Trump’s Inauguration: Opposition to the President

It has been a rocky journey since election night, where (now President) Trump shocked the world in a miraculous upset victory over Hillary Clinton. The writing had been on the wall, and the complacency of the media outlets had obscured the root of the problem, making it seem as though a Clinton win was inevitable – a supposed fait accompli. As is always the case, political analysts and strategists, with the advantage of hindsight, have perspicuously adduced myriad reasons and factors accounting for Trump’s win. Whatever transpired, our business is in the present, where Trump’s first days have been just as controversial as his presidential campaign. Now the target for much invective, the most entertaining of which has been the Women’s March, Trump’s executive actions have spanned almost the entire breadth of his campaign promises, his most recent one being a temporary ban on all immigration from seven primarily Muslim countries: ‘Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen’. The stormy weather which seemed about to tear America apart, beacon of freedom and liberty and protector of Democracy, is not yet past; the implications of Trump’s executive orders are far-reaching as they are divisive, inciting acts of civil disobedience and hatred, and perhaps moving the country closer to the point of no return. At this point even the survival of American Democracy is suspect, and no doubt it already bears the scars of the barely past 2016 Election.

The details of President Trump’s executive orders can be easily found. According to CNN (, Trump’s more recent executive order pertaining to immigration ‘bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days’, being in effect a blanket temporary ban that affects even ‘lawful US permanent residents’. As might be expected, naught but confusion has reigned among law enforcement agencies, as they have tried to interpret this bold move by the newly inaugurated President. This can be seen as part of a series of policies that Trump has single-handedly enacted in an attempt to fulfill his campaign promises – promises that have never failed to set American against American. On one side are those whose ideas have ossified and who are firmly opposed to opening borders to immigrants and the like. On the other are those who hurl criticisms sometimes trenchant, sometimes vituperative, against the heavy-handed policies of the President. Any hope for compromise in the near future is shattered, though it remains to be seen if such compromise is really unattainable in the long run.

We might look at the executive orders the President has already signed to discern the inherent dangers toward democracy in America. The first pertains to the reason why democracies are structured the way they are. Democracies are such because of the way they make decisions; while having a referendum every time the country has to make mundane policy decisions is manifestly unfeasible, it is possible to hold a vote among those chosen to be the people’s representatives (in Congress and the House of Representatives), and that is the standard procedure for passing laws, long-term policy decisions and Constitutional Amendments. However, the means by which Trump uses to pass his policies – executive orders – amount to a short-circuiting of the democratic process. This can only serve to hurt consensus, for it shows that the Administration does not believe in subjecting the President’s far-flung policies to deliberation and reasoned discourse. This is a dangerous course of action, and can only inflame further the passions of those opposed to Trump for his demonstrable authoritarian streak – if anything is clear, it is that America is viscerally averse to authoritarianism. And every ham-fisted order is simply more ammunition for Trump’s enemies. Many of his supporters bore him to power with hopes of change, being progressively radicalized in their views under the weight of Liberal criticism. Trump was hated by many but worshiped in equal measure. Yet he displays little finesse or political acumen, painting his goals instead with broad brushes that sweep aside the petty concerns of many. Put together, the petty concerns of many can induce great opposition, to be added to an already sizeable legion of those who see Trump as a fool, despot, oligarch or thief – or all of them at once.

The issue which perhaps most challenges America’s perception of itself is immigration. It is no secret that many opposed to stronger immigration controls cite America’s history as a means to illustrate its hypocrisy. America is after all a ‘nation of immigrants’. But more importantly, America’s Exceptionalism has traditionally been built on its perception of itself as the bastion of Freedom and Liberty. It is why so many dream of reaching America’s borders, for to dream thus is to hope for a better life; whether one is harassed by the drug cartels of Mexico or escaping certain death in the deluge of violence in Syria, America has been a light at the end of a dark tunnel, and American ideals have helped them along their way, for this idea of America transcends ethnicity or nationality. This Exceptionalism is why, as one of the two former Superpowers, it described itself as the forces of good battling the Evil Soviet Empire (see Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire speech) ; and although it committed many atrocities in Latin America and the Middle East, among others, all these had to be kept necessarily covert. Americans for the most part infused their struggle with a moral perspective that enthused them to lengths far greater than could otherwise have been expected. Now, in a sweeping proclamation, Trump has painted America as a country contravening that moral perspective, going against the wellsprings of his society and maiming American ideals in the eyes of the majority of his people. This is a contradiction that his society cannot long sustain, and it must either totally believe in its current leader, which is an impossibility, especially due to the sizeable immigrant population in the US with intimate ties overseas, or tear itself apart in civil unrest, which is far more probable.

For all the trails and travails that have beset America since World War II, and even before, it is clear that the American people still believe in the intangible idea of Exceptionalism. It is an idea Donald Trump panders to, as he made clear in his inauguration speech “America first, America first… when America is united, we are unstoppable!” This patriotism to his country is commendable in any man, if not for the particularly obstreperous form manifest in 'Trumpism'. Patriotism taken to an extreme is nothing more than nationalistic vitriol, leading eventually to jingoism, prejudice and hatred. Too much has happened in the past century to allow anyone versed in its history to think such leadership can lead to good. In the absence of unity, the success of any of President Trump’s policies is suspect, and the emotional toll this takes on the American people may well destroy the country from within. For the American system – the democracy it propounds – is most powerful when the weight of public opinion is behind it. Thus, Trump is right when he says America is at its strongest when it is united. The issue is that such unity cannot be had by clobbering others with nationalistic or ‘patriotic’ policies. Trump tries to deal with division the same way he deals with terrorism – with force. One fundamental rule of diplomacy is this: violence begets hatred and hatred, violence, such that the more force is used, the further one strays from his objective, if these objectives feature peace to any extent.

Frederick Yorck



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