IT’S official – the seemingly invincible Donald Trump has finally become the American President. The various speculations as to what he would proclaim as his administration’s policies will also be reviewed in the near future. And Trump’s inaugural address, while falling far short as a blueprint for his policy implementation, still gave some hint of his political intentions.
More than a year ago, when Trump first announced his run for the American presidency, I was only cautiously optimistic. During the Republican presidential primaries, Trump’s steamrolling performance raised more than a few eyebrows. And when he defeated Hillary Clinton on election night, I was involuntarily ecstatic. In the past two months during the American presidential transition, in my commentaries and whenever I was interviewed, when it concerned the “Trump Tornado,” I wouldn’t say I tried to put in some good words, but at least I was trying my best to assuage the worries about Trump’s avowed “big mouth,” especially of those concerned parties outside the United States. I propounded that we should all give Trump a chance to revive the flagging American economy, so as to resuscitate the equally sagging world economy.
Does that necessarily imply that I was full of confidence in Trump’s presidency? Not until I listened to the first few paragraphs of his inaugural address did I realize that I was perhaps not so much “taken” by Trump (after all his business ventures saw ups and downs over the years, and were decidedly not all upswings), as was agreeable, based on my many years of observations on American politics, to at least the first part of his inaugural address. From the outset, Trump characterized his inauguration as a sort of historic return of political power from the Washington political elite to the American people. I think when many Americans voted for Trump two months ago, that was perhaps what they had in mind too.
The American Constitution provided for a more or less federal political system, with rights not enshrined in the Constitution being belonging either to the states or to the people. As such, even the voting methods of the different American states differ from each other. But since the American Civil War, in which the southern states tried to secede from the Union in order to retain their system of slavery, the American political system has concentrated more and more on Washington. After the Second World War, as the so-called military-industrial complex took shape, Washington exerted increasing power over both the livelihood of the American people as well as their business models. At the same time, the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington led increasingly remote lives away from ordinary Americans.
Those American politicians who are federal senators and congressmen may have come from diverse backgrounds of rich and poor, but many of them have spent decades in Washington, making good use of their incumbency to ensure their timely reelections one after another. They might have gone home to their constituencies from time to time to take part in various political rallies and fundraising events (benefiting chiefly themselves), but they are decidedly more “attuned” to the special interest groups that flood the whole of Washington. The various bills enacted by these “interested” legislators are thus benefiting mostly the special interests and not the ordinary American people.
The Washington bureaucrats, on the other hand, consist mainly of those Democratic appointees with “progressive” mindsets, and sometimes even leftist political leanings. They typically have a penchant for restrictive measures that constrain the business freedoms of both gigantic businesses and small and medium enterprises. These include extensive labor protection and wide environmental protections. These bureaucrats’ intention might have been very positive, but their policy enactments and implementations are often far removed from grassroots realities, and only add to the already heavy burden of businessmen and ordinary folks alike.
Therefore, Trump’s vow to return power from the Washington elite to the American people in his inaugural address at least made good sound bites. They are like rewards to those who supported him throughout his presidential campaign and also voted for him. Although Trump has always been chummy with the Washington political establishment (he even contributed to the Clinton Foundation which he maligned during his presidential campaign), he nevertheless can claim to never having been a part of it. This is in stark contrast to his erstwhile presidential opponent Hillary Clinton, who started her political career working for Washington politicians, and has ever remained in the political scene.
If Trump were to carry on with this anti-establishment theme throughout his inaugural address, it would have at least roused up the sentiments of ordinary American folks as to be even bolder in demanding the return of their legitimate rights from the hands of the Washington politicians and bureaucrats, which in itself would have been a grand feat. But Trump decided to diverge, to controversial consequences, as we will see.