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And Now it Begins...

Today Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States and gave an inaugural address that proclaimed that the theme “America First” would dictate the decisions of government for the future of his presidency. It was an odd speech, filled as much with anger and blame as with promises. It was a speech that has been labeled “populist” because it focused upon identification with the American people, rather than the Washington establishment. In fact it vilified the Washington establishment, with no distinction between Republicans and Democrats, nor liberal and conservative policies. There was ample reference to the redeeming virtue of “patriotism” and just as much reference to God. The premise was that America would be strong, wealthy, proud and great again… and that it was none of these things now. In fact he characterized the state of the country as one of “carnage.”

Some pundits have said that Trump’s inaugural speech was one that could have been given by Bernie Sanders because of it’s focus upon the failure to address the needs of the common American working man and it’s blame of an elite group who profited from Washington political decisions at the expense of the people. But Sanders’ target was Wall Street, the wealthy corporations, and individuals who fell into the top “1%” of the income and wealth strata. Trump focused upon the politicians who enact the laws.

What Trump’s accusations ignore is that the political decisions of our elected representatives, as well as the policies of our governmental agencies have been demonstrated to reflect the wishes of Wall Street, corporate America and the wealthy 1%. What his inaugural speech failed to mention was that he appointed men and women who belong to these groups to represent his executive branch in his new government. How such people—Corporate CEOs, wealthy donors, hedge fund managers, even congressmen who have profited from stock trading on businesses they were supposed to be regulating—billionaires nearly all, will give the ordinary American a voice, is hard, if not impossible to imagine.

Trump’s populist message may be hopeful to those he appeared to be addressing—those who voted for him—who have either lost or are fearful of losing their jobs to the globalization of industry. He promised to bring jobs back, to reenergize American manufacturing and production. A new form of protectionism, not involving cooperative, tariff-reducing treaties with other countries, and increased taxes on imports appear to be his preferred methods for accomplishing this. Whether such measures rejuvenate American industry or simply raise prices on the cheap imports that now are all that are within the buying power of low-income people waits to be seen.

Those who should be more worried from Trump’s speech are those within the inner cities, particularly if they are Black. While Trump’s calling for a change to “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential” sounds laudable, if an exaggeration. The solutions he has championed—greater “choice” between public and private education (led by a Secretary of Education who strongly favors private charter schools), and greater “law and order”—should generate a lot of unease in those who are victims of the conditions he described. Certainly we need to improve our country’s educational system, but withdrawing money from public education to provide greater access to (many of them for-profit) private schools is hardly the answer. And the emphasis upon law and order that Trump has favored includes stop and frisk police procedures that have proven to be both ineffective and unconstitutionally administered, as well as suspension of the stringent oversight of local police by the Justice Department in order to protect citizens' civil rights and freedom from systematic racial prejudice within police departments.

Will Trump’s populist promises result in greater power to the people or to greater power to the wealthy and to Wall Street, while our education and law enforcement systems further deteriorate in the services they provide to our most vulnerable, inner city populations? His inaugural rhetoric suggests the former, but his previous statements and political appointments suggest the latter.

So far, protests against Donald Trump have imagined the worst, using characterizations and analogies related to Hitler to fuel their diatribes. Their message has been to oppose anything and everything Trump does or even proposes as president. With only his often-changing opinions as evidence of what Trump the President will do, it has been difficult to justify such catastrophic rhetoric and calls to action. But now it has happened. Trump is president and he has given his first presidential speech. His words can be taken a number of ways. Now his actions will show us what he really means and we will all have to take a stance relative to them.


Reader Comments (2)

Casey, Trumps speech was a restatement of his campaign themes. So much for rhetoric. Now it's time to govern, which requires policy, legislation, and execution. As Hillary Clinton said, Trump deserves an open mind and a chance to govern. In less than four years, we'll have yet another referendum.

January 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Spooner

Although I disagree with a few things you said, today is not the time to debate. Today is for contemplation and hope for what is to come. I agree, we need to now wait to see actions. Presidents promise a lot during inaugurations. Few ever fulfill them. You know how I voted, so I do hold my breath a little to see what will come of this. But no matter what either side wants, what we have is Donald Trump as President and four years to watch it unfold. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

January 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Torphy

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