On Jan. 20, Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States clarified the nature of his presidency moving forward. It is clear that the brash, divisive, and bold candidate who campaigned for the past year is the same man who now inhabits the oval office. In his speech, Trump made broad, ambiguous promises to restore America to its fabled past glory. “America,” the President pronounced, “will start winning again, winning like never before”.
President Trump spoke of an “American carnage” and painted a bleak picture of the state of this nation. The address depicted a nation with crumbling infrastructure, impoverished inner city children, educational disparities, and gang violence culminating in a country “robbed… of so much unrealized potential.” Trump’s trademarked economic populism surfaced in his inaugural address, bashing D.C. elites and catering to a portion of America that has not felt the effects of a recovering economy. President Trump spoke of restoring power to the people, draining Washington D.C. of its parasites, and proclaiming that “from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”
Rhetorically, the President’s America First™ approach to foreign and domestic policy can be seen as unifying on a domestic level. Internationally, however, the President has sown seeds of division between America and its foreign allies, blaming America’s international role as the culprit for much of the pain felt by Americans at home. The only time his language approached an appeal to a world united pertained to the destruction of radical Islam.
Overall, the inaugural tone was as divisive as the campaign of the past year. Though there were statements of unity, the tone and direction of the spectacle was far from one of unification. When speaking about a nation divided, the President proposed patriotism as the cornerstone on which our divisions will be healed. More specifically, President Trump directed the ire of America externally, blaming our international role as the culprit for much of our pain felt at home.
President Trump’s proclaimation that his inauguration “will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” begs the question: who exactly are the people whom President Trump is speaking to? This inaugural address, infused with campaign rhetoric, leaves little doubt that President Trump was not speaking to America as whole, but rather those people who elected him to office. The President pledged an oath of allegiance to all Americans; however, the lack of an explicit attempt to heal a fractured and turbulent America shows that his administration is not changing course from the campaign.
No doubt, this does not come as a surprise. Trump has proven himself alarmingly unreceptive to criticism, whether from his colleagues, the public, or the media. One of the more disturbing developments of Trump’s ascendency (and there’s been a lot) has been his vilification of anyone who challenges him. This dynamic came to a head at a press conference on Jan. 11, where Trump refused to answer a question posed to him by CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Instead, he called CNN a “terrible news organization” and declared, “I’m not going to give you a question, you are fake news.”
This icy spat between Trump and the press is rooted in a two-page dossier that CNN reported on, summarizing a longer document published by Buzzfeed. The Buzzfeed report was uncorroborated, and contained personally and professionally embarrassing material. Often referred to as the fourth branch of government, the press at large operates as an invaluable oversight tool for the public. Without reliable journalism, we become dangerously susceptible to manipulative disinformation. This is not to say that Trump should not have been upset that such documents were reported on, but, first, the manner in which the President dealt with the matter was very ungracious as well as un-presidential, and second, the report that CNN published was viable news as both Trump and Obama had been briefed on its existence. Trump has had a particularly rocky relationship with the press, and this odd exchange is reflective of an administration that actively acts to undermine negative coverage while giving preference to more Trump-positive outlets.
The nature and scope of presidential power is misunderstood by a great number of Americans. Parameters establishing what the President can and cannot do have never been more important, and more strikingly vapid. But despite the inaugural words and recent executive actions of President Trump, it is the duty of all Americans to stand in pursuance of equity, as injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere.
[photo courtesy of Redlands Bulldog photographer, Halie West]