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Trump's First Year

Michael Nelson

BUY Ebook · 220 pp. · ISBN 9780813941431 · $19.95 · Jan 2018

Donald Trump took office in January 2017 under mostly favorable conditions. He inherited neither a war nor an economic depression, and his party controlled both houses of Congress. He leveraged this successfully in some ways by delivering on his campaign promises to roll back regulations on business, and he saw his nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, approved swiftly and with little controversy. Many more actions, however, have been perceived as failures or even threats to a safe, functional democracy, from immigration policies defied by state and local governments and volatile dealings with North Korea to unsuccessful attempts to pass major legislation and the inability to fill government positions or maintain consistent White House staff.

In Trump’s First Year, Michael Nelson, one of our finest and most objective presidential scholars, provides a thorough account and scholarly assessment of Donald Trump’s first year as president, starting with his election and transition in 2016. The analysis is grounded in the modern history of the presidency as well as in the larger constitutional and political order. Nelson considers the dramatic election itself, the forming and reforming of the administration, congressional relations, executive actions, bureaucratic politics, judicial appointments and decisions, media relations and public communications, and public opinion.

Published on the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, Nelson’s book offers the most complete and up-to-date assessment of this still-unfolding story.

Miller Center Studies on the Presidency


Measured, scholarly, and always accessible, this is a cogent analysis of the first year of the Trump presidency... It refutes any accusation of partisanship by presenting indisputable – rather than alternative – facts, and the result is a damning litany of failure, incompetence, and cronyism.... an objective (and fully annotated) assessment of an extraordinary year.

The Independent

Trump’s First Year won't generate the bombshell headlines of more sensationalist and gossipy books, but it provides context and balance for its conclusions, ones that are consistently at odds with Trump's own assessment of his performance.... A concise and dispassionate analysis of the controversial president's performance over the year since his unexpected election win.

Kirkus Reviews

[A] balanced look at the successes and failures of Trump’s first year in office by a noted political scientist.

The Guardian

Suggests that the president’s inexperience will render Trump painfully ineffective.... The presidency 'is not an entry-level government job,' Nelson writes.

Washington Post

When scholars try to make sense of President Donald Trump, they will start with Michael Nelson’s book. With clarity and precision, Trump’s First Year details the 45th president’s failings as a leader, as well the historical ruptures of his presidency.

Aram Goudsouzian, University of Memphis, author of Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear

The power of  Trump’s First Year comes from Nelson’s style--controlled, compact, clipped, and matter-of-fact. This is one of those experiences that reveals itself most profoundly when it is allowed to speak for itself. I was thoroughly taken in, and before I knew it, there was no good way out.

Stephen Skowronek, Yale University, author of The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton

In this timely, cogent, and important book, Michael Nelson details Donald Trump’s norm-busting actions during his first year as President. Nelson shows how Trump upends the conventional wisdom of political science, and how  a new approach is needed to understand presidential politics today.

Jeffrey Tulis, University of Texas at Austin, author of The Rhetorical Presidency

Nelson knows the field of presidential studies as well as anyone out there. Nelson gives us a chronicle, without trying to discern what Trump’s rise to power tells us about the presidency.... As much as Nelson tries to maintain the even-handed tone of the political scientist, he notes that 'Trump’s first-year record of legislative futility was remarkable.' And he includes a chapter toward the end on 'Prospects for Removal.’

The Baffler

Providing one of the earliest objective evaluations of President Donald J. Trump’s administration, Nelson (UVA) demonstrates why he remains a leading figure in the field of presidency studies. Nelson’s analysis is wide-ranging, covering Trump’s election and approach to governing, his early forays into domestic and foreign policy making, his interactions with the other constitutional branches as well as unilateral activities, and his unorthodox but often effective communications activities.


About the Author(s): 

Michael Nelson is Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College and a Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. He is the author of Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government, winner of the American Political Science Association’s Eustadt Award for best book published on the presidency in 2014, and the coeditor, with Jeffrey L. Chidester and Stefanie Georgakis Abbott, of Crucible: The President’s First Year (Virginia).

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