22nd January 2017
Donald Trump took the oath of office to become President of the United States of America on Friday with all of the grace and gravitas a former bankrupt and star of reality TV could muster. His speech upon assuming office was a string of rhetorical soundbites, designed to play to the social media mentality he has sought to encourage during his candidacy and the build up to his inauguration. Any liberal illusion, that Trump the President would in some way differ from Trump the candidate, was given no succour in a speech that effectively declared war on what little the Obama administration has achieved and anything else that Trump would deem un-American.
If Trump’s declaration that,
“When you open your heart to patriotism there is no room for prejudice.”
does not turn out to be one of the great oxymoron’s of our time it will be a miracle.
Trump’s exhortation to put “America First” and the rhetoric of his campaign to ”Make America Great Again”, which closed his inauguration speech, have sinister undertones of the 1950’s. The anti-communist Cold War actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee are the dark shadow of much that has led Trump to this point. That US jobs are being stolen by Mexicans, that the threat of Islamic fundamentalism must be eradicated, that the ‘swamp’ of the Washington liberal elite must be drained, are all phrases designed to divide. They are designed to start off with an administration on an ideological war footing.
For those that have sought to sabotage the Obama administration from the outset Trump is the fruit of their labours. Any efforts, however limited, that Obama has made in the direction of addressing inequalities in American society have been blocked or ridiculed. Trump’s first action on taking office has been to sign an order which will give power to reverse so called Obamacare, which helped many struggling Americans have health insurance. Gun control has been high on the Obama agenda but no inroads have been made. Closing the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp has not happened.
While Obama has failed to lift the illegal US blockade of Cuba, the limited opening up of political dialogue with the symbol of democratic hope in the Caribbean will no doubt be reversed under Trump. The White House website has immediately seen any reference to LGBT rights and climate change wiped from its pages. The gains made in the eight years under Obama in these areas were limited but they were at least on the agenda. Not now.
The sad fact is that the Obama presidency has allowed middle class liberal America to delude itself into thinking that racial prejudice, bigotry and anti-people politics were a thing of the past, that a corner had been turned. The first African American in the White House with a dynamic and charismatic First Lady, gains that could not be reversed, surely?
Man Booker award winning author Paul Beatty however is dismayed at the shock of liberal white America, stating,
“This is nothing new. To me that’s the part that feels disingenuous. When people go, I don’t recognise this place. And I’m like, where have you been? That’s the part that bothers me. With the police violence people are like, oh I didn’t know. And it’s like people have been putting this in your face for ages and all of a sudden – why now?”
Beatty is right. Rip the Obama mask from the face of the American body politic and there is a Donald Trump underneath ready to get out. Police violence against black communities did not stop under Obama, nor did the shooting of unarmed black citizens in the streets. It is not likely to be addressed under Trump.
However, the opposition to Trump is underway.
Hundreds of thousands turned out in Washington DC, other cities across the USA and around the world, in protest marches to denounce the Trump presidency yesterday, with demands to acknowledge women’s rights to the forefront of the opposition.
Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO trade union confederation summed up the mood when she declared,
“We’re here not only to march, but we’re here to build a movement. It’s a movement for paid family leave. It’s a movement for equal rights. It’s a movement for workers’ rights. It’s a movement for immigrants’ rights. We’re going to march together and stand together in solidarity to make sure our voices are heard.”
There can be no illusions under a Trump presidency. It is a time to take sides and to make choices.