ISPENT a good part of the morning recently in the Barnes & Noble bookstore, across the Middlesex Turnpike from the Burlington Mall near Lexington. I am in the last week of my regular summer visit to the America, which this year has taken me through Rhode Island, Connecticut and finally to Massachusetts.
Barnes & Noble is a favourite haunt of mine. It is one of the classic ‘big-box bookstores’ which once were a distinctive feature of American towns and cities. Under pressure from the low cost and convenience of Ama on, many such stores have disappeared and those that remain have needed to adjust their business models.
Barnes Noble, as a case in point, has repositioned itself as a books and things’ retailer. Nonetheless, it still offers an exceptionally well selected catalogue of publications and brings back memories of what a good bookstore can offer.
It also provides some pointers to the political, social and business books that many mindful and engaged Americans are buying and reading at the present time.
On my visit, the amount of shelf space devoted to Donald Trump was striking. It’s as if over the past two years or so, socio-political discourse in America has become wholly focused on the Trump phenomenon, from the presidential election, to Trump’s political beliefs and policies, to the what happens next’ in the evolution of the country’s politics and position in the world.
Moreover, this focus not only concerns those who study and write about such matters. It represents an enduring preoccupation among almost any group of people you meet.
Interestingly, the views you find in the community create a rather different picture to the one you would gain from following the UK print and broadcasting media. Whereas, our media tend to portray a White House in constant confusion bordering on chaos, the view of the citi ens on the sidewalk is much more nuanced and much more informative.
While on my trip I have come to the conclusion that a range of factors are contributing to this situation.
Firstly, the US economy is currently strong. While President Trump is not necessarily due any credit for this, there is widespread voter recognition that he hasn’t messed it up, at least to this point.
While there may be some unemployment blackspots in the country, business in general is doing well, and on the east coast I was told more about shortages of specialist personnel than lack of job opportunities.
Re ecting this, there is a renewed emphasis on training and on new degree level and post-graduate training courses some universities are using industry specialists as short course providers, accepting that their own staff may not be at the cu ng edge in all specialisms.
Contrary to the perceptions provided by the UK media, Trump is acknowledged to have made progress on significant parts of his agenda, both in terms of legislative impacts and through implementing commitments he made during his election campaign.
Additionally, through the expediency of either filling or not filling posts, he is perceived to have shi ed the direction of American policies to the political right in a way that will potentially have long-term implications.
Even among those who dislike the direction of policy travel and have little time for President Trump as a national leader, there is an acknowledgement that he has got things done.
At present, opinion polls suggest the President’s support from Republican voters is holding up rather well, and although Democrat voters may not like what is happening, they are finding it di cult to build an effective surge of opposition. A second term for Trump is thus being regarded as a distinct prospect.
Among the business sector there has been understandable support for a range of business positive measures that have been initiated by the Trump administration.
However, exporting businesses and international companies are said to be voicing some concerns about isolationist policies and the downside risks of international trade disputes. These voices seem unlikely to grow unless US trade is adversely affected. And, in that case, there is nothing to suggest that any of President Trump’s policies will be in exible to changed circumstances.
As an example, the recent hard line policies on illegal immigration across the Mexico border, which involved the enforced separation of children from their parents as the latter were taken into custody, were rapidly hauled back last week because of widespread public criticism in the US and internationally.
That President Trump listened and changed his mind has been regarded as a sign he is not immune to public pressure, if applied at the right intensity and in the correct way.
This signal event is important since it could lead to a new era in which public criticism, protest and effective lobbying are rediscovered as forces for good in American politics.
There are signs he is not immune to public pressure, if applied at the right way” intensity and in the correct