Power  /  Syllabus

Trump Syllabus 2.0

An introduction to the currents of American culture that led to "Trumpism.'
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In May 2016, Donald Trump became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for President of the United States. Not since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 bid has a major political party produced so polarizing a candidate. Many, including Trump himself, attributed the campaign’s success to factors unique to Trump, like his wealth, his celebrity, and his professed aversion for “political correctness.” Trump’s political ascendancy came, however, as his personal fortunes did: through inheritance.

This course, assembled by historians N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain, includes suggested readings and other resources from more than one hundred scholars in a variety of disciplines. The course explores Donald Trump’s rise as a product of the American lineage of racism, sexism, nativism, and imperialism. It offers an introduction to the deep currents of American political culture that produced what many simply call “Trumpism”: personal and political gain marred by intolerance, derived from wealth, and rooted in the history of segregation, sexism, and exploitation.

The readings below introduce observers to the past and present conditions that allowed Trump to seize electoral control of a major American political party. By extension, this syllabus acknowledges the intersectional nature of power and politics. The course emphasizes the ways that cultural capital like Trump’s grows best under certain socio-economic conditions. Trump’s open advocacy for race-based exclusion and politically motivated violence on matters both foreign and domestic cannot be separated from the historical and day-to-day inequalities endured by people of color, women, and religious minorities living in or migrating to the United States. Concerned less with Trump as a man than with “Trumpism” as a product of history, this course interrogates the connections between wealth, violence, and politics.

The weekly readings are organized by themes captured by Trump’s own statements on the campaign trail during the 2016 presidential election. The syllabus is built for flexibility. The recommended books may be used in whole or in part. Primary sources can work under one theme or across weeks. A collection of assignments to accompany this syllabus appears on the website of the African American Intellectual History Society—with the contributing faculty member’s name provided for attribution.