April 24, 2019 | 63° F

Editor at large discusses conservatism and politics under Trump

Photo by Garrett Steffe |

 William Kristol, editor at large for The Weekly Standard, spoke about the current socio-political climate under President Donald J. Trump with members of the community on Monday. 

William Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard, had more than a few words about President Donald J. Trump and the current socio-political climate on Monday night. 

After a brief introduction, the ABC-television personality took the stage at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center. He was met with cheers from an audience packed with students and predominantly older generations. 

Throughout his speech, Kristol spoke on a number of topics, many of which circled around American politics under the helm of Trump and what the country’s decision to elect him means for the future. 

The decision to elect Trump and the rapid growth of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) during primary elections are anomalies that Kristol attributes to a level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction from both the Democrats and Republicans.

“I think the sociologist or the historian at the time would say ‘well that’ll happen in the middle of the depression or that’ll happen in the middle of the war or in the middle of race riots.’ 2016 didn’t have any of that,” Kristol said, referencing the radical push away from Democrats and Republicans as seen by Trump and Sanders. 

He went onto explain that a shift in politicians that reflect neither side could be indicative of a change in what Americans want from their elected officials.

Regularly reiterating his stance as "not a Trump supporter," Kristol said that despite scandalous headlines the first year under Trump has not been so bad. 

“Initially, though not the best appointments consistently across the board — some scandals, people coming and going … but again, at the end of the day, has it really fundamentally affected us as we sit here, has it affected most voters who drive to work every day?” he said.

Kristol said the economy and market have been good and there have not been any major foreign policy crises.  A system of checks and balances tends to surpass the president’s ability to undermine policy and seems to hold up following many of his declarations thus far — a benefit to educational institutions across the country. 

“Rutgers shouldn’t be just doing what the federal government wants because the federal government has this idea and that idea. You want to have separate centers of power and a liberal pluralistic society, and we do have that,” he said. 

In a country with a less developed democracy, an executive power would have a much more profound effect on policy upheaval — something which Kristol said has not happened here and begs the real question, how much damage will Trump’s behavior cause?

“How much damage does that all do? Well, that’s hard to decide," Kristol said. “And that’s again something we’re going to test. How strong will institutions be over the next three years? What about democratic morals? Will Trump’s manner of behavior become widespread?”

In an interview with The Daily Targum, Kristol said that one of the hopeful aspects in reaction to Trump from this year is how institutions approach and rethink issues of sexual harassment.

“Here we have a president who doesn't take it seriously and seems himself to maybe indulge in it so we have to rethink it ourselves and there's a little less deference to the president and maybe a reaction to the president, and that’s a good thing actually,” he said.

In regard to approaching sexual assault on college campuses, Kristol said it is a tricky situation that benefits from well-established legal processes and that reports crimes to civil authorities — something college campuses are not apt to deal with. 

When asked how colleges could protect themselves from governmental impositions, he said, "I think institutions should remember they are in charge of themselves — or maybe, in some cases, if it’s a state university you have a relationship with the state government (and) some relationship with the federal government obviously with student aid and federal grants — but they really can stand up and provide leadership different from the president.” 

Christian Zapata

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