Cambridge Literary Festival: USA 100 Days On

A panel of writers and academics look at the first 100 hundred days of the Trump presidency and why this had been so important.

Cambridge Literary Festival: USA 100 Days On

The first 100 days of a USA Presidency is incredibly important and symbolic. It is seen as a time of action, with the achievements made setting the bar for the next four years.

The panel, consisting of writers and academics Erica Wagner, Sarah Churchwell and Andrew Preston, all agree that President Trump is increasingly aware of this time-frame, with it drawing to a close soon, he is yet to deliver the action which was such an integral aspect of his campaign.

One of the key questions is whether in the first 100 days of President Trump has shown a different kind of persona to the campaign. Churchwell argues that now he is less in control of the narrative. The campaign had been focused on a cult of personality whereas the presidency means he is now under scrutiny for his actions. However, Churchwell argues that he is still delivering entertainment, but nothing else. However the seriousness hits home when she tells us he is a conman, to a roar of laughter - 'that wasn't a joke' she said.

The problem is politics of feeling, with people holding irreconcilable views, often the emotion vs the logic. And it has become such a personal thing that the politics of how we see Trump voters is worrying, particularly in Britain where they are perceived as rednecks despite the evidence pointing to well-educated, middle class Trump voters, who believed the campaign persona was for show, which has proved not to be the case.

The danger of symbolism with the 100 days is that bills are getting rushed through, but without gaining enough votes to be passed, a notable failure with a republican majority in the house. However, a cynical, conspiratorial view suggests that the administration is setting itself up against a future incident, namely a terrorist attack, with the intention of being able to say 'we tried, but you stopped us'. Logic might say what if the incident doesn't come - until the question is raised of whether the administration is capable of staging an attack. It may sound stranger than fiction, but considering it as a possibility is a sobering thought.

If Trump has been successful in one thing it is being disruptive, because he is so unpredictable. And the panel all agrees that this is where he is most dangerous, and potentially volatile, with the biggest concern being his involvement with North Korea. However, if one positive thing comes from the discussions, the panel doesn't appear to believe he will last the four years, between investigations into Russian ties, antagonism with his own party, and even potential failing health (with a number of signs pointing to potential dementia). Equally Wagner highlights how it has also sparked protest, engagement and involvement in democracy which was lacking before.

While the debate raised no end of interesting issues, it did seem to be that everyone in the room was on the same page, and we could only second guess the beliefs and motivations of his supporters. It might have added to the debate to have a voice which was at least more neutral if not even sympathetic towards Trump, or his voters, in order to explore a different perspective. However, overall it was a great exploration of the Trump administration so far and its potential future.


Ellen Orange

Ellen Orange Contributor

I am a 24 year old Marketing Officer from the North East with a passion for arts and writing. I did a BA in English Literature and an MA in Twentieth and Twenty First Century Literature at Durham University, because I love books and reading! I have experience in writing for a variety of student publications, as well as having contributed to Living North, a regional magazine and Culture magazine, a supplement to regional newspaper, The Journal. I have been part of a Young Journalists scheme writing for NewcastleGateshead's Juice Festival, a young people's arts and culture festival, and have since become a Team Juice member. As well as reading and writing, I love theatre, photography and crafts.

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 25 April 2017, 10:06 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    Trump is certainly a controversial figure...will he damage American values?

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