Democracy in Peril? Presidential Historian Evaluates the Trump Effect

Mar 19, 2019

Award-winning author and UCLA professor emeritus Robert Dallek (left) takes questions facilitated by son and George Washington University professor Matthew Dallek.
Credit Anna Saunders

The latest forum in the “Democracy in Peril?” series at James Madison University focused on President Trump and the ways he has changed the role of the presidency. WMRA’s Anna Saunders reports.

Robert Dallek, a UCLA professor emeritus and prominent historian, has written about the presidencies of FDR, Nixon, Kennedy and others. Last night, he offered his analysis on Donald Trump’s presidency, one he sees as unprecedented.  Citing what he called Trump’s excessive tweeting, consistent attacks on institutions and low poll averages, Dallek said the reputation of the office has been damaged. And he believes what made Trump successful in 2016 will be harder for him to pull off in 2020.

ROBERT DALLEK: He had no record to speak of when he ran in 2016 and there’s a real advantage in that. And now, he’s going to have a four-year presidency to defend, and that will be extremely difficult for him.

But, Dallek said, some potential Democratic contenders, including former Vice President Joe Biden, may not have an easy race against Trump in 2020.

DALLEK:  If he runs against Biden, which I think might end up being the case, Biden is going to have to defend his record, and it’ll be a donnybrook, but I think Biden could beat him.

Dallek’s son Matthew, a professor at George Washington University, facilitated the talk, and also offered analysis.

He pointed out Trump's tendency, more than other presidents, to speak to his base rather than the entire country.

MATTHEW DALLEK: We have a president who really doesn’t even aspire to reach out past their hardcore supporters. That’s a problem too for democracy.