Post-inaugration takes

Plenty of good ones out there on Trump’s absurd (though, not at all suprising in that regard) speech, that I’m sure I’m missing.  “Carnage”?  WTF?  Anyway, of those I’ve come across, Jon Cohn:

Forget, just for a moment, about the quality of the prose in President Donald Trump’s inaugural address. Don’t get caught up in the idealism, or lack thereof. And put aside whether its dark portrait of “American carnage” resembles the reality of America today.

Focus instead on some of the promises Trump made to the American people ― to smash the business and political establishments, to rebuild America’s manufacturing economy, to fix schools, to stop crime and even to fight poverty.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” Trump said. “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.”

There are many reasons to be skeptical that’s how Trump will actually govern.

Some of the best ones were right up there on the stage with him…

In his speech, Trump warned, “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.” But Adelson’s presence was a reminder that the self-interested elite will carry plenty of influence in Trump’s Washington.

Trump himself has seen to it by filling his administration with moguls, donors and representatives of the very Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs, that he vilified on the campaign trail. The new president wants to turn the Education Department over to Betsy DeVos, who appears unfamiliar with some basic education policy issues but just happens to be among the GOP’s biggest donors. He wants to hand the Commerce Department over to Wilbur Ross, an investor who specializes in corporate restructuring and was also a major GOP donor…

Another reason to doubt that Trump can deliver on his promises were a group of people sitting right near Adelson at the inauguration: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republican leaders from Congress.

They’re already hard at work on an agenda that will feature massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, coupled with the slashing of social programs that benefit the poor and the middle class. Congress is starting with repeal of the Affordable Care Act, through which something like 20 million people get health insurance.

What these initiatives have in common is that they would tend to concentrate wealth at the top, among the elite, rather than distributing it more broadly ― in short, the opposite of what Trump promised in his speech…

It’s always possible that appearances are misleading, that over the next four years Trump will actually deliver the policies and changes he promised from the stage on Friday.  But the odds seem long.

Either way, the challenge for the next four years will be keeping those promises in mind ― and holding Trump accountable for them.

And EJ Dionne:

In his inaugural address, he offered no outreach to those who had opposed him. There was no acknowledgment of the achievements of any of his predecessors, and he spoke as if he were taking over a country on the verge of ruin. He blamed an ill-defined “establishment” for all of the nation’s troubles, and pretended that the progress of the last eight years, from the Great Recession to recovery, had never occurred.

Instead, he put forward an unrelievedly bleak view of current conditions, casting the richest nation on Earth as a victim of the rest of the world. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs,” he said. He would rescue us from this horror. “This American carnage,” he said, “stops right here and stops right now.”

Trump invoked a radical nationalism not heard from any president of either party in the post-World War II era. His doctrine owes far more to the ideology of European far-right movements favored by his senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon than to the views of American presidents from Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes and Barack Obama…

The relatively small gathering at Trump’s inauguration was a hint of how shallow his movement’s roots might be. It’s true that Washington and its surrounding area stood solidly for Hillary Clinton in November, so there was no nearby crowd for Trump to mobilize. Still, a man who said his inauguration would break all records once again found his boasting refuted by reality.

And, of course, Ezra:

Obama took office trying to fight the rising tide of polarization. He spent months, even years, negotiating with congressional Republicans for votes that never came. Trump is not going to waste that time. He is under no illusions that he’ll ever be a unifying figure. He does not think he needs his opponents to like him, and he does not try to win their favor.

Instead, Trump thrives on heightening the divisions in American politics. It’s why he tweets out attacks on Meryl Streep and John Lewis and Hillary Clinton and the “Crooked Media.” The fights he creates are bitter and unnecessary, but they serve to rally his supporters to his side.

If Obama’s contention was that there’s no “them,” only “us,” Trump’s contention is that there really is a “them” — a “them” of immigrants and Muslims and terrorists and Black Lives Matter activists and elites and crooked journalists — and so it’s all the more important for the “us” to stick together.

This is how he won the primary. It’s how he won the election. It’s how he intends to govern. If Obamaism was about strength through unity, Trumpism is about power through division.

I was hoping for better from Trump, but not the least bit surprised in what we got.  He had never shrunk from showing us who he is– a shallow, incurious, ignorant, unserious, bullying, multi-phobic/ist, demagogue– and that’s what we’ve got to fight against for the next four years.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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