The Third Way: new perspectives on the Blair-Clinton era, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, Saturday 24 March 2018

CALL FOR PAPERS – deadline for proposals, Friday 13 October 2017

It is now over a decade since Tony Blair left office, and twenty five years since Bill Clinton won the US presidency. In light of recent political developments (Donald Trump and Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders) this conference affords an opportunity for political scientists and historians to consider the Third Way with analytical distance, but also to explore the lessons it offers for the current political landscape. Although centred on the Anglo-American Third Way, this conference welcomes contributions on its other variations, including in Europe and Australia.

The Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin hosts a range of events and conferences on the history of the Labour Party and wider labour movement. We intend this conference to lead to a major publication – as with previous conferences on the 1929-31 Labour Government, Labour and the First World War, and Labour and the left in the 1980s (all published in edited volume form by Manchester University Press).

Please send abstracts (max. 250 words) by Friday 13 October 2017 to richard.carr@anglia.ac.uk

FULL DETAILS: http://events.history.ac.uk/event/show/16016

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Dead: The Republican Effort to Repeal Obamacare

By Alex Waddan and Daniel Béland

https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/walking-dead-republican-effort-repeal-obamacare 

 

Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is also known as Obamacare, had been a mantra of Republicans ever since its passage in March 2010. The Tea Party drew much of its energy from its opposition to the ACA and Republican candidates had reiterated their commitment to undoing the law in each subsequent election cycle. This paid dividends for the party in the 2010 mid-term elections, but the re-election of President Obama in 2012 seemed to ensure that the ACA would continue its rollout, which was always scheduled to be a prolonged process, as he would be able to block efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal the law. Nevertheless, continuing, and effective, Republican opposition to the ACA was illustrated by efforts to obstruct implementation at the state level; for example, at the start of 2017, 19 states still refused extra federal funding to expand their Medicaid programmes to cover low-income, uninsured Americans. This level of resistance to Medicaid expansion, which generally occurs in Republican-controlled states, was made possible by a June 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld most components of the ACA but forbid the federal government to punish states that refused to expand the programme. Furthermore, in January 2016, Obama was forced to use the presidential veto to block a bill passed by the Republican controlled chambers of Congress that would have repealed large parts of the ACA.

The 2016 presidential election cycle demonstrated once again that promising to "repeal Obamacare" was catnip to Republican candidates and the party's base. And, although candidate Trump did break with some aspects of conservative orthodoxy when promising that he would not cut the Medicare or Social Security programmes, he was fully onboard with the anti-ACA rhetoric. Thus, Trump's unexpected victory in November 2016 meant that Republicans, enjoying unified government in Washington DC as they now controlled the White House and both the House and the Senate, could now fulfill their longstanding promise. Doing so, however, turned out to be much more complicated than anticipated.

In early May 2017, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act. This occurred after an abbreviated, yet still tortuous, process, with the initial proposals withdrawn from consideration ahead of a floor vote due to opposition from all Democrats, but more decisively by moderate Republicans and conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus. Eventually the last group were satisfied by changes to the bill meaning that the AHCA garnered sufficient support to pass the House. That was followed by a rather presumptive White House ceremony, of the sort normally reserved for when a President actually gets to sign a bill passed by both House and Senate. Expectations were high that such a moment would come, but ominously for Republicans, while AHCA did repeal important parts of the ACA, few thought that it was a coherent model for reform and the hope was that Senate would put together a more comprehensible package.

Republican Senate leaders, in their desire to craft a bill quickly, chose to bypass so-called "regular order", thereby significantly truncating the legislative process and relying on a Republican only taskforce to develop a bill. They also chose to push the bill through the "reconciliation" process, thus negating the possibility of a filibuster, meaning that they would need only 50 votes since they could rely on the casting vote of Vice President Pence. Yet, even after tilting the playing field, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, renowned for his party management, could not muster enough votes. The final blow came when, in late July 2017, the Senate voted down so-called "skinny repeal". Few thought this a satisfactory way forward, but it was advanced by the leadership on the same, kicking the can down the road, logic used to justify the passage of the AHCA in the House. Only this time a House - Senate Conference Committee was expected to come up with a coherent plan to save the day. In the end, just over six months into Trump's presidency, the Senate repeal effort failed.

