I bet you never saw it coming. It never even crossed your mind that it could be possible. It is game-changing. On the morning of January 20, 2017, President-elect Donald J. Trump stood before the National Mall and swore an oath as the 45th President of the United States of America. And the country did not cease to exist.
Far from it, really. Rain storms hounded the California dry lands, bringing Mother Earth back to glistening life. Speaking of the rain, it appeared to be raining at the 58th Inaugural Address. Apt to some due to the gloom, it presented a terrific metaphor surrounding the event. The rain is best known for its life-giving properties. Water from the sky, there is nothing more miraculous.
Unfortunately, in some cases it does not rain enough. In others, it rains too often. Droughts and floods are what keep this uninhabitable chunk of rock, well, habitable. So, in some cases a drought, however negative in connotation, can be seen as just another part of the natural balance. And a flood of rain water, however destructive, a reinvigoration of the land.
President Obama was indeed a flood of liberal proportions. His tenure as leader of the free world yielded key decisions, measures, and reforms that both nourished and terrified the masses. Conversely, many pupils on both sides of the aisle view President Trump as a type of drought – a stagnated period of self-assessment and most likely very little effective decision-making or leadership. Not that Washington will come to a halt exactly, but rather that controversiality and passive aggression will stall most sweeping changes.
There is quite a bit of fear in regards to what the Trump Administration will be able to accomplish in four years. My guess is as good as the next, but something tells me stagnation is just about the extent of the matter. Likely, seemingly rapturous (though expectedly opaque) executive orders will grab headlines and undoubtedly be claimed as victories, with a heap more contradiction and inability to tackle the real issues of racial tension, global and domestic terrorism, international relationships, distribution of wealth, education reform, tax reform, healthcare reform, immigration reform, and general civil unrest.
The skill set and level head just do not exist among Trump or his cabinet selections to reach decisive moments for these pressing subjects.
Hence, the drought. Although, as I said before – all is not lost. A drought is not necessarily innately malicious. Where the Trump administration stands to claim their true victories is in domestic policy. Job creation, border control, infrastructure, federal spending on social programs (can we all agree we need to at least have this conversation?), quite possibly space exploration, and most important, keeping Washington elite on their toes.
A drought offers itself as an opportunity to reflect and make preparations for the future. It forces the people of the land out of their comfort zone and to realize how ill-prepared for adversity they actually are.
Silver linings, people.
When it rains, the sun eventually gives way and the land is fertile and lusting with life. This can allow many to lull themselves into a false sense of security – such fortune will last forever! As a nation, this has basically been the running theme of the twentieth century: the turn of the century, the twenties, the fifties, the nineties, even the past eight years of either bliss or biting your tongue. No matter the splendor of the era, the drought is what brings to light the real issues of the time.
The next four years will have consequence. There are matters that the Trump administration can tackle, and like I mentioned, many they will not be able to unravel. Most pressing, though, is the divisive nature of our political parties.
Ruptured by class warfare, positioning on the global stage, and the undeniable reach of the media in a media culture, the Trump Era brings this trend into focus, forcing each of us out of our lull with a new emphasis on compromise.
The United States has long prided itself as a beacon to the world at large. We once vowed to spread democracy to the unenlightened and essentially own the Earth with our influence, and superiority. That dream faded quickly come September 11, and the resulting Iraq War, which opened the eyes of the public to exactly what roles we play in the world – instigator and babysitter.
Follow Iraq and al Qaeda with Syria, Afghanistan, Benghazi, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and ISIS – our eyes are essentially bursting from our noggins. We export our military presence, our funds, and our (occasionally) best intentions only to be met with blunder and resentment.
Caveat: we also attempt to export our might and self-righteous indignation, so we are certainly far from martyrs, more resembling the spider monkey – at once humble and well meaning, the next moment crazed and out for blood.
If Trump is able to succeed in domestic policy the way I predict he and his team can, we as a nation may see benefits that those blinded by defeat are still unable to calculate. So far, within seven days, his decisions have been controversial, but hardly life-altering if you are a legal and tax-paying citizen of the United States of America with full rights and benefits therein.
I perceive the primary umbrage with Trump to lie in two festering sore spots. One, his personality. Blustery and full of piss and vinegar, he is vaguely reminiscent of an older Theodore Roosevelt – without any of the philosophical, military, or political wisdom that made Teddy great. However, it is worth noting that if Trump can diminish his ego and inability to speak fluently, his resolution to restore “America First” policy could yield the same legacy (not a Trump slogan, by the way, but he definitely makes it his own).
Two, his lack of regard for the rest of the world. Basically, if his personality does not irk you, this defect will certainly leave you fuming. If neither upsets you, congratulations! Stay humble.
These two facets of concern play into one another like a dissonant counterpoint. Trump wants to shut the world out, eliminate trade deals, step away from the United Nations, essentially return to pre-World War II isolationism, and seal the borders from eager immigrants.
And – please clutch your pearls now – he may be onto something. The people he has surrounded himself with are blatant conservative extremists. Trump has gladly accepted their donations and adopted their mannerisms. All around, most are not the best individuals for the roles they have been assigned. However, in their disregard for anything non-traditional or middle of the aisle, good can prevail.
Trump, and his personality, and his lack of concern for foreign affairs, can build right into his domestic policy and actually yield a much stronger homestead.
Where we have been focused now for three generations on the betterment of the entire world, it may be time to admit we over reached and re-focus on the betterment of the entire nation.
We can ensure future healthcare, education, economic, and even civil reform by ensuring that we are a country of legal (or legally immigrated) American citizens – by closing ranks and working on our internal struggles before tackling every international dilemma at the expense of the American people. This does not mean to lose our close relations with foreign allies, but rather to foster a new reputation with these friendly states as a far more moderate entity.
Where Liberals endorse a heavily (and morally) progressive notion that the United States should be a refuge and an asset to all who desire access, Conservatives counter with their equally valid trademark ideology that it is not fiscally or reasonably sound to extend our resources and risk national security to such an extent (or at all, depending on where you fall on the scale).
Celebrity commentators adore the opportunity to produce loudly dramatic monologues on the plight of the little person and the national obligation to make everybody happy, often while wearing around $20,000 worth of high end couture. It is impossible to be unhappy in Prada. Conversely, Trump and his cohorts too often enjoy immature and ineffective rebukes aimed at said commentators. The point being that there is a compromise to be had on each and every issue laid out before us if we can all take a deep breath, use our big boy and girl vocabularies, and converse free of grandstanding, preaching, or otherwise unruly behavior. The middle ground is not out of reach if you shut up long enough to hear what the other side has to say.
In this dry spell for American politics, it is time to assess the situation. How did we get here?
How did our political parties lose sight of compromise and debate? How did our people become so full of anger and hate toward one another? How did we crash our economy and allow banks and foreign markets to control our daily lives? How did we get to the point where we place the rights of noncitizens above the rights of our own people?
These are internal problems. These are problems that require the U.S. to pull inward and resolve. We have a media that has divided us across party lines, constantly insisting on absolutist politics – from both sides. And it is infuriating. And it will be to our own ruin.
The next four years will have consequence. The drought will certainly make times far worse before they become better. Trump has no interest in unity. However, if we learn, and grow, and find ways to think for ourselves, without the need for blustery leadership or quippy editorialism – then we still stand a chance. The Trump administration can leave a legacy of refocusing American politics on America. They can plant that seed. And with any luck, a new and more heartened individual will rise to the challenge of uniting, and building, and flooding this land with new life.