Yesterday, many members of the commentariat opined Trump’s inaugural speech was a Rorschach test of sorts, that each person interpreted the imagery created by it according to their own perspectives. There were interpretations ranging from the Antisemitism of Hitler to the patriotism of Reagan.
As the usual suspects in the leftist media wiped away their tears and peered through blurry eyes, they saw the address as shocking, dark, dismal and in the words of Chris Matthews of MSNBC, “Hitlerian.” Trump’s use of the phrase “American carnage” seemed to be a major focus. Even right-leaning Fox News Channel said it was “unprecedented” and that calling out the former presidents, Congress members and other officials sitting behind him for the failures of government must have been “difficult” – but it is hardly “unprecedented.” Reagan noted in his first inaugural speech on January 20, 1981 that “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Those who supported Trump during the campaign saw it as “Trump being Trump”, articulating the problems and promising to fix them. The address was less flowery eloquence and soaring puffery and more of a concise business assessment of the current state of affairs, short on pomp and long on circumstance.
If Obama’s speeches were the symphonies the mainstream media always saw them to be, Trump’s address was an Excel spreadsheet.
We shouldn’t worry that the speech was anti-Semitic, “Hitlerian”, Mussolini-like, coded racism, ant-globalist, etc. – because it wasn’t. If only the progressives would just stop the reflexive charges of Nazism every time a Republican opens their mouth, they would have heard the distant echoes of FDR’s first inaugural speech in 1933. For example:
FDR: “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.”
Trump: “We must speak our minds openly, debate our minds honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
FDR: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Trump: “There should be no fear. We are protected, and we will always be protected.”
FDR: “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”
Trump: “America will start winning again — winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs, our borders, our wealth, our dreams. We will build new roads, bridges, airports and highways all across the nation. We will get people off of welfare.”
President Trump defies ideological classification. His inaugural address is a very close facsimile to FDR’s declaration of war on the Great Depression through progressive means – and yet the President has assembled a cabinet with which many conservatives can agree. He has fought the “establishment” of both parties and yet selected advisers and cabinet members who could charitably be called “establishment.” The unpredictability seems to be the most predictable aspect of President Trump.
After some reflection on President Trump’s address, a question remains – can an FDR-like progressive agenda be accomplished by classic liberal means?
Let’s be honest – it is easy to be for the content of the speech simply due to the people who were against it. There also are many who are so deliriously happy to see the end of the Age of Obama and that Hillary will never be America’s president, they would have lauded the speech if SpongeBob SquarePants had written it. Instant analysis of the President’s address simply reflected preexisting ideological views and biases and said more about the analysts than it did the address itself.
One thing is true – as the Trump Era dawns as most certainly a “wait and see” proposition, for conservatives/classic liberals, a healthy dose of vigilance seems to be the order of the day.