Although the debate on the future of the ACA is by no means over, this recent failure leads to an obvious question: why, after seven years of deriding Obamacare, were Republicans unable to undo the law when in an institutional position to do so? A cynic might suggest that they never expected to have to fulfill their promise, especially as the 2016 campaign unfolded and the prospect of a Trump presidency seemed remote, leaving them confounded when faced with delivering on their rhetoric. Yet, there were plans in the conservative eco-system on how to move forward on health care reform, so unpreparedness is not a sufficient explanation. It is the case, however, that the party had never come together over any particular plan, reflecting how the US health care system is extraordinarily complex, a fact that President Trump discovered, apparently to his, though no-one else's, surprise.

In this context, while the ACA was consistently underwater in polling during Obama's presidency, the law did have features that were popular, and Republican lawmakers struggled with crafting plans that would keep those legacies in place, but simultaneously repeal other parts of the ACA that effectively supported them. In particular, Republicans committed themselves to maintaining the ACA's principle that individuals with pre-existing conditions should have access to affordable health insurance. The reality that this principle required spreading the cost of risk to healthy people, however, proved problematic when Republicans were also promising to reduce the insurance premiums for the healthy. More generally, as the ACA had been implemented, the numbers of uninsured Americans had dropped considerably. The manner in which that drop was largely attributable to the ACA became ever more apparent as each of the Republican plans put forward in Congress were scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office as likely to leave over 20 million more Americans uninsured.

Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the ever present difficulty of getting any major reform through the US legislative maze, even when one party controls both Congress and occupies the White House. In 2017, the Republicans stumbled in the Senate where they had only a 52-48 majority. McConnell made no effort to reach out to Democrats, which put a premium on his ability to corral his caucus. Yet, while the well-documented trend of partisan polarization in the US had seen the Republicans become a considerably more conservative force, there turned out to remain some moderate Republican voices in Congress worried about the consequences of taking insurance away from millions of Americans. On the final vote on skinny repeal, most of the attention focused on Senator John McCain from Arizona, returning to the Senate after a diagnosis of a severe form of brain cancer, and his vote against. In fact, the more consistent voices of opposition to the leadership had come from Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Finally, it is worth reflecting on the role of President Trump. He had promised prompt repeal of the ACA upon taking office, and his frustration was clear in the summer as he lashed out as the congressional efforts stalled, including a side swipe at McCain in an extraordinary August 15 impromptu press conference on the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which he apparently equated Nazis and KKK supporters with those protesting against them. Yet for all the presidential bluster, it was very clear that Trump had minimal grasp of the policy detail, which undermined his capacity to make a public case for why Republican plans for reform were a good idea and diminished his ability to sway the likes of Collins and Murkowski.

From a Republican perspective, one distinctly unintended consequence of their actions was to boost the popularity of the ACA. Yet, supporters of the ACA should remain wary. First, the Republican reform effort may look like the walking dead, but zombies can do harm to the living. To switch monster analogies, it maybe that Republicans try again to build a Frankenstein repeal bill if they make the calculation that it is more politically damaging to break their seven year promise than to enact something that might be very unpopular. Second, the ACA, particularly with regard to functioning of the individual insurance markets, needs the federal and state governments to take a pro-active role in encouraging households to enroll and pressuring insurers to offer plans where returns are likely to be low. Trump has regularly declared that he is happy for the ACA to implode and for Democrats to take the blame. As it is, he is likely both underestimating the resilience of the law and misjudging the political fall-out should people become even more disgruntled with their health care. But politics, bravado, and bluster aside, the administration does have the capacity to undermine the implementation of the law and leave many more Americans exposed to both economic and health risk should they need medical care.

