Donald J. Trump has officially taken office as the 45th president of the United States of America.
The inauguration ceremony took place on January 20th and was met with a crowd of around 700,000 people, which is estimated to be 30% the attendance of former president Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. The inauguration was met with widespread protests across the U.S, with an estimated 3.9 million participants across the nation. Smaller supporting demonstrations taking place globally in places such as Tokyo, London and Dublin. Performers at the inauguration ball included Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance as well as a wide variety of American country musicians. The weather on the day of President Trump’s inauguration matched the mood of a divided nation; grey clouds cast shadows across Washington D.C. as many attendees of the ceremony found themselves in need of rainwear to deal with the conditions.
The Inauguration Speech
President Trump began his inaugural address by claiming that getting the American economy back on track would be his number one priority, and that this would be achieved through his ‘American First’ philosophy. The president spoke of the ‘American carnage’ he claims has been wrought on America, leaving ‘rusted out factories scattered like tombstones’ across a nation with ‘little to celebrate’, and blamed it on the outsourcing of US jobs. His maiden speech as commander in chief continued, he went on to express his intent to ‘drain the swamp’ and usher in an era of reform to Capitol Hill. Midway through his address, Trump (accidentally, we assume) echoed a line from Batman, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, where Bane address the citizens of Gotham, saying he is giving them back their city from the rich and corrupt.
Closing his speech, he made a final of three references to protecting America’s borders, a sign of the emphasis he will place upon immigration as he attempts to enforce the draconian immigration reforms he pledged on the campaign trail. ‘We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own’, Trump said. Critics would argue the remark is false as the Obama administration deported more undocumented immigrants than any other administration before it. Trump has also pledged to suspend America’s intake of Syrian refugees, who are already subjected to substantial security vetting before they enter the country, and it seems likely the president will move forward with this promise within the next few days. Coupled with Trump’s infamous pledge to erect a wall across the entire southern border, it remains unclear just how much damage this will do to some of the world’s most vulnerable people in the name of border ‘defence’. Or how far Trump can go in fulfilling the most grandiose of his bombastic election promises.
Trump’s Early Executive Orders
The 45th President has already ended his post-inauguration honeymoon period by signing multiple executive orders just days after taking office. Issuing his first executive orders from the Oval Office on Friday night, he directed government agencies to ‘ease the burden’ of the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s decision to wind down Obamacare shows his intent on delivering the promises made along the campaign trail, which were also reinforced when he signed an executive order banning federal money going to international groups which perform or provide information on abortion services. The latter signing caused outrage among many civil rights groups, with some claiming that Trump’s position on social policy will prove to be regressive for reproductive rights. He also signed executive actions clearing two controversial pipelines in North-Dakota and Keystone XL.
Protests over the pipelines began in early 2016 after planning was approved which would see construction spread from throughout the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In April 2016, an elder of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe established a cultural centre to allow for resistance to the pipeline, which attracted thousands of protesters and international media attention. In September 2016 construction workers bulldozed a section of land the tribe had identified as sacred ground causing outrage. Protesters entered the area and were met with security workers using attack dogs which bit at least six of the protesters and one horse. A video of the incident was uploaded to social media and went viral. In late November 2016, many new participants joined the protest; fluctuating numbers of protesters remained in the thousands. Police use of water cannons on protesters in freezing weather drew significant media attention. Despite the stalemate in North Dakota, Trump insists that the pipeline construction will stimulate employment while the terms of agreement with Native American residents are to be negotiated.
The wider administration has also drawn much attention from the media as well as the wider public in their first week with White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s abnormal press conference. Spicer followed suit with President Trump by seeking to break precedence by excerpting multiple thinly veiled lies, such as insisting “it was the largest watched Inauguration, ever, period’, a statement that did not stand up to scrutiny. Verifiable metrics for viewership showed that Trump’s inaugural was well behind the TV audiences of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. As well as ignoring rows of media officials looking to ask questions, who have been critical of Trump during his year-long campaign. Spicer insisted that live web streams should be added to viewership ratings, but even on that score Obama’s first inaugural beat Trumps. There were other signs that Trump’s own worst instincts were being absorbed by his new staff, such as his reference to Iraq while speaking at the C.I.A headquarters. Despite Iraq being an ally of the United States in their fight against Islamic State, Trump, he suggested that ‘maybe we’ll have another chance’ to seize the country’s oil, which, even if America were at war with Iraq, would be illegal under international law.
Worryingly Trump has also promised to scrap the US federal endowment for the Arts and Humanities which is used to fund research, education, and public programmes in the Arts. In the almost Orwellian ‘1984’ political climate of fake news, alternative facts, and distrust in traditional media the severe cuts to the academic Arts and Humanities will further worry liberals in the US and abroad.
For supporters of the Republican Party Trump’s Presidency spells an opportunity for strong conservative social reform to be implemented and much promised investment and stimulation to the employment market for white blue collar workers. For those concerned with the impending term, the future lies uncertain.
Oisín MacCanna | Politics Editor