The essence of Trumpism is to invite Americans to exaggerate their grievances, ignore their blessings, then promise to solve their problems without putting out concrete plans to do so. It’s to hope that Americans don’t care whether you have any such plans; to sidestep being held accountable by avoiding setting any meaningful benchmarks against which your performance can be judged.
That was the essence of his classless, prosaic inaugural address, which will be remembered mostly for the choice of a single word to describe the America that will now be presided over by Mr. Trump: “carnage.”
My online dictionary defines “carnage” as, “the slaughter of a great number of people, as in battle; butchery; massacre.”
Donald Trump looks at America during the years of the Obama presidency and he sees “carnage.”
He is wrong. America has plenty of problems but, on balance — and in any reasonable context — America is (if not “the” richest) among the richest nations on earth and certainly the most powerful. In addition, by any reasonable measure, while many people have serious problems and some may have lost ground in recent years, life has improved in America over the last eight years, by quite a bit compared to the economic crisis that was still in progress when Barack Obama took office.
The GDP has grown. The unemployment rate has gone down. The crime rate is down. A record portion of Americans have health insurance. We are as close to “at peace” as we get in the age of superpower-dom and perpetual low-intensity conflict.
It would be simplistic (but much less simplistic than Trump’s ridiculous everything-has-been-awful-but-now-everything-will-be-great-because-I-alone-can-fix-it) to attribute every bit of progress over the last eight years to the efforts of President (now ex-President) Obama, just as it would be ridiculous to blame Obama for every problem that still exists.
Trump said something slightly gracious about Obama at the beginning of his speech (thanking Obama for the smooth transition) then proceeded to accuse Obama (not directly, but what other inference can one draw?) for presiding over the “carnage.” The reaction shots of Obama in the audience suggested, to me at least, restrained annoyance.
Trump said: “I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”
It would be nice, but it won’t be coming, if he would agree at some point to some metrics by which these promises could be measured, but he has never done so.
For all our sakes, I hope he succeeds in making life better for those who need help most.