New York Times Columnist Thomas Edsall to Discuss Politics in the Era of Donald Trump

Edsall’s lecture is one of several public events hosted by the Center for Ideas & Society this fall as part of its “Responses to Economic Inequality” seminar

Thomas Edsall

New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall will speak on “Politics in the Era of Donald Trump” at UCR on Oct. 12.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall will visit the University of California, Riverside on Oct. 12 to deliver a public lecture, “Politics in the Era of Donald Trump,” from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Interdisciplinary South 1113.

Edsall spent 25 years as a national reporter for The Washington Post before debuting his weekly New York Times opinion column in 2011. Now a professor of journalism at Columbia University, he has written extensively about the 2016 election and how President Donald Trump’s rise as a candidate and the behavior of many swing voters were influenced by a “fear of falling down the socioeconomic ladder,” ultimately leading to a Republican victory.

During his lecture at UCR, Edsall will examine political conflict over opposing ideological stances related to a variety of issues, including the government’s role in regulating and allocating resources, social insurance programs, taxes, the deficit, health care, economic and foreign policy, inequality, class, race and ethnicity, and the use of force. He said he hopes to decipher whether the Trump administration has had or will have long-term impacts on any of the issues mentioned.

“The Trump administration has already used its rule-making powers to significantly weaken regulations generally, most specifically environmental and workplace regulations,” Edsall said. “Such decisions have the potential to inflict serious damage on the health and safety of American workers. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has the potential to undermine export industries in this country, to weaken our economic status in Asia, and to strengthen competitors in China. If Trump terminates the agreement with Iran, the consequences would likely be equally significant, if not more so.”

Edsall’s talk will serve as the kickoff to Responses to Economic Inequality, the debut fall seminar of the two-year Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies (AIS) project funded by a $250,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to UCR’s Center for Ideas & Society. Participating faculty and students will conduct original research on seminar themes, with results to be presented at a final conference in spring 2019.

“The Mellon AIS project deals with intercultural conflict, but not in the heated tones you see on the web or hear in general conversation,” said Georgia Warnke, director of the Center for Ideas & Society and distinguished professor of political science. “We chose to focus this seminar on economic inequality because it’s a topic that typically inspires a lot of outrage, but not a lot of rational discussion.”

Since the 1970s, a broad range of factors — including reduced wages for low-skilled workers, consolidated corporate wealth, and the rise of globalization — has increased economic inequality in rich democracies around the world. In the United States, the shift has inspired polarizing responses from groups on both sides of the political spectrum.

Matthew Mahutga, the seminar’s faculty convener and an associate professor of sociology, emphasized the importance of considering history when attempting to better understand the Trump administration’s response to economic inequality and its potential sociopolitical consequences.

“There are a lot of similarities between now and the period between World War I and World War II,” Mahutga said. “Both periods had rapid increases in globalization and global trade, which created massive change, and people don’t always like change. Countries responded with protectionism and nationalism, which are what Trump has been advocating, and fascism developed on the heels of that.”

As part of the seminar’s program of events, the Center for Ideas & Society will also present three screenings of the 2013 documentary “Inequality for All,” directed by Jacob Kornbluth and based on the 2010 book “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future” by author, political commentator, and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich. Prior to joining the UC Berkeley faculty, Reich served in three presidential administrations, including as Secretary of Labor under former President Bill Clinton.

The film takes a close look at America’s widening income gap — a problem, according to Reich, that has worsened over the past 35-plus years, resulting in a dwindling middle class that lacks the purchasing power to sustain the country’s economy.

The screenings — held Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. — will take place at the Culver Center of the Arts, 3824 Main St. Admission is free for all events, and reservations are not required.

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