Can These Promises Be Kept?

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NOTE: This was originally posted the afternoon of Trump’s inauguration. Below is an edited version updated to reflect the reality of what’s transpired since that day. The added content is in parenthesis. If you don’t like questionable formatting choices this may be an article to skip 🙂
I’m reposting with updates because I thought this asked good questions. At the time, we all had predictions of what the answers would be. Today, we know most of these answers, and they’re just as bad (or often worse) than what so many of us dreaded.

* * *

Today Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. In his inaugural speech, he repeated many of his greatest hits along with a few attempts at inclusiveness that largely missed the mark.

Some of his goals can earn widespread appeal (infrastructure) while others will not (border wall). More importantly, many of his promises seem unrealistic and at times veered into the completely ridiculous.

(Needless to say, the ideas like infrastructure and parental leave that had merit and were potentially popular have been pushed aside in favor of cruel immigration practices and other red meat for the GOP base.)

To Trump’s loudest supporters, to our fellow citizens whose answer to every question raised and conflict recognized has been “We won so get over it”…here’s where the rubber hits the road. Slogans are great, but details matter. The How and Who matter just as much as the What.

Trump spoke of new infrastructure, which our country desperately needs and Congress has strongly opposed to fund for the past eight years (and truly for decades before that too). Will they agree now, and if so how will it be accomplished?

Who will prioritize what projects get done first? Will they off load the capital raising to the construction industry, which will be a boon to developers but may cause less profitable projects to be overlooked? If the goal is to make a decent return on dollars instead of societal improvements, that changes what each project is “worth”. A well-traveled bridge needing a refurbish is an attractive prospect to a construction firm that will collect the toll money for years, but that same community may be in dire need of a new sewer system. Can both get funding, and if not which wins out?

(Apparently Trump realized an actual plan would take work, so nothing has happened on this front, which is a massive opportunity for Democrats in 2020. A smart presidential campaign manager will have someone identify much-needed capital improvements for every county in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and have their candidate bring up that local bridge or pothole or crumbling school at every event.)

Trump’s key phrase was “America First”, which sounds great in the abstract. But how will that really work policy-wise? Do tariffs bring back jobs to U.S. soil, or do they just raise prices? There are reports that Trump’s threats about NAFTA have hurt the peso so much that wages and other costs are near all-time lows. In that scenario automakers may MOVE manufacturing to Mexico even if tariffs are imposed. The idea saber rattling doesn’t have downside effects is willfully naive, and won’t help American workers.

(On one hand, Trump has been even more extreme than I think many of us expected. We expected some really mean tweets about China and maybe an argument with Ireland over Guinness imports. What we’re getting are trade wars with every major economy in the world and threats to the NATO alliance. Of course, Trump supporters thinking this is all part of some brilliant businessman plan instead of the clueless temper tantrum it is.)

How will America First work militarily? Are Europe’s fears justified, that we won’t stand with them against aggression? (Maybe) Will this administration prioritize American interests against Russian goals? (Debatable) Even if we initially benefit from friendlier relations with Russia, does anyone outside the Trump administration really believe Vladimir Putin will be a good friend for one second longer than it benefits him?

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. There were themes of today’s address that should be met with cautiously open minds, and others that should give every American pause.

Trump spoke of equality while also praising law enforcement. Our police are almost all amazing public servants, but the key word there is “almost”. What happens the next time an unarmed black man is shot under questionable circumstances? Will the officer’s justification be assumed or will justice for all be pursued?

(This has been the driving force of this administration. Donald Trump wants the country divided, and he wants those divisions to be exacerbated by inequality in all forms. By far, the most disappointing aspect of the past two years is realizing how many Americans are so anxious and excited to let their racist, sexist, homophobic and other hateful beliefs out.)

What should we read into the White House website today deleting pages on LGBT and civil rights? Doesn’t that fly in the face of the America for everybody he promised today?
Winning was easy, governing’s harder. A speech of tough words and easy sound bites was fine at noon, but at 1:00pm the real work began, and the early steps were not moves towards a unified nation.

(It only took one day for the Trump administration to show it had no interest in listening to the people or ending its gaslighting practices. It’s not just the White House either. The entire GOP has an almost surgical precision when it comes to denying, delaying and disrespecting the will of the people. It’d probably take less work to make their policies more popular than it does to deny voting rights and popular opinions, but if people aren’t suffering it wouldn’t be as much fun.)

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