By Carlton Joseph
On Friday, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States and I joined the millions of viewers watching the historic event on television. Rain threatened the swearing-in but the efficiency of the organizers ensured that Trump would become President at precisely 12:00 noon.
I listened intently to President Trump’s speech after the swearing-in and was surprised by its populist campaigning tone. Surprised, because I assumed that he had used the populist message to win the election and that after he achieved his goal, he would tone down the rhetoric. Well, I am now questioning my initial assessment of Mr. Trump.
There was politician Trump chastising the establishment for reaping the rewards of government while the people became poorer, jobs left the country, and factories closed. He accused the establishment of protecting itself but not its citizens and promised that it will all change now. Sounding more like Bernie Sanders, he informed the nation that the day would be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of the nation again.
By this time I’m still asking myself: Can I be this wrong in my assessment of this elitist politician? I previously wrote that he was a businessman and because of his background, he would be pragmatic. But has the significance and prestige of the oath of office made such an impact that he is already the pragmatist that I expected him to become after six months in office?
As I continued to listen, it was clear that the ideology of the people he nominated to fill his Cabinet positions and his speech just did not align. And yes, I am again very skeptical.
He continues to tell us that Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves, and he considers these reasonable demands of a righteous public. I totally agree with him but I have a nagging uncertainty in my mind. Is he talking about “Law and Order” and the continued targeting of minority neighborhoods? The stop and frisk policies implemented by Mr. Giuliani in New York? Is he using populist rhetoric to keep the prison industrial complex vibrant? Why did he nominate Ms. DeVos for Secretary of education? She has been working against public schools and would like to privatize the school system. Is he talking about an elite structured education system where only the rich can afford to send their children to school? What about university education? Young people are graduating with record debt and cannot find work after completing their degrees. Is this more of the same inequality wrapped up in a very glossy package?
I try to control myself and focus on Mr. Trump. He goes on to attack American businesses for enriching foreign industry at the expense of American industry by closing factories and moving overseas. Come now, Mr. Trump. Do you realize that you are attacking yourself ? Many of your products are manufactured overseas. I suppose you plan to return these manufacturing jobs to America.
Then he attacks Congress for subsidizing the armies of other countries while allowing for the depletion of the US military. As I get up from my chair in front of the TV to get a cold coconut water, I am now worried that the new President is either totally ignorant of the fact that the United States military is larger than the other top ten militaries in the world combined, or that we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world. What the hell is he trying to do? Who is going to pay for this unnecessary military equipment? And where would he get the money to repair the infrastructure that he recognizes has fallen into disrepair?
Now I am angry but I continue to listen as he announces that we will bring back our jobs, bring back our borders, bring back our wealth and bring back our dreams. I am now asking myself : Is this man “for real.” ? America is still the wealthiest country on earth. What has changed is that the top one percent possess 40 per cent of the nation’s wealth, and the eight richest people, six of them Americans, own as much combined wealth as half the human race. Also, American multinational corporations are establishing businesses all over the world and are banking their money outside of the US, in tax-haven countries, in order to avoid paying taxes on the profits they have made overseas. In effect, these multinational corporations have become countries and do not consider themselves American companies. Bring back our Borders and Dreams? I did not know that we lost territory and I am not aware that Americans stopped dreaming.
Mr. Trump went on to tell us that we would Buy America and Hire America and will not impose our way of life on anyone. He asked us to speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, and always pursue solidarity and told us that we must think big and dream even bigger.
Now, I am in real trouble. I felt I needed a cognac even though I do not drink. I decide to ponder this new American ideology. I understand and appreciate that Mr. Trump will put America’s economic interests first. I am elated to learn that the new American President will not impose America’s way of life on other countries. This is good news since we have been destabilizing governments all over the world and have overthrown democratically elected leaders when they oppose America’s hegemony.But I am now
thinking about the new Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, who was responsible for American military operations in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, and Central Asia. I am concerned that Mr. Trump is ignorant of America’s history for if he knew its history, he would not nominate this General to be Secretary of Defense. For his entire adult life, this man has been responsible for imposing our way of life on other countries. Would he now follow orders that are in opposition to his training and belief in America’s “Manifest Destiny, ”a belief that its settlers were destined to expand across America? This policy has been revised to include the control of the world by imposing its economic, political, and cultural values on the rest of the world to achieve America’s hegemony. And it is prepared to use its military to achieve its goals.
Mr. Trump tells us to speak our minds openly, but like a child, he responds with nasty tweets to those who speak their minds openly and he is unwilling to debate with his opponents. We saw this during the Republican primaries and in the so-called “debates” with Ms. Clinton. Finally, he says we should always pursue solidarity. Yet he continues to attack the press, the Congress, his rivals and government agencies for which he is now responsible.
On Mr. Trump’s first day in office he signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to minimize the burden of the Affordable Care Act, pending congressional repeal. He also signed an order to roll back a discount on the fees for a federal mortgage program that helps middleclass homebuyers. This order made it more expensive for working and middle-class Americans to buy their first homes and will increase costs for 750,000 to 850,000 Americans in the next year alone, according to the National Association of Realtors. If these first two orders signal the future of the Trump’s presidency, then his inauguration speech is just hollow rhetoric.
On Saturday, more than one million people gathered in Washington to protest President Trump’s inauguration. There were also protest demonstrations in other cities in the United States and in many countries around the world, including Canada.
The protest in Washington attracted a multiracial, multigenerational turnout, and three times more attendees than the inauguration. This event reminded me of the marches in opposition to the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement marches. Mr. Trump has been put on notice: The country, especially the women, will not be fooled with lies and empty promises.
( Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)