DescriptionDonald Trump’s years in the White House once again demonstrate the central role of personality in presidential campaigns and policy-making. Besides the highly personalistic nature of Trump’s politics, critics claimed he simultaneously personified a broader current in U.S. political culture: a spokesman for the hyper-capitalist class that has little regard for minorities, women, the environment, or middle- and lower-class white voters, but which feeds on the fears and anxieties that live amongst these latter two groups. For social activist Naomi Klein, Trump was in fact the embodiment of “the worst of all that [U.S.] culture is capable of, all of it bundled into one human being.” From different perspectives, the exploits of the Trump White House thus show the importance of studying the role of individual agency in politics. Besides policy-making, an emphasis on powerful individuals also reveals how one person can represent broader sentiments in U.S. society and how these sentiments can be politically mobilized.
Although the Trump administration is a particularly dramatic example of how the complicated interaction between personality, persona, and individual agency often determines the operation and impact of presidential politics, all contributions to Profiles in Power emphasize the importance of individual agency in understanding the presidency and the workings of U.S. political culture. One of the aims of the book is to demonstrate that the influence of the personal on the political holds true not just for Trump, but for all presidents before him. In this book presentation, the editors and some of the authors will discuss their work.