“WE must think big and dream even bigger.” So proclaimed the 45th – and most unlikely – President in the history of the United States at the end of Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ opening address which could not have been more nationalist, populist or anti-establishment in substance or delivery.
This was the culmination of a beguiling ceremony in which the conventional transition of power paved the way for the most unconventional of presidents – a property mogul and reality television star who has become Commander-in-Chief of the world’s biggest superpower without any previous experience of the military or public office.
Uncompromising and unflinching as he vowed to stop the “carnage” and transfer power to the people as opponents protested on the streets of the capital, and around the world, a strident President Trump vowed: “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done.”
He meant it every word of it after solemnly taking his oath of office. Now he has to live up the rhetoric and turbo-charge America’s economy while healing the deep divisions in society that were laid bare by the most divisive election campaign in living memory. This is for real, it’s no longer a political soap opera to rival TV’s The West Wing.
Expect the unexpected, a potential strength and weakness of the forthcoming Trump presidency. He’s already alienated the intelligence services and served notice on Washington’s liberal elite, the very people tasked with delivering his election promises, that they exist to serve the people and not themselves.
He’s a polarising figure without the deep well of goodwill bestowed upon his predecessors. His offensive remarks about women, and Islam, can’t be condoned or forgiven. He also needs to curtail his ugly Twitter rhetoric and demonstrate the type of gravitas, and statesmanship, expected of the free world’s de facto leader.
Not a natural orator, he nevertheless deserves the chance to be judged on the decisions that he takes as President as he looks to ‘make America great again’. Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington in January 1981 with low expectations and became a revered Republican with his crusade for smaller government, a theme which underpinned this inaugural address.
President Trump is used to making things happen – it’s why he became a billionaire – and his business acumen could be his greatest asset. He’s a deal-maker who is used to thinking strategically. His commitment to jobs, industry, infrastructure and manufacturing will define the early weeks of his presidency. His approach will also be watched closely on this side of Atlantic – more protectionist trade policies might, for example, be an antidote to globalisation and help Yorkshire’s steel industry withstand China’s mass production. Equally his election could be Theresa May’s salvation as she seeks post-Brexit trade deals.
Now the most powerful politician on the planet, President Trump needs to use his powers wisely and judiciously – America and the world’s future will depend on him doing so.