Trump Syllabus 2.0

An introduction to the currents of American culture that led to “Trumpism”
On June 19th, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a web version of a mock college syllabus that sought to explore the deep historical and political roots of Donald Trump’s political success ...

On June 19th, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a web version of a mock college syllabus that sought to explore the deep historical and political roots of Donald Trump’s political success during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The syllabus suffered from a number of egregious omissions and inaccuracies, including its failures to include contributions of scholars of color and address the critical subjects of racism, sexism, and xenophobia on which Trump has built his candidacy.

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.

Photograph by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Photograph by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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.


WEEK 1: “Trumpism’s” Antecedents

“Let’s make America great again.” —Ronald Reagan

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia

Photograph by Evan Guest / Flickr

Photograph by Evan Guest / Flickr

 

WEEK 2: White Power and Plausible Deniability

“I don’t know what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. I don’t know.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 3: Blackness and Right-Wing Multiculturalism

“Look at my African American over here! … Are you the greatest?”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 4: Immigration Policies and the Rise of Islamophobia

“A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 5: Illusions of National Security

“I will build a great wall …”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia

Photograph by Johnny Silvercloud / Flickr

Photograph by Johnny Silvercloud / Flickr

 

WEEK 6: On Mexicans and Mexican-Americans

“… And I will make Mexico pay for that wall.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 7: Misogyny, Sexism, and Shaming the Female Body

“Blood coming out of her … wherever”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 8: Violence, Authoritarianism, and Masculinity

“I’d like to punch him in the face.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 9: Racial Double Standards under Mass Incarceration

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia

Photograph by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Photograph by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

WEEK 10: Racism, Real Estate, and the Strange Career of Trump’s Wealth 

“I’ve never lost in my life.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 11: American Fables, Indigenous History

“Who’s that, the Indian?”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 12: Disability and Disability Culture in America

“What he looks like is his level of intelligence.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 13: Sexuality and LGBTQ Rights

“I’ll overturn the shocking gay marriage decision.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 14: Trump’s GOP Takeover, Contextualized

The Republicans … have to get tougher. This is too tough to do it alone, but … I think I’m going to be forced to.”

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


WEEK 15: History in Trump’s America

“Make America great again.” —Donald Trump

 

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia


The authors wish to thank the over one hundred scholars who contributed titles for consideration in this project. Chad Williams, Leah Wright Rigueur, Stephen G. Hall, Caitlin M. Zaloom, and Sharon Marcus deserve special thanks for their editorial assistance. We also thank the editorial team at the Chronicle of Higher Education for inspiring and later supporting this project. icon

Featured image: Photograph by Tony Webster / Flickr