Trump’s inaugural: Inspiring or incendiary?
“Donald Trump sank to the occasion,” said Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. Throughout our nation’s history, presidents have used their inaugural addresses to shed their partisan identities and deliver uplifting calls for inclusion and healing. But whereas Lincoln appealed to our better angels, Trump delivered a singularly graceless and dark speech that stoked “the worst in us.” At a time of near full employment and historically low crime, Trump painted a warped picture of an American dystopia with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape,” and crime-ridden city streets. “This American carnage,” he promised, “stops right here and stops right now.” It’s the same divisive, tribal appeal to the white working class that he used to win the presidency, said Brian Beutler inNewRepublic.com. It’s also “how he’ll run the country.”
Trump’s prose was admittedly not the poetry of Lincoln, said Howard Warner in American Thinker.com. But it contained the “soaring rhetoric of our Founders’ philosophical intent”: taking power from a privileged few so that, in Trump’s words, the people become “rulers of this nation.” Trump vowed to reverse the failed policies of his predecessors—globalism and military interventionism that “enriched foreign industry” and “defended other nation’s borders” at the expense of our own. In fact, “it was an incredibly optimistic address,” said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Whether he was promising to bring jobs back to America, or vowing to eradicate Islamic extremism from the face of the earth, “Trump didn’t hedge on his promises.” Few presidents would risk failure by setting such a high bar, “but Trump didn’t get here by being timid.”
Trump’s address might have sounded optimistic to his supporters, said Megan McArdle inBloomberg.com, but not to anyone else. He made a campaign-style attack on “everyone on stage with him”—the former presidents and members of Congress whom he accused of selling out Americans to elites and foreigners. We shouldn’t be surprised—Trump ran as an outsider who would smash political norms. Still, we’re “at a fragile moment in the history of our republic,” with our union more tenuous than it has been at any time since 1860. “What we needed was a vision of America coming together.” Instead, Trump gave us an upraised fist of triumph, and an ominous demand for “loyalty” and “total allegiance” to his administration. “It was an immense pity.”
▪39% of Americans say they are more hopeful about the next four years based on what they saw, heard, or read about President Trump’s inauguration speech. 30% are less hopeful, and 30% say what they heard or read made no difference. When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, 62% of Americans reported feeling “more hopeful” after hearing his address. Gallup