It does not matter whether I agree with all, some, or any of President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address. It was simply a great speech. It will be memorable because it was revolutionary. It was so different and consistent with his campaign. He has defined a new role for the government, for the public, for patriotism, for America First. And, quite honestly, he made it work.
He has called for a New Patriotism. When we work together, he said, there is no need for prejudice because we “all bleed the same blood”. This was a call for a new global contract – he (and we) will focus on America First and we will work with our allies when it serves US interests. His rationale for America First globally is that the US has sacrificed its time, resources, and fortune on making other nations prosperous while Americans have suffered. An America First policy will “protect our borders and protect our jobs” and protect our own prosperity. By bringing back America’s wealth, Mr. Trump argues, we will bring back our jobs and our dreams. This is a significant theme because it cuts right to the core of the forgotten middle class, the “angry white voter” we have seen for three decades and were never addressed. Mr. Trump captured their sentiment, their angst and sense of loss, and above all, their status anxiety – i.e. their genuine fear of losing their middle class status.
He has not only promised that he will address their fears, but that he will devolve their government away from Washington, DC and back to them. “This is your day, your celebration… What matters is that your country is ruled by you, the people”, he said. “The forgotten men and women of this country will be forgotten no longer. This is an historic moment the likes of which we have never seen before.” This is the Trump Revolution. Government devolution has been tried before – somewhat by President Nixon and somewhat by President Ronald Reagan. But in each previous case, the power, reach, and the spending only grew and grew. That era has ended, as well, according to Mr. Trump. “That all changes right here, right now. This moment belongs to you.”
On the positive side, he gave a blessedly brief speech. Inaugural Address should be broad, visionary, and short. They do not address every issue nor do they spell out details. Mr. Trump achieved this. His speech was also well delivered and from the heart. The speech was also right on the money because it defined a whole new role for government and for the major campaign themes – all wrapped into one overriding vision.
Throughout the speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan were smiling like Cheshire cats. Do they realize that their new party leader was trashing them just as much as he was trashing the Democrats? In the immortal words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, they “ain’t seen nothing yet… b-b-b-bay, they ain’t seen nothing yet”.
Has he carved out too much? Can he achieve all, most, some, or any of this? I cannot help but recall his predecessor Barack Obama and his laundry list of hope. Mr. Trump is 70 years old and is not accustomed to hearing the word “No”. Will he move forward despite setbacks or withdraw from this world? I don’t know the answer. No one really does. But it was a hell of a speech.