Trump: An American Tragedy?

Wednesday 30 November 2016, 7pm | VIDEO & PODCAST NOW ONLINE

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It’s over two months since we woke up to the shock news that the next president of the United States will be Donald Trump, and the whole world is trying to read the runes and work out what the next four years will hold for America and the rest of the world.

Many are decrying Trump’s election as the end of democracy and the beginning of fascism. Others, observing that he is already watering down many of his more extreme threats, are willing to see a silver lining in at least some of his avowed policies. To weigh up these conflicting attitudes and gauge what a Trump presidency might actually look like, Intelligence Squared brought together a high-profile cast of Republicans, Democrats, historians and former political advisers.

Given what we know of Trump’s character (he’s been described by clinical psychologists as a case-book narcissist), perhaps the most pressing question is how much power he will actually be able to wield in office. To what extent will he be able to take executive action to push through his plans, and how much will the constitutional checks and balances work to rein him in?

At home, his supporters (and even some on the left) have welcomed his economic plan to revive America’s impoverished areas by building new infrastructure. His critics, however, see this as a con – nothing more than a tax-cut for the wealthy construction sector and its investors. And then there’s trade. While Trump’s promise to tear up international trade agreements won him millions of votes amongst blue-collar workers who feel left behind by globalisation, most experts believe such a move would cause a recession that hurts the rust belt more than free trade ever did.

When it comes to Trump’s foreign policy, opinions are again divided. His negative stance towards NATO has sparked alarm, particularly in eastern Europe which sees the alliance as a bulwark against an increasingly aggressive Russia. To others, Trump’s apparent willingness to work with President Putin could mark the start of a new east-west détente that should be welcomed.

Image adapted from “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


Anne Applebaum

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and regular foreign policy columnist for the Washington Post. A vocal critic of Donald Trump, she has called his presidency a “threat to the West” that “could destabilise Europe.”

Philip Bobbitt (via video-link)

One of America’s leading experts on constitutional law who is a professor at Columbia University.  A life-long Democrat, he has worked extensively in government for both Democratic and Republican administrations, and has been described by Henry Kissinger as ‘the outstanding political philosopher of our time.’

Mary Dejevsky

Weekly columnist for The Independent and regular contributor to The Guardian. She focuses primarily on international affairs and Western-Russian relations and is known for frequently taking a view counter to the establishment consensus. She has written that there are reasons to be optimistic about Trump’s foreign policy.

Stacy Hilliard

Former Vice Chairman of Republicans Abroad and Chair of American Voices International, a non-partisan Political Action Committee (PAC) representing Americans living overseas. She also worked with the White House Advance Team under President George W. Bush, as well as Mitt Romney’s first gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts.

Steve Hilton (via video-link)

Former director of strategy for Prime Minister David Cameron. He is co-founder and CEO of Crowdpac, a Silicon Valley political tech start-up, and teaches at Stanford University. In the presidential campaign he backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, saying “You don’t have to agree with everything Donald Trump says or does to conclude that he would make the most positive, practical difference in the real lives of real people.”

Ted Malloch

CEO of the Roosevelt Group, former Senior Fellow at Oxford’s Said School of Business, who has served on the executive board of the World Economic Forum. Last year, he wrote in Forbes Magazine that Donald Trump is the new Theodore Roosevelt. He has been tipped for a role in the Trump administration.

James Rubin

Writer, commentator and lecturer on world affairs and U.S. foreign policy. He served under President Clinton as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief Spokesman for Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright from 1997 to May 2000. He was an adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign on national security and foreign policy.


Jonathan Freedland

Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author.


Speakers are subject to change.