greatest Democracy in the World. Dr Smith looked at the similarities and differences with a controversial President from another century, Andrew Jackson, for whom Trump has expressed great admiration. Other presidents have also positioned themselves as 'disruptors' of the status quo, including Ronald Reagan and, surprisingly, Franklin Roosevelt. Other issues that have been making headlines in the days since Dr Smith’s lecture, such as race, have also played a significant role in American politics for generations, and show no sign of going away. Finally, Dr Smith sounded a note of warning to those inclined to believe democratic values are here to stay, and that normal service will be resumed once the current incumbent leaves office. Rather, history shows us that systems and norms change, and that there may be more surprises in store in the years to come.