Oh, You Mean Trump Means It?
Liberals and big-media commentators are expressing their shock at the tone and content of President Donald J. Trump’s inaugural speech. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC said of it, “It was militant and it was dark,” and then went on a long rant about the history of the phrase “America First,” with the intent of casting dark shadows of Nazism and Antisemitism tied to that history and now, in her mind, to Trump. My one-time Congressman from Virginia’s 11th District, Gerry Connolly (I am now in Don Beyer’s 8th District), who boycotted the inauguration (as did Beyer), tweeted, “A dark, dystopian, defiant inaugural speech that begins a new presidency without aspiration or reconciliation.”
Television commentators, including Lester Holt on NBC, were also shocked by the tone and content, admitting to some “cringe-worthy” moments as they watched the new President lambaste politicians and Washington types for failing the American people. ABC also brought up the anti-Semitic theme. Admittedly it was tough listening to Trump charge the political elite with abandoning America for their own enrichment, even as he sat in and among those very same elite. Based on his facial expressions, which he tried hard to disguise, it was clear Mr. Obama was none too pleased.
While the “money quote” of the speech was an attempt to heal some of the wounds from the campaign (“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice”), the actual quote that summarizes the speech was this one:
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes — starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”
No one should be surprised, given this passage, that members of the Washington elite would dislike the speech.
This was not a traditional speech, it was not a speech of reconciliation, and it was not a speech meant to reach out to opponents or massage the egos of Washington types in hopes of “going along to get along.” It was a speech designed to emphasize that, no, he wasn’t kidding. He meant it. Change is coming. The old traditions are out, Washington elites are an endangered species and, convention-be-damned, we are going to fix what is broken in America.
A battle is sure to be afoot as evidenced by the contentious confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominees. Outsiders are being brought in, media elites are being slighted and scorned, while crowds of “deplorables” across Middle America continue to chant “Drain the Swamp.” Liberals and Washington Democrats are fighting back with all the tools at hand. With that battle looming, Mr. Trump could have given a nice, traditional, and conciliatory speech full of lofty rhetoric. True to his campaign, and the desires of his followers, he chose not to. Yes, at least according to this speech, change is coming.
Whether that change is domestic or related to how we act on the international stage, Trump made it clear that his campaign was about taking power from Washington and returning it to the people. He meant what he said and he is not backing down. Those expecting a different tone were disappointed, while Trump’s supporters, many who had long tired of a perceived inability of their own party’s leadership to fight government overreach, were likely elated.
Mr. Trump has come to Washington to change the game, as noted in his inauguration speech: “January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” Whether you cringed or cheered, you cannot avoid that fact.
The message was clear. Things have not been working, and the people who have profited while the country suffered are going to get steamrolled. America is now first, not the political establishment. If you consider yourself a member of the Washington elite, you might be insulted by that. Mr. Trump obviously does not care.