Ready or not, here he comes.
The Donald, Reality TV icon that he is, will be inaugurated Leader of the Free World on Friday. The last eight years under Obama have been a history-making wild ride, and I’m likewise brimming with curiosity to see how Trump will lead the country.
These are certainly interesting days in the republic, and it’s a good time to be alive. If Trump does half the things he’s promised – such as bringing back American jobs, tightening border security and wiping out ISIS – it’s going to be a productive four years. If his skeptics are right, we’ll be living in a fascist police state by 2020.
While there are many changes Trump will bring about with a willing Congress, I have some specifics I’m watching:
• Will America really be great again after four years of Trump? In the 1980s and ’90s, I felt much pride when traveling abroad telling people I was an American. That pride has been replaced in recent years with an apologetic view of our country, where we somehow have to feel bad for our success.
Although he’s never really explained it, which is unfortunate, this is what I think Trump means by wanting to make America great again. He wants us to exude self-pride and self-confidence again. Conservatives say Trump, a brash and unapologetic kind of leader, has the needed swagger to revive Americans’ pride in their country. Trump also has a knack for willing his own reality. If he believes it enough, it’ll happen. That refusal to accept an alternative to total victory in business, despite setbacks, made him a billionaire. It’ll be interesting to see if Trump’s reality-defying philosophy will survive four years in democracy’s test kitchen.
On the flip side, I’m wondering if the negative aspects of Trump’s personality will permeate the average American. The developer and casino magnate is all about money and “winning.” He’s probably never said a self-deprecating thing in his life. He and his perfectly groomed family look as if they spend a fortune on their appearance. Trump is vanity and excess personified, and he oozes superficiality and smugness. These are disturbing traits for a person who holds an office to which we want our children to aspire.
While I’m buoyed by his choice of uber-humble Mike Pence as vice president, as well as some of his cabinet picks, I wonder if Americans will be more like Trump in attitude and outlook after four years. We are already more narcissistic, thanks to social media. Having Trump as our most prominent citizen probably won’t help that cultural devolution. But maybe his vanity will serve as a warning that bullying and always having to have the last word, or tweet, isn’t the ideal. Or perhaps he’ll transform his personality? Who knows.
• Policy-wise, I’m interested to see if Trump fulfills his many campaign pledges. Is Mexico really going to pay for the wall? Are American manufacturing jobs really going to come back? Is “Coal Country” really going to reopen? Will Trump and the GOP be able to deep-six Obamacare and replace it with something better? Is America finally going to tackle its massive debt?
I’m thankful Candidate Trump at least had the nerve to outline his goals. Obama just gave us vague “hope and change.” Hillary told us she wasn’t Trump. But Trump’s promises give us something to judge him by, and that’s what he can expect the 2020 electorate to do.
• Lastly, I’m really curious about the future of political correctness, that most-insidious movement that makes us all think twice before we say anything that anyone could construe as possibly offensive. The P.C. crowd is reeling from Trump’s victory, but what happens if Trump turns into a chump? Sure, the so-called liberal elites – those in academia, media and government – were cast out of the D.C. temple in this election cycle. But if Trump fails to deliver, will the elites ultimately get the last laugh? And will their P.C. voices then get more powerful? Conservatives are slow to support Trump mainly because they don’t want their cause to suffer if Trump’s programs backfire. That could also backfire on them. In four years, we may have a Trump Party, and liberals and conservatives will both be on the outside.
Who knows how all this will end up? Obama failed to deliver on his promises (closing Guantanamo, keeping our doctor, easing racial tensions, a Russian reset, etc.), and I imagine Trump will be similarly impotent. But Trump will at least make for must-see TV. Just as he dominated TV ratings on “The Apprentice,” I have a feeling the next four years will have us similarly glued to our sets.
I’m ready for the show to begin.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.