Daniel Béland is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Public Policy at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan. Alex Waddan is an Associate Professor in American politics at the University of Leicester.

 

 

 

 

American Politics Group of the Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2018

Call for Papers

The forty-fourth annual conference of the American Politics Group of the Political Studies Association will be held at St Anne's College, University of Oxford from Thursday 4 to Saturday 6 January 2018. The keynote speaker will be Professor Marc J. Hetherington (Vanderbilt University) http://www.vanderbilt.edu/political-science/bio/marc-hetherington

There is a broad conference theme: "The US Constitutional and Political Order: Challenges and Constraints". This can be approached in various ways, and we will also be happy to receive proposals considering subjects and material beyond this particular theme. For example, papers or panel proposals examining contemporary US political institutions or processes, foreign policy issues or political history are invited. The conference organizers would also welcome papers addressing comparative themes or relevant theoretical or methodological issues. Proposals (no more than 150 words for single papers, 300 words for panels) should be sent to Dr Clodagh Harrington (cmharrington@dmu.ac.uk) by no later than 20 October 2017.

The APG is the leading scholarly association for the study of US politics in the UK and also has members in continental Europe and the USA. 

Full details of the conference will also be posted on the website. In the meantime any enquiries should be directed to Clodagh Harrington.

Dr Clodagh Harrington

Chair of the American Politics Group

(cmharrington@dmu.ac.uk)

 

 

 


Edward Orsborn Professor of US Politics and Political History, and Director of the Rothermere American Institute

The University of Oxford is seeking to appoint an outstanding academic and leader to the Edward Orsborn Professorship and Directorship of the Rothermere American Institute.

The successful candidate will be a scholar with an outstanding international reputation in the field of US Politics and Political History since independence and demonstrable leadership ability at a senior level. They will provide the intellectual vision and strategic leadership for the Rothermere American Institute, and develop its activities as a major international centre for research and teaching in American history, culture and politics. They will offer teaching in US politics and/or political history at both undergraduate and graduate level.

The post is offered in association with University College.

Deadline for applications is 12.00 noon on Friday 29 September 2017.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in Oxford.

For further details, please see http://www.recruit.ox.ac.uk/pls/hrisliverecruit/erq_jobspec_details_form.jobspec?p_id=129916

 

 

 

New Directions in American Philanthropy

Sheffield Hallam University

14-15 September 2017

Meaning, literally, "love of all mankind", the historian Lawrence J. Friedman has framed philanthropy as 'a collective form of charitable giving.' In the nearly two centuries since Alexis De Tocqueville's observation that the United States is a 'nation of joiners,' volunteerism and philanthropy have played a significant role in America's domestic and international history. For some, such as the scholar Olivier Zunz, philanthropy is 'part of the American progressive tradition.' Yet despite good intentions, the history of American philanthropy is not without controversy. Indeed, the political scientist Inderjeet Parmar, acknowledging that 'it is difficult to believe that philanthropy…could possibly be malignant,' has argued that it has not always been either an effective tool or a force for positive change.

The purpose of this workshop is to engage in this debate concerning the positive and negative aspects of American philanthropy. It is hoped that the research presented will both challenge and further our understanding of the role of charity and philanthropy in American history. From small Church groups and missionary efforts to secular organisations and multi-million dollar foundations, research papers covering any aspect of the history of philanthropy in America will be encouraged. Possible topics for 20-30 minute papers include, but are not limited to:

· Philanthropy in the early Republic

· Civil War and Reconstruction era philanthropy

· Women and philanthropy; women philanthropists

· African-American, Asian-American and Native-American philanthropists and philanthropy

· Philanthropy, philanthropists and the US economy

· The Big 3: Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller

· Beyond the Big 3: the history of other American foundations

· Philanthropy and American foreign relations

· Religious and secular philanthropy

· Charity and philanthropy in contemporary America

The keynote lecture will be delivered by Professor Inderjeet Parmar (City University London).

