By Tomislav Jakic
As of Friday, January 20th 2017, the United States has a new President. In a precise ceremony in front of the Congress, Trump gave his oath and delivered his first speech as head of state. And for everybody who is not biased or has not become prisoner of prejudices, he announced a complete turn in regards to previous US policy. This turn can be detected in a couple of key messages which are admittingly populist but not without deeper political content.
First, Trump confirmed that he is an enemy of political elites, accusing them of prospering while ordinary Americans suffered. To the “forgotten men and women” of America he promised: “You are not forgotten anymore and you will never be forgotten again”, adding that the day of his inauguration marks not the transfer of power from one political party to another, but from Washington DC to the people. Then, using – historically speaking – the slogan of American isolationists, he stressed that from this day in deliberating on any decision only one principle will be applied and that is: America first! (accepting that every state in the world has the right to put its interests above everything else).
After that, he repeated what he said for the first time since accepting the nomination of the Republican party as presidential candidate, when he announced that the US will stop imposing regimes. In his first presidential address he was even more precise: America will not impose her way of life to anybody. It is worth noting that the “American way of life” was until now sort of a sacred cow in the vocabulary of American politicians. Trump added that the US will be a shining example and other countries will follow (if they want, of course). Finally, he said something that European neofascists, who (wrongly!) think of him as “one of them” would never understand: “If you open your heart to patriotism, there is no place for prejudices.”
Had he said nothing more, this speech should be remembered. Therefore it is absolutely wrong when the reporter of the German public TV (ARD) says this was not a presidential speech at all, but only a continuation of the election campaign. It would be interesting to hear what would such so called liberals would say had he changed his rhetoric and contents after the inauguration. They would lament about hypocrisy and not-consistency. But, as Trump remained consistent, they wrote him off as somebody who did not grasp that he is the President and is just continuing his campaign. But, objectively speaking, the messages we mentioned have – for everybody willing to hear them – marked the beginning of what Trump described as the necessity to turn form empty words to deeds. The core of his economic policy can be detected from the short slogan “buy American and hire American”. After only being 30 minutes in office, he put into question the multilateral trade agreements for American continent and Pacific region, confirming what he announced during the campaign, namely that he prefers a net of bilateral trade agreements instead of those multilateral.
He did not mention any of the concrete problems he will confront as President, such as relations with Russia or the health insurance system in the US. It was a programmatic speech, based on crucial messages and principles. He did, however, mention radical Islamism (not Islam, but radical Islamism), promising that he would eradicate it from the face of the Earth, for which he will without any doubt need cooperation from Russia.
He repeated that he will create new jobs in America and spoke again about the decline of former US industrial centers (“inspiring” the German television to say that this is simply not true, but forgetting how many times we had seen the empty fabric hales in Detroit and empty streets in the now declining and many years ago prosperous American cities). He also promised, once again, that he will change this situation and that he will build new highways, new bridges, and new railroads. Some objected immediately that he did not say: how. It would have been almost a miracle had he done so in a situation when many of his nominated members of the US government still lack the Congressional approval and when even some of them voice opinions quite different in regard to his own.
Be it as it is, Trump has his vision of the future and he outlined the cornerstones on which he intends to build his vision, despite his critics who were not hesitant to say that he does not understand today’s world. Some analysts heard in his words the echo of the inaugural speeches of one the most famous American presidents of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and some said they had the impression that Bernie Sanders, the “apostle” of the democratic socialism in America is speaking through Trump’s mouth. We would dare to go even one step further. If we put aside Trump’s as a person and the fact that he is extremely rich, and if we forget his repeated mentioning of God at the end of his speech, we can come to one conclusion only: what was said by Donald Trump should be embraced by every liberal leftist in the world. Caring for ordinary, forgotten people, wealth for everyone, equality between all people (“we can be black, brown or yellow, but we all have the same red blood”), transformation of a system which benefited the politicians, while the middle class suffered, starting of new production, the transfer of power, it is worth repeating, not from one political party to another, but from the Washington elite to the people, all this can be seen, let us not deny this, as a populist, if not even a nationalist approach. But, at the same time, it is closer to the left side of the political scene, than to the right one. These are the first impressions based on Trump’s inaugural speech.
But let us make one thing crystal clear. This is not a noncritical plaidoyer for Donald Trump, who has many minuses – from the total lack of political experience, the unnecessary and potentially dangerous antagonizing of the People’s Republic of China, to the very dubious hints about his energy policy and his standpoints about the global warning phenomena. But, at the same time, it is a plaidoyer for much needed and long overdue change of American policy which made the world unstable and insecure and which made global terrorism a real threat by accepting the protagonists of this terrorism as allies in its projects of toppling the regimes in the Middle East. Yes, such a change, even if it would be Trump’s turn, would be mostly welcome. Of course, if he delivers, what he had promised: it stops here and it stops now. In only a few months we will know if he would be able to transform into reality his vision of America and its new role in the world. Not more: just a few months. After that, we will know if Trump’s turn can become a success or not. And his voters will know if he was right, when he promised them on the Inauguration day. “I will never let you down”.
Tomislav Jakic is a Croatian journalist, specializing in covering the international relations. He was Foreign Policy Advisor to the second President of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Stjepan Mesic.