Friday, 20 January 2017

Off-Topic: Donald Trump's promises as President

Today, January 20th 2017, Donald Trump became President of America after winning the election on November 8th 2016. I can't remember a more controversial presidential candidate in my lifetime. He divided the American population down the middle. People either love him or hate him, there's no middle ground. Those who love him do so because they feel he talks like a normal man on the street, an unusual sentiment to have about a billionaire. Those who hate him do so because they accuse him of prejudice, both racial prejudice and sexism.

His election victory was one of the closest ever. As a result of America's electoral college system he won the election despite receiving slightly less votes overall. (This is disputed by many people, because most states don't count postal votes if the ballot box votes are enough to decide the winner. For me the argument is irrelevant, because he won on the basis of the system as it exists).

My friends who follow me on Facebook know that I've always been a harsh critic of Donald Trump. I've rarely mentioned him in my blog. This article is an exception, if you want to know my views on a single issue. Despite my dislike for some of his policies, I'm a firm believer in democracy. He was chosen as president in a fair election. It's no good for Americans to hold up banners saying "Not My President", because he is their president, whether they accept it or not. Some opponents of Donald Trump have latched on to conspiracy theories that Russian hackers faked the voting results. Other opponents have resorted to violence, smashing shop windows, burning cars and fighting with the police to challenge his presidency. If anyone is to blame for his election victory it's the Democratic Party for failing to pick a candidate that the public could trust.

Nevertheless, I'll give anyone a chance. The election campaign was a time of speaking. Now is the time of action. As of today I'm giving Donald Trump a clean slate. Whatever he's said until now doesn't matter to me. I'll judge him solely on what he does. I may or may not write an article as detailed as this in future, but if you're curious about my thoughts on him a year or two from now write a comment and I'll tell you what I think.

I've decided to post a full transcript of his 16-minute inauguration speech. Read it and judge for yourselves.

Donald Trump's Inauguration Speech

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people. Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges, we will confront hardships, but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning, because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.

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.

It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

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.

Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the centre of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealised potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidised the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past. And now, we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labour.

We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.

We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: you will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, together we will make America great again.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

I'll make a few remarks about the speech. I welcome comments from anyone who disagrees with my remarks or wants to point out other things I should have said.

At its heart, this is a very populist speech. Donald Trump is speaking as an American to Americans. He isn't promising to make the world a better place. He's promising to make America a better place by putting Americans first. Promises like this, if fulfilled, can be good or bad. The strengthening of America can be to the detriment of other countries, in particular the immediate neighbours (Canada and Mexico). On the other hand, it's a return to the American Dream of the early immigrants. Anyone who wants to have a good life in comfort and prosperity can come to America. The only obligation is that you work hard. Very little of this dream is a feasible reality today. Making it possible again would raise the reputation of America in the world.

The sentiments about transferring power from politicians to the people are very noble, but is it possible? How will that be done in practice? Donald Trump has been criticised by many of his opponents for his lack of political experience, but he sees it as an advantage. He claims to be an outsider, a normal man who has entered the world of politics to ruffle the feathers of the fat cats. (I'm sorry for mixing my metaphors). He thinks he can bring fresh wind into the White House and American politics in general. He claims that his presidency will herald a permanent change which will remain after he leaves office, whichever party the next president will belong to. That's a big, big promise. I wish him success, but I honestly don't know how he can achieve it.

Donald Trump's words about no longer defending the borders of other nations give me mixed feelings. For many years, since 1945 at least, America has acted as the world's policeman. It looks over the shoulders of the leaders of other countries and steps in whenever a country is deviating from the American ideals of equality and democracy. However laudable this may be, it's not America's job. If a democratic country is overthrown by a military tyrant, why should America put things right? It's up to the people of that country to say what they want.

On the other hand, what if one country invades another? That's a more difficult case, and as a European I'm not unbiased in my judgement. For years Russia has been making threats to neighbouring countries in Europe. Only the NATO alliance with America has prevented Russian expansionism. This speech, along with utterances made over the last few months, suggests that Donald Trump disagrees with the aims of NATO. His attitude is, "Why should America risk a nuclear war to protect a little country like Lithuania? If Russia wants it, let them take it". Agreed, Lithuania is a small country, but I see it as a stepping stone. Europe has had centuries of war with borders being pushed back and forth. Only America's participation in NATO has prevented European wars for the last 70 years.

I listened to the speech as it was broadcast live, and my biggest shiver was when he said that "We will build new roads and highways". That's the exact promise that Adolf Hitler made to the German people when he was elected. I hope this similarity was accidental. He continued by saying "We will get our people off welfare and back to work", which was also a Nazi ideal. Taken naively it sounds good that people should be offered work, but Nazi Germany forced people to work by herding people into jobs when they weren't fully capable of working for health reasons. Unemployment was eradicated not only by offering new jobs but by not acknowledging those who didn't work.

Donald Trump speaks about forming new alliances. He's a Republican politician, but he's a very untypical Republican. He has a pro-Russian stance which would have been unthinkable for any previous president, especially the Republican presidents. His friendship with Vladimir Putin means peace for America, but it could also mean war for little countries like Lithuania.

In the speech Donald Trump distances himself from prejudice, although this seems to be limited to racial prejudice. Whether other minority groups can expect the same equality remains to be seen. As I said above, he has a clean slate.

The talk about God and the Bible in the last few minutes of his speech might alienate Europeans and even non-religious Americans, but it can't be held against him. The American constitution guarantees the separation of church and state, but that's only in theory. In practice the two have always gone hand in hand. Every American president talks about God, the Christian God. If Hillary Clinton had won the election she would have stood on the podium today talking about God. This may never change, definitely not in my lifetime, however many people quote the First Amendment.

Now it's time to sit back and watch history unfold. The biggest test will come four years from now. Will Donald Trump manage to govern in a way which will win over his opponents and give him an increased majority for a second term? I don't know. Time will tell.

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