Proposals of no more than 250 words for papers should be sent to Dr Ben Offiler (b.offiler@shu.ac.uk) by 7 June 2017.

Full panel proposals are welcome although all-male panels will not be considered. All submissions should include the name of the presenter, their institution, email address, a short profile, and the title of the proposed presentation. Panel proposals should include a brief outline of the panel in addition to individual abstracts for each paper. Proposals from postgraduate and early-career researchers are encouraged.

Thanks to a grant provided by the Economic History Society a limited number of bursaries will be made available to support attendance by PGRs and ECRs. Priority will be given to speakers without access to institutional support. Please indicate in your additional information if you would like to apply for a bursary and whether you have access to institutional support, giving an estimate of potential travel and/or accommodation costs.

Symposium registration will open in June 2017. americanphilanthropy.wordpress.com

 

 


Trump 100 Days Event, University of Reading, May 2017

On Tuesday, 2 May the Monroe Group at the University of Reading hosted a one-day conference to mark the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency. As well as recognising this milestone, the event also marked the launch of this research network. Comprised of figures from Reading's Politics Department and its Department of History, the Monroe Group is dedicated to the study of history and politics in the Americas. The Reading Vice Chancellor's Endowment Fund, as well as the British Association of American Studies generously sponsored the event.

The first event of the day was the keynote address by Professor Andrew Rudalevige of Bowdoin College (Maine, United States). Reviewing the first 100 days of Trump's presidency, Rudalevige argued that the incumbent President has achieved short-term tangible results of little substance. In the case of his foreign policy, for example, Trump's tough rhetoric belies that little action he has taken. Explaining this, Rudalevige speculates that Trump is hamstring by a combination of the legacy of his predecessors and naivety on what the role of a politician entails.


Following on from this fascinating, insightful keynote was the first panel of the day, which placed Trump's first 100 days in historical perspective. Dr Mark Shanahan (Reading) began proceedings by comparing Dwight D. Eisenhower with Trump. Professors Mark White (QMUL) and Iwan Morgan (UCL) followed, exploring the differences and similarities between Trump and John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan respectively. After the lunch break, the second panel explored the origins and motives behind Trump's political thinking, as well as his impact on minorities in the United States. Dr Eddie Ashbee (Copenhagen Business School) placed the Trump administration in the context of the recent populist surge across the US and the wider western world. Richard Johnson (Nuffield College, Oxford), similarly, explained why so many white Midwest voters, who are typically Democrat voters, opted for Trump in November 2016. Professor Kevern Verney, finally, analysed the incumbent President's approach to Mexican immigration, most notably his notorious proposal to erect a wall across the US-Mexico border.

 

The Third Panel of the day explored President Trump's domestic policy. Professor Lee Marsden (University of East Anglia) explored the current White House administration's ties with Alt Right figures. Likewise, Dr Clodagh Harrington (DeMontfort University) speculated on the fate of reproductive rights during the Trump Presidency. Following on from this, Dr Alex Waddan (Leicester University) undertook a broad overview of President Trump's social policy. 

The one-day event culminated with a foreign policy roundtable, involving Dr Jacob Parakilas (Chatham House), Dr Maria Ryan (Nottingham), Darius Wainwright (Reading) and Dr Mara Oliva (Reading). The participants all discussed aspects of Donald Trump's foreign policy to date, as well as speculating on future directions the incumbent President's diplomacy will take.


