Sociology Professor Ellen Berrey was recently featured with International Relations and Canadian History Professor Robert Brothwell in an article in the U of T News. The article discussed the first year of USA politics under President Trump, and the future implications of his legislation and rhetoric on USA and international politics.
Professor Berrey studies the effect of law, organizational practice, and culture on inequality. Her previous projects have involved research on topics such as diversity discourse, affirmative action politics, and corporate social responsibility.
We have posted an excerpt of the article below.
A U of T historian and sociologist look back at Trump's year of chaos
Noreen Ahmed-Ullah | January 19th
It’s been a tumultuous year since U.S. President Donald Trump came into office. Between the daily Twitter drama, the nuclear face-off with North Korea, the probe into Russian involvement in the presidential election and the racist overtones spewing from the White House, it’s been exhausting to keep up.
U of T News spoke with historian Robert Bothwell and sociologist Ellen Berrey to unpack the year.
Bothwell, a professor of international relations and Canadian history at the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs, and Berrey, an assistant professor of sociology at U of T Mississauga, examined the extent of the damage left in the wake of Trump's first year in office.
How would you summarize his year in office?
Ellen Berrey: Trump’s first year in office was America’s first year of rule by a reality TV billionaire with authoritarian tendencies. Trump created a lot of drama, and the news media sold us that drama. He governed by chaos, which mostly hampered his political agenda. He had few major victories on the legislative front, despite working with a Republican-controlled Congress. The big exception was a tax law designed for corporations and the wealthy, which the Republicans railroaded through Congress to finally get a win. However, Trump was quite successful at packing the judiciary and the executive branch with industry insiders and conservative ideologues, many of them unqualified for their jobs. In addition to his appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, he selected a record number of federal judges, who have lifetime appointments. The effects of their legal decisions will play out for decades.
Really, Trump’s biggest accomplishment was debasing public discourse, promoting racism, and deepening political divides among Americans, with the complicity of the troubled Republican party. Another way to think about that, though, is that he stepped so far over the line of what’s acceptable that he created a lot of clarity for many Americans. We don’t know a 2017 without president Trump, but I’d venture to say that his bragging about grabbing women in the crotch helped to spark the #MeToo movement.
Robert Bothwell: Trump has been surprisingly consistent over the past year. Much of what he said he’d do, he has done. His basic attitudes, beliefs and behaviour appear to be unaltered. A striking example is his ludicrous promise to build “the Great Wall of Trump” along the border with Mexico. Many people – including some in his entourage – expected he would drop it, but whenever it is questioned he doubles down on it.
He has also been able to expand his control over the Republican party, thereby solidifying his political position. Because of his consistency, he has been able to degrade and/or dismantle key U.S. institutions like the EPA, the State Department and Obamacare, and he has successfully lowered America’s standing in the world.