August 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers professor works Trump's political landscape into syllabus

Far from the early days of The Constitution, a political science professor looks at how Trump's policies affect class politics

Photo by Wikimedia |
Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

An unprecedented presidency led a Rutgers political science professor to reconsider how he teaches fundamental aspects of his American Government course.

Ross Baker, a professor in the Department of Political Science and a contributor to USA Today, wrote an opinions column discussing how President Donald J. Trump's time in office inspired updates to his syllabus that reflect an uncertainty about whether values set forth by former President James Madison would uphold, according to the article.

"I usually go a bit overboard in praising the role of James Madison and discuss how well his design for our government has stood up to the challenges and crises of the past 230 years," Baker said. "After the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, I've revised my syllabus to reflect my concern over whether the values Madison wrote into the Constitution will survive the next three years." 

Madison's contributions to the Constitution, like campaigning for its ratification, earned him the nickname "Father of the Constitution" and are referenced by Baker throughout his article. 

Trump's presidency and Baker's thoughts sparked a conversation about the current political climate. The president's lack of political experience and quick climb into office is new and might contribute to differences from prior presidents, Baker said in an interview with The Daily Targum. 

“The kind of care and prudence previous presidents approached their job with seems to be absent, and I have to take account of that when I teach my course,” he said.

It has been an unpredictable year, and this presidency is one that has not been seen before, said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. A lack of trust between the public and its government has been growing for a long time, in the last year that trend has only furthered.

Baker said, that the divide between branches of government, and the use of executive order has recently risen. 

“It's the objective of presidents to get Congress to pass legislation. Legislation can be repealed but not easily,” he said.

Trump's most known legislation — tax reform — was a partisan victory and did not show much cooperation between Democrats and Republicans as well as the branches of government, Baker said. High levels of partisanship and a political divide could play a role in Trump's ability to pass certain legislation.

This division can also be seen among the American public, Koning said.

“Political identity has become so integral to people. It has become such a team sport where every day citizens are not motivated by ideology and values but by the party stripes that they figuratively wear,” she said. 

This lack of trust only furthers the divide between people and the government, Koning said. The growing prominence of identity politics has made people less likely to care about belonging to a group than about the political ideas being discussed. 

“(That is) the importance of the ballot box," Baker said about people who may not agree with the current administration. "Americans can make mistakes that can be repaired every two years in federal elections.”

Anthony Ventriglia

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