  

Firing Comey was legal. That doesn't mean it was a good idea

By Andrew Rudalevige May 10

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/10/firing-comey-was-legal-that-doesnt-mean-it-was-a-good-idea/?utm_term=.ed01d2dccd68

In the immediate aftermath of President Trump's decision to fire FBI director James B. Comey, what do we know? Three quick points:

It's legal. According to a series of Supreme Court decisions interpreting "the executive power," presidents generally have the authority to remove any political appointee in a "line" agency at will, although Congress can protect appointees serving in independent regulatory commissions. Under certain circumstances, prosecutors can fall under the second category - for instance, the Supreme Court's 1988 Morrison v. Olson decision held that Congress could constitutionally create an office of independent counsel and make its occupant very hard to fire. But FBI directors are part of the Justice Department hierarchy. While they are appointed to a 10-year term, they clearly serve at the pleasure of the president.

[Read the letters from the White House and the attorney general about Comey's firing]

Both provisions are the unintended legacy of J. Edgar Hoover, who led the Bureau of Investigation and then its successor organization, the FBI, for nearly 50 years - from 1924 to his death in 1972. Reacting to Hoover's long and controversial tenure - and to some agency actions during the Watergate scandal - Congress put a provision in the Crime Control Act of 1976 that limited the FBI director's term to 10 years. (As of 1968, Congress had already put into law a requirement that the Senate must confirm any of Hoover's then-speculative successors.)

The 1976 act also prevents reappointment of an incumbent, though this was waived in 2011 when Robert Mueller's term as director was extended for two years by special statute. He left in 2013, and was succeeded by Comey, who was confirmed by a 93-1 vote of the Senate on July 29 of that year.

As a useful Congressional Research Service report observes, "There are no statutory conditions on the President's authority to remove the FBI Director." But it's fair to say that the point of the fixed term is to impose political constraints on that authority. Indeed, only one sitting FBI director has been fired by a president - William Sessions, by Bill Clinton, in July 1993. Sessions, however, was under fire for a number of ethical violations, including pressuring the government to pay for improvements at his house and for his wife's travel expenses. Comey's firing offense, in theory, is to have mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server for her State Department email correspondence.

It's not Watergate, exactly. My Facebook feed is suddenly full of pictures of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Elliot Richardson to investigate Watergate. Richardson himself had been appointed to replace Richard Kleindienst, who resigned as attorney general in part because his personal relationships with those accused of wrongdoing in Watergate made it difficult for him to serve as an impartial prosecutor. Richardson, in turn, was pressured by the Senate during his confirmation proceedings to commit to an independent investigation of the matter. He agreed - and after "numerous" (perhaps more than a dozen) candidates for the position had declined the role, Richardson appointed Cox, who had served as solicitor general in the Kennedy administration.

[Republican reactions to the firing of FBI Director Comey, ranked]

When Cox resisted President Nixon's efforts to retain control of the White House tapes that would eventually doom his presidency, Nixon demanded that Richardson fire him. Instead, Richardson resigned, as did his deputy William Ruckelshaus; third-in-command Robert Bork eventually carried out the order, arguing that legally it was the president's prerogative to dismiss his subordinates. (As a result, Cox's successor, Leon Jaworski, demanded and received explicit independence from the president in the form of a customized regulation, something that allowed him to successfully sue Nixon for the tapes' release a few months later.)

One can see the parallels. Cox's firing set off a public firestorm, seemingly confirming that Nixon feared what his investigation might reveal. The fact that Trump's letter removing Comey spends a full paragraph praising himself for not being under investigation seems likewise to protest too much.

But Cox was normatively, if not statutorily, far more independent of the president than was Comey. He had been appointed, with Nixon's grudging acquiescence, to do what he was then fired for. And while in 1973 the attorney general and deputy attorney general strongly objected to Cox's dismissal - to the point of resigning - in the present case those officials are on the other side of the matter. Arguments that this simply measures a moral chasm between Richardson and Ruckelshaus versus Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein are complicated by Democrats' own condemnation of Comey's behavior during the 2016 campaign, the very behavior cited as the rationale for his firing.

