Conference: Trump Year One


As the title suggests, the conference aimed to analyze the actions of President Donald Trump throughout the course of his first year in office. The day centered around four themes:

  • Political decisions and the relationship with Congress and the judicial system
  • The impact on the economy
  • International relations
  • Civil society, culture and media

The conference examined many of the controversial policies, positions and discourses the president has engaged in over the course of his first year in office. Throughout the morning and afternoon, a heated conversation arose concerning the “chaos presidency” – as Dr. Vincent Michelot of Science-Po dubbed it – that has been the norm of this administration.

The conference sought not so much to condemn President Trump, but rather to highlight the way in which Trump has, in his own way, reinvented what it means to be president while grappling with issues, such as the government freeze, which have seemingly destabilized the Republican party.

Michelot argued that through undermining the courts, his hyperbolic aggressiveness to Congress and attacking the free press, Trump has unleashed a sustained attack against the normal “checks and balances” typical of democracy. In a sense, Michelot said, this refocuses the power on the President in a way more akin to an authoritarian or monarch.

“All presidents, when they get into office, normally they start to consolidate and expand on their base,” he said. “Trump has not done this.”

Dr. Anne Deysine expanded Michelot’s thesis of attacks, pointing out that, in addition to the press, courts and Congress, Trump had also attacked the FBI and Senate. This led her to conclude that the president has “a total disregard, even disdain, for the entire system.” Deysine cited numerous court cases, including the recent travel ban; however, she was more optimistic than most of the presenters in believing that the democratic systems in the US are strong enough to withstand Trump’s attacks and could even flourish under the stress of the current administration.

Dr. Jayson Harsin of AUP finished the conference by arguing that Trump’s “over the top communication style… is a growing style and political strategy that works in this cultural moment – widespread distrust about so many things and institutions. The key is not to persuade most people to believe what you say, but to ensnare them into debating about or responding to what you say. Trump sets and controls the agenda.”

After thoroughly evaluating Trump’s first year in power, the speakers and participants carefully considered what course the Administration might take in the coming three years and how the other pillars of the democratic institution would respond.

Speakers and Presenters: Audrey Celestine, Science-Po (Paris) – Anne Deysine, Université Nanterre – Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, Director & Senior Fellow, German Marshall Fund – Gary Gerstle, University of Cambridge –Jayson Harsin, American University of Paris – Phil Hostak, Lawyer – Vicent Michelo, Science-Po (Lyon) – Jean-Baptiste Velut, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Lyon) – Yves Sural, Co-Director of the CERSA/UMR (Paris)