The first year of the Trump presidency has been quite a whirlwind, to put it mildly. President Trump’s positions have proven remarkably mercurial, with frequent contradictory statements regarding domestic and foreign policy. Because the President is not a lifelong Republican, but has changed political affiliations no less than five times since the late 1980s, his positions often clash with the party’s mainstream views. Moreover, the unusually large turnover of his administration has created uncertainty as to who is behind its policymaking.
The shifting stances have created a sense of ambiguity both in the United States and abroad with regards to what the country’s position in the world is, how it will act on any given day, and how we understand the world per se. While Trump’s political outsider credentials were an asset in the eyes of his voters, his various policy pivots have caused uncertainty among U.S. allies globally. As American Studies scholars, we are frequently confronted by students, media, and the general public posing questions of how to make sense of what is going on in such times of uncertainty. This is no easy task.