Still …

That doesn't make it a good idea. Nixon suspected immediately that Cox - given his Democratic background - would go on a partisan crusade. Comey briefly endeared himself to Democrats in the famous 2004 "hospital room" showdown with the Bush White House, when he refused (temporarily) to sign off on the administration's efforts to skirt the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

But his 2016 decisions regarding the Clinton investigation were widely praised by candidate Trump and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions. Their complaints about him then were not that he had wandered too far from Justice Department supervision but that he had not demanded to "lock her up" vigorously enough. And so the timing and rationale of Trump's decision, with Comey fired for the supposed due process violations Trump and Sessions previously lauded, seems far more convenient than principled.

Examined more broadly, an important result arose from Hoover's dubious tenure and from the Watergate era: a norm and expectation that the FBI should always pursue its investigations independently, even - or especially - when the executive office itself has been suspected of corruption. Comey's firing does violence to that norm, putting the bureau right back in the political firing line. Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey put it this way on Lawfare:

There is no question that the President has the legal authority to remove the FBI director. But there's also no question that removing the FBI Director in the midst of a high-stakes investigation of Russian influence in the inner circle of the President's campaign and White House is a horrifying breach of every expectation we have of the relationship between the White House and federal law enforcement.

Any exercise of presidential power is a matter of both law and political calculation. And firing Comey seems likely to strengthen, rather than defuse, demands for investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Members of Congress are already calling for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to oversee that investigation. Suspicions that Comey's firing was an attempt to muzzle the FBI will surely complicate the confirmation hearings of any new director.

Trump has the formal authority to act in this case. But as Richard Neustadt long ago observed, the exercise of the power to command often masks political weakness.

 

By Sacking FBI Director Comey, Trump Has Pushed His Government Deeper Into a Legitimacy Crisis

BY INDERJEET PARMAR ON 11/05/2017

https://thewire.in/134418/james-comey-firing-donald-trump-us/

James Comey's firing is a timely reminder that Donald Trump is unpredictable, difficult to read and dismissive of the norms associated with his office.

By dismissing FBI director James Comey, US President Donald Trump has not only underlined the unprecedented unpredictability of his leadership, but has also plunged into deeper crisis the very system of government and party politics of the country. Not only is the president's justification for firing Comey highly implausible - Trump says Comey erred in his investigations of the Hillary Clinton email saga during the election campaign - but its timing, as the FBI's probe into the Trump administration/campaign's connections with Russia gathers momentum, raises suspicions among even loyal congressional Republicans that the president has something to hide.

Comparisons with President Richard Nixon's sacking of Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox may be premature but have already been made by opposition politicians and historians. Cox was sacked when he subpoenaed White House tapes related to the Watergate burglaries. Whether or not the Trump-Russia 'affair' warrants such a comparison remains to be seen - but the optics are deeply suspicious.

More broadly, this crisis comes after a series of others that have seen historically low approval ratings for the Trump presidency - hovering around 40% at a time when newly-elected chief executives normally enjoy a honeymoon period. But so divisive is the president's style, values, language, policies and approach to leadership that there is almost no middle ground in attitudes to the maverick commander-in-chief.

Republican voters still love him - giving him 96% approval in recent polls - but hardly anyone else does. And Republican donors are reportedly concerned as there are so few 'wins' to boast of as even the Obamacare repeal by the House of Representatives has created such a backlash that the Senate - which must also pass the Bill but has a very small GOP majority - has effectively disowned it and is to start again from scratch.

But the severity of the master message of the Trump administration - foreigners not wanted - and increased raids on 'illegal immigrants' in the US has seen the number of migrants illegally attempting to cross the Mexican border into the US plummeting to around 11,000 since Trump's inauguration - a dramatic fall of 70%. This, and the confirmation of the conservative Neill Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, appears to be Trump's only achievements - much celebrated by his supporters.

