Welcome to The Dawn of An Era, which will be a multi-part look at the current state of affairs as we enter the Trump era, and the impact Trump will have based on his stated campaign aims and what he has already accomplished. As I write, we are a week into the administration, and things are moving at an electric pace. Executive orders are being signed left and right, and for the most part Trump has delivered on the campaign promises he made.
This has not come without dissent. There was a massive anti-Trump march which had its nexus in Washington DC, but had several hundred counterparts both in the US and around the world. The news media has been in a constant battle with Trump from the word go, and the Democrats have vowed to be obstructionists.
The reason for the dissent on a basic level is that President Trump is seeking to upset the social, economic and geopolitical order. It is an order that was established in the years following World War 2 and has persisted since. Though many see this order to be futile, in terms of long term sustainability, it has not necessarily collapsed to such a blatantly obvious crisis point that even the most visually challenged could recognize that change was needed. This series will focus on Trump and his quest to affect change, much needed, but highly unpopular.
We’ll start with the Inaugural Address.
Stylistically, President Trump’s first words as President Trump were Trumpian in nature. His address was forceful, direct, and didn’t mince words. The delivery was not the silkiest, smoothest delivery we’ve come to expect from our most accomplished politicians. There was little room for the extravagant language, endless platitudes and anecdotal accounts which color modern political speeches of this nature. Many criticized this, comparing Trump’s address past Inaugurals. “This was no JFK or Reagan,” they would say.
These critics are the same who, for seemingly the entirety of Trump’s campaign, have been waiting for him to change his tone, to finally pander to the masses – to be Presidential. The inaugural became yet another in the list of moments, such as the acceptance speech at the convention, or his post-labor day campaigning, or the debates, when the infamous ‘pivot’ was meant occur. Indeed the initial consensus opinion was that it was a good speech – for his supporters, which did little to embrace anyone else.
Why everyone was expecting such a pivot is beyond me. Trump didn’t even pivot at the Al Smith dinner, which is traditionally a moment when campaigning is put on hold for a night. And that is the point – the time for traditional politics is over, to the extent it does not comport with the goal of Making America Great Again.
Trump made this crystal clear right from the start of the address, saying:
Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power. We are grateful to President Obama and Michelle Obama. They have been magnificent.
Today’s ceremony however has very special meaning, because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to the other, but from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.
For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capitol has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost. Washington has flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. 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.
This sentiment is easily verified by the widely accepted fact that by various measures, the American middle class household has not seen an increase in income in as long as 40 years, while 5 of the 10 richest counties in the country (including 5 of the top 6) are counties which surround Washington D.C. It is clear that Washington’s politics-as-usual has not been working for the rest of the country, and beyond that, DC has acted more like a leech sucking blood from the veins of the American economy than anything beneficial.
To this end, Trump ran on a campaign of ‘Draining The Swamp,’ focusing on ending the parasitical relationship DC politics has with the American people. He has issued an executive order banning administration officials from lobbying foreign governments for life and imposed a five year ban for other sorts of lobbying.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had previously voiced his opposition to such a ban, on the grounds that it would limit the opportunities for DC politicos to earn money after serving in office:
“I don’t think we should tell men and women we want a citizen legislature, take time out of your private life and come and serve and then go back into private life and you can’t get engaged in civics,” the speaker said. “I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
That Ryan would equate getting involved in civics with lobbying, to the point it would be ‘dangerous’ to curtail that intertwining, is indicative of the deterioration of American politics, with respect to politicians looking out for the interests of their donors as opposed to that of their constituents as a whole.
Decades of this transfer of wealth, and the general primacy of DC politicians over everything else has drained America of its swashbuckling spirit, leaving it a shadow of itself. By that, I mean the US in many ways is just coasting along, as opposed to forging ahead with an undeterred grit. That the US is still the greatest country in the world is a testament to the unprecedented ingenuity displayed by those who came before us, such that their efforts were enough to sustain multiple generations.
This point sets the stage for one of the more controversial passages of the address:
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.
