By Graham Glover –
Last Friday, 20 January 2017, changed everything.
Not about who we are as Christians. Not about who we are as individuals. Not about who I am as a husband, pastor, or father. Not about the Jagged Mafia that follows this blog. Not even about whether we are Falcons or Patriots fans.
But last Friday changed everything about American politics.
The Inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the history of our republic. Things will never be the same.
I understand some of you love him and others loathe him. No matter, he is our president and more importantly for me, my Commander-in-Chief. Even if you don’t respect the man, we are all obligated to respect the office.
Some sense the change. Whether they are the president’s most rabid supporters that have proudly been on full display this past week or the millions that marched in protest around the world the day after his inaugural, change – radical change – is in the air.
How can 1 man bring about so much change? Initially, I never thought it possible. Even after Election Day, I didn’t think it would happen. But now I’m convinced. Donald Trump is changing everything about American politics.
For starters, Trump has ushered in a new era of what it means to be partisan. While winning the Republican nomination and taking the oath as a Republican, Trump’s campaign, typified by his Inaugural Address, was the antithesis of what the Republican Party has stood for since at least the Eisenhower Administration. Regardless of what you thought of it, Trump’s speech was the most protectionist and isolationist of any president in the past century. I can only imagine what Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell thought as they listened last Friday and as the president has begun signing Executive Orders. Free trade, a staple of Republican politics, is no longer safe. Global alliances, from the UN to NATO, appear to be on the chopping block. This would have been unthinkable under Bush 43, Bush 41, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, or any Republican that has recently lost the presidency, to include, Romney, McCain, and Dole. Donald Trump clearly ain’t your typical Republican. He’s a billionaire populist that has sent shockwaves through the party system. But then again, populism appears to be the new rage, to include Democrats like Sanders and Warren. After Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama, this is a sharp turn from the norm and a monumental shift in American politics.
More importantly however is that Trump won by ignoring the conventional way of doing politics. Again, regardless of what you think of him, Trump’s campaign appeared to make no political sense, even as it succeeded at every turn. It defied what both parties have done to win campaigns for decades. If he maintains his voting coalition in 4 years (to include a healthy dose of working class Democrats) and manages to keep control of Congress, we may never see campaigns run like they were for the past 50 years. If Trump’s way of doing politics becomes the norm, filled with facts and alternative facts, establishment candidates and conventional campaigns are a thing of the past. To say we have entered a new era of what it takes to win presidential campaigns may be the political understatement of the new century.
Trump is also changing the tone not just of our politics, but our civil discourse. The Trump-Clinton campaign was as personally divisive as I’ve ever seen, and the disdain each side holds for one another hasn’t stopped. I think it’s gotten worse, and I don’t see things improving anytime in the near future. Politics is dividing people in ways it shouldn’t. Is this Trump’s fault? Not entirely. But he is the President of the United States, and from his bully pulpit has the unique opportunity to help shape our nation’s discourse. If he wants, he can rise above that which divides us, and focus instead on that which unites us. Thus far, President Trump doesn’t appear to appeal to this type of soaring, hopeful rhetoric. Things may change, Trump may change, but for now, the tone of our politics is abrasive and hard.
Like most, I have no idea what to expect of our new president. We’ve never had an Executive quite like President Trump. What I do know though, what I think is abundantly clear, is that Trump has changed American politics. Things will never be the same. Politically speaking, that is.