Trump is unravelling the progress that Obama made, says DMU politics lecturer


US President Donald Trump has no interest in standing up for LGBTQ+ communities as civil liberties are not even on his radar.

This is the view of Dr Clodagh Harrington, Senior lecturer in American Politics at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), who explored the President’s attempted transgender military ban in a DMUtalk.

Clodagh Harrington.11WEB

Dr Harrington’s talk was held as part of #DMUpride, a month-long series of events to celebrate equality and diversity.

The talk titled ‘Marching Forward, Rolling Back’ examined Trump’s efforts to reverse aspects of former president Barack Obama’s legacy based on highly personal reasons.

Dr Harrington highlighted that when Obama was in power the ‘desire for change was growing’ as he was supportive of LGBTQ+ issues.

However, in contrast, Trump’s thoughts on gay rights remain unknown. She said he had hinted on Twitter that he was a friend to LGBTQ+ communities, but his views ‘weren’t clear, consistent or well thought-out.’

Dr Harrington said: “Trump is just all about success, business, the ladies and the celebrity lifestyle.

“I have found nothing to suggest that Trump is overtly homophobic, he just doesn’t seem to care. Civil liberties just aren’t on his radar.”

Dr Harrington said that even though Trump got 13 percent of the gay American vote, he remains a ‘Conservative’s Conservative’ and is all about ‘pleasing the Conservative base.’

She said: “Just because progress had been made with Obama doesn’t mean that it has been embedded.

“Trump is aligning more overtly with religious right-wing voters. His actions on moral values have galvanised grassroots opposition in a significant and sustained manner.”

Clodagh Harrington1 WEB

Dr Harrington highlighted how in July 2016 a change by the Obama administration allowed transgender military personnel to serve openly, which moved on from antiquated Department of Defence language where transgender personnel were known as ‘sexual deviants.’

Then Trump came into power and Dr Harrington said ‘absolutely everything changed.’ Trump tweeted in July last year that transgender people should not be allowed to serve in any capacity in the military.

He said existing transgender personnel should be removed, new applications from transgender people should be rejected and military resources should not be used to fund sex reassignment surgical procedures.

Dr Harrington said: “He hadn’t said anything about this before. It was just one of his random tweets that came out of the blue and had a knock-on series of events.

“You’d normally use legislation or executive powers… but he just took to Twitter to get the ball rolling. It was unprecedented, even the Pentagon was caught unaware and had to ask for clarification.”

Trump’s attempted transgender military ban – which had sought to reverse an Obama administration policy change -  was blocked by US federal judges as it ‘did not appear to be supported by any facts.’


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Dr Harrington, who is the chair of the American Politics Group – the leading forum in Europe for the study of US politics, said Trump had been managing his presidency in ‘a very unique way.’

She said when it comes to leadership legacy, Obama would have looked behind him and realised that ‘he had no-one to hand the baton to.’

She said: “There has been a gap in terms of expectations as Trump’s agenda involves an unravelling of the Obama era achievements.

“It’s a very personal vendetta. Trump is saying to Obama ‘I don’t like you’. The animosity between these two goes back years. It’s a really frosty situation.”

Dr Harrington called it ‘De-Obamafication’ and she believes it started with Trump’s involvement in promoting the conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States.

The DMUtalk finished with an audience discussion centring on Trump’s direct democracy on social media, distraction tactics and manipulation of the media as he ‘throws glitter over things to cover up other developments.’

This year’s #DMUpride programme, which continues throughout February, includes film screenings, seminars, plays, discussions and cultural events. It demonstrates DMU’s commitment to ensure staff and students have the freedom to be who they want to be.

To download the event brochure, visit the #DMUpride landing page.

Posted on Thursday 15th February 2018

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