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SPP Faculty and Student Submit Research to the Midwest Political Science Association Conference

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Struby and Mannes

Graduating master’s student Calista Struby ‘21 noticed in Lecturer Aaron Mannes’s American Foreign Policy Making class that the turnover in former President Donald Trump’s cabinet followed similarly to the false reality of his reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

The economy being such a high priority for this administration, Struby and Mannes identified that the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, kept his position throughout the administration. This intrigued Struby and Mannes who correlated that Trump was more likely to micromanage the Secretary to ensure his economic initiatives were being met. This struck the conversation of how the paradigm of bureaucracy relates to substantial policy making and inspired their current research. Their working research paper, “The Apprentice: White House Edition”, will be submitted to the Midwest Political Science Association Conference taking place on April 14.

Although still in the very early stages of research, Struby and Mannes explained that while Trump’s presidency was “idiocracy,” the cabinet somehow “created [an image of] Trump that worked.” They dissect the intersection of the media, the politics of Capitol Hill and the overall “drama” that strings together how American policy is made. Despite an “accumulation of rumors,” they focus on “conversations with people who have been around [the administration] a long time,” to understand the full picture. 

In the paper, they examine how the only two people left in Trump’s cabinet managed to stay until the last day of his presidency. Steve Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer avoided getting fired or quitting despite the short tempered nature of Trump. Struby and Mannes explore questions of “loyalty and skill,” states Mannes. They’re curious to get to the root of how, in one of the most volatile administrations, the two remaining officials were the head of two key issues for the administration- Treasury and Trade. 

These complex relations are analyzed throughout their research. Struby asks how “Mnuchin is able to work with [Nancy] Pelosi on Covid-19 relief” despite the pair’s divergent political objectives. “The government is a computer and the people are the chips of the computer,” explains Mannes. The partisan politics and complex human relations can often disrupt the outputs and outcomes of government functions. 


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