He speaks and writes like a third grader. He’s boorish and crude. He’s a misogynist and a sexual predator and boasts about grabbing “pussy.” He’s a racist and anti-immigrant and his only allegiance is to his lucrative brand.
And he is now the 45th president of the United States.
On Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president. Fortunately, a great new wave of resistance started on the same day.
Trump’s inauguration came after an unprecedentedly divisive election campaign, yet the smooth “transfer of power” that the political establishment touts was indeed carried out. This was business as usual, one grouping handing over the administration of the capitalist state to another.
Indeed, it was the leading Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Charles Schumer, who introduced Trump, calling him up to be sworn in. Trump himself opened his speech by saying, “Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.”
There’s only one transfer of power that will bring true change, and it will come when the workers and oppressed wrest state power from the capitalist class via socialist revolution. Until then, the capitalist system remains intact — whichever party of the ruling class is at the helm.
This is not to say that Trump’s ascension doesn’t matter. He is a racist, reactionary demagogue. His administration’s agenda amounts to a frontal attack on all the gains won by this country’s working class and oppressed people over the last eight decades and more.
What can be gleaned from Trump’s inaugural speech as the movement prepares for the long resistance struggle ahead?
CNN pundits called the speech “among the most radical inaugural speeches in American history.” (Jan. 20) Other newscasters labeled it as “dark, pessimistic,” and populist. (sunsentinel.com, Jan. 20) One can certainly add “simple” to that list.
Trump’s message might have been simple, but it was nonetheless dangerous. Populist indeed, it was geared to his supporters, and that alone makes it dangerous.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “populist” as “a member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people” or a “person who … is concerned with the views of ordinary people.”
Who are these ordinary people who support Trump today? Well, for one thing, they are not anywhere near the majority of the U.S population — or even of voters, given that he lost the popular vote by 3 million.
What about those who came to the inauguration? Trump said record numbers would attend. The facts tell a different story. Compare a photo from President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration with one of Trump’s: Clearly the numbers do not even come close. On this Jan. 20, there were huge empty swaths of the Capitol Mall. According to reports, tickets to the event couldn’t even be given away.
Mother Jones reported that “groups estimated that the crowd for Trump was likely to be between 700,000 and 900,000. In 2009, an estimated 1.8 million people flocked to the National Mall for the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president. … 10,000 charter buses applied for permits for Obama’s event; for Trump … only 200 buses applied.” (Jan. 20)
Nonetheless, the thousands who did come to support Trump’s inauguration represent a force to be reckoned with. Because only the most crude, the most racist and the most backward on the rights of women could still support Donald Trump.
Yet they are the least of the problem. Those backing Trump on the podium, including his incoming cabinet and staff — those who are gearing up to actually carry out the outrageous Trump program — are far more dangerous than those in the crowd.
Not that anyone should expect meaningful opposition from the established Democratic leadership. Many Democratic politicians, from Schumer to Nancy Pelosi and even the supposed radical Bernie Sanders, attended Trump’s swearing-in and behaved with proper bourgeois decorum. This was in sharp contrast to some 70 members of Congress, including most members of the Congressional Black and Latinx caucuses, who boycotted the inauguration.
The fight is on
In his speech, Trump said: “Today’s ceremony … has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.” (whitehouse.gov)
He continued: “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. … Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.”
“That all changes — starting right here, and right now.”
Really? Will the people, regular people, now be in charge? Will the Trump administration mean millions of jobs restored? Of course not.
How disillusioned his working-class supporters will be when they discover that business will continue as usual. A look at Trump’s cabinet nominees demonstrates that no “swamp” was drained at all. From State to Labor, all of Trump’s cabinet picks are establishment figures. All are rich, some very very rich.
The crux, however, is that they are all far-right establishment figures who want to gut any and all progressive changes — whether won by unions, women, teachers, environmentalists, LGBTQ people, or, most of all, by Black, Latinx, Asian, Native and other people of color over decades of hard struggle.
No one can believe that an administration headed by the likes of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, will transfer wealth from Washington to the people, or in any way represent the masses. The opposite will happen.
In fact, it already has. Within one hour of Trump’s inauguration, websites for the White House and various cabinet departments dropped any mention of LGBTQ rights and climate change.
Most appalling: the webpage on the history of Civil Rights in the United States is gone.
What’s featured on the new presidential website instead? Harsh warnings about the coming era of “law and order,” beefing up the police forces and anti-immigrant action.
A pivotal part of Trump’s address was his reference to ”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,” he asserted.
These are ominous and dangerous code words for the intensification of a pro-cop racist agenda. The carnage in the streets is in fact due to police terror, not to anything else. One need only look at the sympathetic images in the media towards the victims of drug problems in white communities, while in Black and Brown communities it is another attitude altogether.
While Trump’s speech did not mention the wall he’s promised to build between Mexico and the U.S., he did say, “We must protect our borders” — code words for further border militarization.
This is Trump’s “America.” More racist cops allowed to go on about their terror with impunity. It’s what he pledged during his campaign and it’s what he’s now setting out to do.
It should not be forgotten that immediately after Trump’s election, the right wing he galvanized carried out a wave of horrible attacks against Muslims. His call to crush “radical Islamist terrorism” during his inaugural speech will certainly unleash more of this racist violence.
No wonder that activists are preparing for the worst. Some worry that the Trump administration may place the Black Lives Matter movement on a domestic terrorist watch list. With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, an effort to turn back the clock to before the gains of the Civil Rights movement could easily begin.
This is why the real news of Inauguration Day was so encouraging: that there were hundreds of thousands of people protesting, not only in Washington, D.C., but in cities across the country and around the world.
The resistance has begun, and it will only grow from here. That much is clear.
The billionaires may be poised to attack, to grab as much as they can, to enrich themselves even more, to strip away rights and benefits, to drive back the workers and oppressed. They may be confident that they can do it.
But they will have a fight on their hands. Trump may now be in the White House, but from here on out the masses will be in the streets. And the masses in motion are a more powerful force than any rich boor and his corrupt cronies. Today they’re riding high. Tomorrow will be another story.