I wrote this on January 21, 2017.
A Trump Resister or Trump Supporter I am not. Donald Trump is my president. I watched Trump’s Inauguration to appreciate the peaceful transfer of power and to listen to his inaugural address for clues of where we are headed. While not grand nor elegant, Trump rose to the occasion. He spoke to his image of Americans. He avoided talking about himself and articulated many of his campaign themes in a tight 16 minute presentation.
As a political moderate who has lived all my life along the I-70 corridor from Missouri to Pennsylvania, I have taken a “wait and see” approach to Trump’s presidency. My hometown in Western Pennsylvania is not the town it once was. The main street is largely boarded up, the high school is half the size, and steel industry is long gone. Drug use is reported to be high, the main bridge into town needs painting and repairs, Walmart, on the edge of town, seems the major attraction. It is the same story as many towns across Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.
My hunch is that many of my high school friends voted for Donald Trump. I doubt they are racists and misogynists. Their ears heard his mention of “making America great again” and “getting our jobs back.” As the marches in Columbia and across America the day after the inauguration attest, many other ears heard heartlessness, dishonesty, and disrespect.
Trump’s speech reminded me of Ross Perot, independent presidential candidate in 1992, for his simple, practical common sense approach that is unlikely to work. The time is long gone, at least 25 years tardy, to just “Buy America.” Similarly, putting “America First” is not all the helpful. Subsidizing South Korea defense may sound like a giveaway but makes sense in light of North Korea. “Making America Great Again” and “America First” may be catchy slogans but are lose a lot of punch in a high tech global economy, created largely by the United States.
On the other hand, I tend to agree with Trump that there is a Washington Establishment that protects special defense, medical, trade, education loans, and transportation special interests. Republican and Democratic free trade agreements of the past 25 years have not helped my hometown and my more recent neighbors. Let’s see if Trump can do better.
Unfortunately, Trump ignored health care reform and fiscal responsibility in his speech. His State of the Union speech and budget message will be an opportunity to present a more detailed roadmap for dealing with two of the biggest contentious issues of the past two decades.
As expected, Trump did not mention any environmental issues probably because of the prevailing Republican denial of global climate change. Call it what you want, but several cities face rising coastlines and many states will face significant water quality and quantity problems within a decade or two. We have the lowest food prices in the world largely because of irrigation and migrant workers—Trump needs to protect both of them.
My hope for Trump supporters is that they think more carefully about the root cause of their economic problems. Their children’s, and now grandchildren’s, drug use in economically distressed areas is due to decades of decline. They are likely to miss what they call Obamacare.
My wish for Trump resisters is that they register to vote, join a local organization, contribute at least $50 to a cause, and focus their interests and energy on a single issue or two. The Tea Party, which appears to be the model, had it far easier in that they had the federal deficit as a focus, were not as diverse, and persisted in interrupting events they did not like.
Trump has mentioned urban redevelopment and infrastructure investment as two ways to increase opportunity. Most Americans agree with these general ideas. Focused political protest should demand the equivalent of a “Trump Hotel” of infrastructure reinvestment in every blighted downtown. Trump does not appear to have the personal discipline or the historical knowledge to curb his worse impulses. In that sense, he may be more like former presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon than our more recent presidents.
Congressional Republicans now have the responsibility to be effective checks and balances pursuing the national interest rather than a rubber stamp for political expediency. We are at a critical juncture. Baby boomers are retiring after having had greater economic prospects than their children have, our information sources are not trusted, our governmental institutions are poorly thought of, and the world is just too big and too complex for any of us to comprehend. Now fake news, and poorly performing conventional media, will make truth-telling and fact-finding all the more difficult. Maintaining our democracy requires our vigilance.