These are the just and reasonable demands of 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 knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
The decline of stable marriages and the rise of single motherhood have created a situation in which more and more children in America are being raised in a less than ideal environment. Already off to a rocky start, they are further limited by a K-12 educational system which has been in decline for decades, and a higher educational system which reinforces this decline by failing to challenge intellectual deficiencies, instead opting for what feels good.
When these kids get out of school, saddled with tens of thousands in debt on average, they are thrust into an economy which under the hood is not as robust as it once was. The burdens of excessive regulation, taxes, and a refusal for central banks to allow prices to properly adjust to changing economic conditions has created an situation in which employers have fled the country, leaving behind the carcasses of factories which once were the engine of America.
These, combined with a few other factors, have resulted in the lowest labor force participation rate in over 40 years. In particular, 10 million men of prime working age have economically disappeared, a rate which rivals the Great Depression.
The basic human debilitation of this combination of over indebtedness and a lack of work has led to many checking out of society. Marriage rates have declined, women are having fewer children and are having them later, and many men have all together checked out of the romantic game completely, preferring to satiate themselves with the sea of pornography and video games that are on offer.
Then there is the self-medication of drugs and prescription medicine. Suicides are on the rise. Drug overdoses are on the rise, and at least in terms of women, anti-depressant consumption is on the rise. While crime as a whole has fallen, it has risen in some inner cities, where the confluence of many of the aforementioned issues has been felt acutely.
The totality of all of this is the ‘carnage’ of which Trump speaks. Critics have scolded Trump for painting a picture of the United States having devolved into some sort of Mad Max style war zone; although for many select inner cities it may feel that way. And on the surface, things are fine. When you flip the light switch in your house, the room lights up. Most people have access to the internet and cable. The vast majority of Americans can grab a $5 latte at Starbucks any time they want.
It is true that in an absolute sense the United States is wealthier (as defined by having more ‘stuff’) and healthier (as defined by life expectancy) than ever before. But the term ‘Chiraq’ didn’t come out of thin air.
The problem, which Trump seemingly understands, is that much of the progress of recent decades wasn’t necessarily attained in the right way. That is, instead of savings and investment, through which a mass production of goods occurred, the resultant lowering of prices enabling mass consumption, the United States adopted a model by which it borrowed and printed trillions to buy goods produced in foreign factories.
Socially, a ‘modern family’ lifestyle promulgated by the entertainment industry has led to a sort of non-culture which is perhaps more diverse but also less cohesive. Hence, the progresses we have made in the last few decades have been unevenly distributed and fleeting.
That these shifts underpin the gains we’ve made in the modern era render them unsustainable. And on some level we collectively know this, which is why we sedate ourselves with Netflix, drugs, and porn. It’s hard to see a future when you’re inundated with student loans, still relying on your parents for money and without stable employment, even after doing everything your elders told you to do as you were growing up. If you believe your days will be spent moving from one cramped urban apartment to another, it makes sense to succumb to the aforementioned vices, and then some, to combat the banality of it all.
The result, as Trump correctly stated, is the theft of life and the American spirit, and the continued piling up of unrealized American potential.
Having laid out the problem, the address then looked forward, onto the mindset with which that problem would be dealt with: America First.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.
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 of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
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 for everyone to follow.
This portion of the speech was also controversial, for its blatant nationalism. The likes of Bill Kristol, by now the poster child for the globalist neoconservative position, had this to say regarding the address:
I'll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here: It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim "America First."
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 20, 2017
I’ll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here: It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim “America First.”
The ‘vulgarity’ of the phrase no doubt stems from the original ‘America First’ movement led by Charles Lindbergh just prior to the US entry into WWII. He blamed British and Jewish interests for attempting to push the United States into war. For this he has been branded an Anti-Semite by History (though curiously nothing about any special hatred for the British).