Pew polls show that a very small percentage of Americans believe that the US government serves their interests - both before and after Trump's triumph in November 2016. The legitimacy crisis of the American elite, which Trump promised to reverse, continues as the two parties play politics while the problems of unemployment, low wages, massive income and wealth inequality, indebtedness and economic anxiety go unaddressed.

But firing off 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, dropping the 'mother of all bombs' on Afghanistan, escalating military tensions with China and North Korea, and praising NATO gained Trump accolades from the foreign policy establishment, including its neoconservative stalwarts like Paul Wolfowitz. "Trump just became president," declared CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

But the establishment still retains a degree of scepticism about Trump's newly-discovered globalist credentials. The pressure over alleged links with Russia appears designed to maintain leverage on an unpredictable and unreliable leader - up to this point, there is precious little of a democratic principle at stake about this affair, unlike Watergate.

The Comey firing is a timely reminder that this president remains unpredictable, difficult to read and dismissive of the norms associated with his office. Any suggestion that Trump's presidency has been 'normalised' has been torpedoed by his own lack of normality.

The Trump administration's explanation for firing Comey sounds highly implausible, given that they had a very long time to do something about his handling of the Clinton email investigation and had previously lauded Comey as a principled and independent public servant. That he was addressing FBI employees at the Los Angeles office when he saw live TV reports of his ouster - as opposed to via Twitter - merely underlines the unorthodox style of Trump.

To be sure, Comey's critical error, of misleading a Senate committee, appears to warrant an official reprimand but is hardly worthy of dismissal. Whatever the intent, the timing of his removal is extremely suspicious, given that the FBI's investigation into Trump's links with Russia appears to be gathering some pace. As Republican loyalist Senator Richard Burr, leading the committee investigating Trump-Russia links, said: "I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee."

If we look at previous presidents, Trump's actions and issues - including firing the FBI director - are like nothing we have seen before.

Nothing in history compares to what we have seen over the past year - from the election campaign itself and Trump's racially and discriminatory language, open courting of the fascist right, to his sackings in office, ill-thought out tweets, wild accusations, misinformation, mendacity and outright legislative and administrative incompetence. The one comparison that comes to mind is not encouraging for Trump - the sacking of Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down.

But at a deeper level, the court politics of the Trump regime do signal some (hyper)normality: that under the cover of standing for the people against the establishment, Trump has appointed a cabinet of billionaires, empowered warmongering generals to launch unrestrained military attacks without a care for civilian casualties or international law and freed energy, pharmaceutical and financial corporations from basic regulation to protect workers and consumers. This is the normal business of an American government in the era of 'small' government and low taxes for the rich.

This is nothing less than hyper-market-driven power married with unbridled militarism. All the rest is political theatre while the system itself haemorrhages popular legitimacy.

Inderjeet Parmar is professor of international politics at City University of London and a columnist at The Wire. His twitter handle is @USEmpire

 

 

 

The Richard E. Neustadt Book Prize, 2017


The American Politics Group of the PSA is pleased to invite entries for the 2017 Richard E. Neustadt Book Prize, the top prize devoted to US politics in the UK.

The prize of £400 will be presented to the best book in the field of US government and politics (including political history and foreign policy) published in the calendar year 2016, and authored by an academic permanently employed at a UK university.

The prize winner will be announced at the APG annual colloquium held at the Eccles Centre (British Library) on November 10 2017.

Previous prize winners include Professor Donald Ratcliffe of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, Professor Steven Casey of the London School of Economics, Professor Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones of the University of Edinburgh, Dr Andrew Preston of the University of Cambridge, Professor Alan Ware and Stephen Tuck, both of the University of Oxford and Professor Iwan Morgan of University College London.

Entrants for the prize should arrange for four (4) copies of their book to be sent to:

Dr Clodagh Harrington

Dept of Politics and Public Policy

De Montfort University

The Gateway

Leicester LE1 9BH

 

Closing date is 26 May 2017.