All modern Democracies are made up of ceremonies and occasions which reinforce the traditions of the country. President Trump carried out the first of these overnight when he made his first speech in Congress. He said nothing that would win over those who oppose him, or even those within his own party who disagree with him..
Signs of division
The role of the President is to represent the nation, but in the first month of his new Administration #Donald Trump has only heightened the sense of division within the country revealed on November 8th when he won the election to the White House.
During the election campaign his attitude towards women was a focus of attention by many and only increased since Inauguration on January 20th with the few women nominated for prominent roles in the new Administration.
A clear symbol of these divisions was the sight of many female Democrat politicians dressed in white sitting in the chamber. The colour is the symbol of women’s rights and their silent presence made more impact than any vocal protest against the President.
It says much of the President’s speech that the New York Times email alert on the event read in part “Breaking News: #President Trump stuck to the script”.
In other words, the news was that there was no news contained in the speech read out in #Congress.
In all honesty, it would have been a surprise if the event had made more than a slight impact on the country. On any other year it would have been called the “State of the Union”, but at the beginning of the second month of the Presidency none of the changes made so far could have had any impact on the country’s economy.
In a modified and sanitized version of his campaign speeches he could only reiterate his plans, even though some sections of the speech, such as the referral to minor changes to the Moslem ban order, were an implicit acknowledgment that the first four weeks of his Presidency have been stormy.
No mention was made of the conflicts with the press, an issue that hits at the very basis of a free society without which real democracy is not possible.
Just as he made no referral to the appeal of some retired generals and admirals the day before in regards to foreign aid spending and diplomacy.
As in all speeches sections of last night’s address were and are being questioned by fact checkers and journalists. Some will pass the muster and others will provide fuel for claims of misrepresentation or exaggeration.
This too is par for the course. But there is another issue that is even more important for a politician and which was not addressed in any meaningful way.
Politics is the art of contention and no politician will ever have the backing of all the population or the opposition of all of them. Thus perception is as much a sign of the success of a politician, above all a President, as any action he may take. So far the perception of Donald Trump has not been to seek cooperation with those who oppose him.
To be truly successful a President must be able to reach out to the opposition, whether in the House or the Senate, in the newspapers and on the street. Donald Trump did little of that beyond the platitudes contained in the speech.
His first four weeks have been marked by open conflicts with various sections of the community, not only with women, but immigrant communities which play an important role in the economy and, as shown by the high level of internal leaks, even within government offices and the intelligence community.
The perception will only change with actions and not words and so far the real action has yet to begin. We are at a year until the first “State of the Union” Address and by the next address the country will have seen the first real results of the new Oval Office. By then the citizens will know how much of Donald Trump is real and how much is improvised.
Last night’s speech did not affect the perception; it only delayed the country’s judgment on the man who wanted to be President.