I’m not going to re-litigate the issue here, but I will suggest that merely not wanting war for the US, no matter how much of a ‘no brainer’ it might be, does not necessarily classify one as a villain. Trump’s fierce nationalism has garnered similar charges of villainy from the globalist set – they view anything other than a society with no borders, multiculturalism and military interventionism as a crime to humanity.
In this sense, that last line about not seeking ‘to impose our way of life on anyone’ must have been extremely difficult to hear. For this has been the policy of the United States for nigh on 70 years. During that time, the US has tried her hand at Imperialism, attempting to overthrow dozens of foreign governments which were doing things it didn’t like. It spent trillions and amassed body counts in the millions, directly and indirectly, while showing little to no remorse.
All the while, on the home front, things remained fine on the surface, but underneath it a steady deterioration had begun, and continues to this day, as I’ve described.
The only beneficiaries of that paradigm have been the elites in politics, big business, Wall Street, and the infamous military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about as he left office. Trump’s hyper nationalism is a repudiation of that dynamic. Trump continued:
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 are 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 let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.
One thing that struck me upon listening to the address was the spiritual nature imbued into it. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but referencing God and spirituality in a political sense that is more than just a token reference is a bit of a rarity. What Trump spoke to here was the fact that true unity comes from a common cause, the United States of America, a cause which in turn is furthered by the extent to which it accepts the direction of God.
The mere concept of a higher power, something beyond our individual existence to which we should strive to better ourselves, has become increasingly foreign in modern times. We have slowly succumbed to a putrid nihilism characterized by short term, molecular thinking and YOLOism.
Trump is right: when you all have the same basic goal, you have no room for hating the man standing next to you. To the extent you and your counterparts differ, they are generally how you are going to go about achieving the overarching goal. Those differences, in turn, come from differences in your basic constitution as human beings. The farmer, the mathematician and the banker all bring value to America, and their individual differences are only of value because they enable them to specialize in their respective fields, all directed towards a singular target, furthering America.
Contrast that sentiment to the words of the leader of the opposition in Congress, Chuck Schumer, who addressed the crowd moments before President Trump was sworn in:
We Americans have always been a forward-looking, problem-solving, optimistic, patriotic, and decent people. Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether we’re immigrant or native-born, whether we live with disabilities or do not, in wealth or in poverty, we’re all exceptional in our commonly held yet fierce devotion to our country. And in our willingness to sacrifice our time, energy, and even our lives to making it a more perfect union.
Whereas Trump’s vision starts from a patriotic vision of country, striving for more, and trickles down to the individual who will make it happen, Schumer starts with the delineation of all the possible characteristics of the individual, working up to what is supposedly a common devotion to the country. Schumer’s pathway is nonsensical: if indeed all of those disparate groups have a burning devotion to achieving a lofty goal, the individual differences and characteristics are by definition irrelevant. Only the goal matters. Yet the deliberate focus on of all of these differences is itself an attempt to make them relevant, suggesting a unifying goal isn’t what is most important.
It is fitting that Schumer’s Ode to Identity Politics came in what was literally the final minutes of the Obama administration, which were (hopefully) the final minutes of the multi decade march of cultural Marxism and globalist views which have polluted Republican and Democratic administrations alike.
The forceful tenor of the Trump’s speech which followed was, in my view, akin to the loud smack of a judge’s gavel, signifying the finality of a decision. In this case, a decision to fundamentally change course, away from an America which had comfortably coasted on its laurels to one which as going to get its hands dirty once again with a view to achieving something greater.
That Trump made such an aggressive speech with Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush, and Obama sitting mere feet from him was further symbolism. The latter three in particular have been stewards of the cultural and economic decline we are in the midst of, the legacy of which was the improbability known as ‘President Trump.’
The address was a stern declaration that we as a nation are going to turn this ship around, despite the odds, and despite the stern opposition from the ‘respectable class’, so represented by those former presidents who gazed upon Trump as he spoke. Because of them, the task Trump seeks to take on is perhaps more difficult than anything any modern president has had to achieve.
But the very fact Donald Trump was standing there to speak at all is testament to the fact that ultimate success in that Herculean task is in fact possible.