With a clenched fist (and once or twice two fists) Donald Trump dropped the bomb. He declared that the people are taking over from a powerful inside-Washington elite who have put their own financial interests first. And from now on, he said, it will be America First! and he actually used the term protectionism or he said we are going to protect our industries and rebuild our infrastructure and the rule will be products and materials made in America by American workers.
And even after praising the outgoing president Barack Obama and now former First Lady Michelle Obama for their graciousness and assistance in the transition of power, he without naming them or anyone else lashed out at the present government (without saying so, Republicans and Democrats) for being blind to the needs and aspirations of the people and only caring about enriching themselves. But he said all that changes now, this minute.
I do not want anyone reading this to construe that I buy what he said. I will say this: this was the most momentous political speech I have heard in my lifetime. Trump has promised us all the world. He has a lot to live up to. While all such speeches are filled with rhetoric, the tone of his was much more forceful. If you look at old newsreels and maybe read translations (you can do that on the internet these days) you will see in his speech elements of the Adolf Hitler style, appealing to national pride, and calling for world dominance by the people of one nation.
There was one line, though, that captured the essence of what I think about U.S. foreign policy. He said that the U.S. under his leadership will not seek to impose its form of government on any other nation but instead lead by example, thus showing the rest of the world the merits of our form of democracy (I am paraphrasing of course). He also said all nations have a right to do things that put their own people first. I could buy that. I mean is that not the reason we have individual nations or nation states?
So here’s the deal. I found his speech both inspirational and a little scary at the same time. I don’t really think Trump is Hitler. He at times has seemed to borrow gestures from that grand Italian buffoon and dictator Benito Mussolini — not so much today, except maybe for his raised fist; I don’t specifically recall whether Mussolini raised his fists but, whatever, Trump has previously used that strut and kind of scowl and pursing of the lips characteristic of the Italian fascist.
Today Trump actually delivered a speech in full sentences and in an articulate manner. Just like Obama’s I think unfortunate line “you didn’t build that” I almost felt like saying, “you didn’t write that”. But maybe he did or at least maybe those were his own thoughts.
And actually, have things been all that bad in America, especially these past four years? One commentator was citing various statistics, economic growth, decline in unemployment and such, and we have to remember, many more people actually voted for a virtual continuation of Obama (via Hillary Clinton). But the state of the nation is like beauty is to each individual — beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
But back to Trump’s line about protectionism. Protectionism has been given a bad name because back in the 1920s the U.S. and other nations of the world engaged in protecting their own industries so much so that it is said to have resulted in the Great Depression.
But of course today a lot of nations (China?) engage in some form of protectionism. I’m thinking maybe the Wall Street crowd has been pretty free and easy in promoting the opposite in this nation because they don’t care how the money is made as long as it comes back to them.
If we close our borders to foreign goods it will work against us. But certainly we can promote our own products and at least have some form of partial protection.
And a prime example of wrong-headed thinking is when the San Francisco Bay Bridge was rebuilt (in part) a few years ago, the steel came from China. With all the steel we have in America that is preposterous — I mean what were they thinking?
As long as he doesn’t do anything stupid I think we just might survive Trump. We might even prosper.
And this would be a good point here to mention that Trump vowed to wipe Islamic terrorism of the face of the earth (that is that practiced by forces claiming to be Islamic, not all Muslims; I’m adding that for clarification). Sounds good to me, but that is a proposition that is fraught with traps (wars that bog us down, itchy trigger fingers or the firing of nukes in desperation, leading to our own self-destruction). But I do agree we have to face the fact that in some way we have to face up to the threat of Islamic terrorism head on — rhetoric will not do it (I know Obama has certainly tried, but perhaps he has been hampered by the diametrically opposite concerns of fighting terrorism and, in his own words, “not doing anything stupid”.
Oh, but one more thing. Trump said over and over again in his speech that the power has been given back to the people. But we live in a constitutional representative democracy. The power is with the representatives whom the people elect. But it has always originated with the people. Kind of like Dorothy in the land of Oz wanting to find her way home. She had that power all along.
I continue to be amazed at how Trump has managed to in some ways combine the disenchantment of people on both the politically liberal left and the conservative right in some new form of populism. And it is ironic that while nominally white and conservative Tea Party-inspired folks who supported Trump now have their man in charge his gesture is just like the radical Black Power gesture of the 1960s, a raised fist.