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Home > News and views > Ouse Valley Branch: A Talk On Contemporary America

Ouse Valley Branch: A Talk On Contemporary America


Professor of American History at Cambridge, and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College



Gary Gerstle is Professor of American History at Cambridge and divides his time between Cambridge England and Cambridge Massachusetts. He discussed with us contemporary US politics – through the eyes of Donald Trump.

The crash of 2008 was a watershed: as a result, neo-liberal values, with their emphasis on freedom of trade, free movement of people, capital and information, began to unravel, eventually enabling Donald Trump to become President of the USA on a platform of “Make America Great Again”.

Concentration on domestic affairs has involved a ruthless contempt for democratic norms, but has been an economic success – he will surely be re-elected in November. Personality is everything? For the rest of the world, more contempt. Trade wars on Trump’s terms are fine, military involvement not. Contempt for NATO, the EU, the UN (and the UK?) but respect for strong dictators. Ignorance is everything?

The result: Trump is now the world’s most powerful man, approve of him or not. The message: “If you want to be successful, copy Trump “. An alarming thought.

A comforting thought: many Americans are no longer taking their democracy for granted and there is much discussion on how to renew and strengthen it.

A brilliant analysis was much appreciated by our audience of sixty, which included sixth form pupils from a local school, who joined us for the talk. Professor Gerstle reminded the young people that the world’s problems will be theirs to sort out in the future.  Surely the rest of us silently wished them luck!

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