In an editorial, The Observer says: In the event, it was even worse than expected. Swaggering into power on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building, Donald Trump turned his back on grace, good manners, common sense, national healing and consensual politics – and opted for division. Spurning a unique opportunity to bind the nation’s wounds – his inauguration as 45th US president – Trump chose instead to reiterate the resentful, grievance-packed messages of his election campaign. This dreadful, chilling performance, excruciating in its banality and bile, has presented the three-quarters of US adults who did not vote for him with an urgent dilemma: how to head off “American carnage”, to use Trump’s unhappy words. To paraphrase the 35th president, John Kennedy, in his inaugural address in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do to save your country from Donald Trump.”
The task will be a supremely challenging one, for Trump is as bullishly self-confident as he is ignorant. He will not be easily deflected or denied. And the crass, know-nothing nationalism that lay at the heart of Friday’s speech is a powerful force. Like America’s new leader, it appeals to the darker side of human nature, bolstering the insidious claims of jealousy, envy, greed and hubris. It thrives on fear, chauvinism, discrimination and not always subliminal notions of ethnic, racial and moral superiority. It is a product of our times. But it is not too much to say Trump’s ranting scream of “America first, America first!” carries an echo of the “Sieg Heil” (hail victory) of another, not-forgotten era of brutish nationalist triumphalism.
For Americans, the extent of the challenge is already clear, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Trump withheld any word of thanks for the considerable work of his predecessor, Barack Obama, over the past eight years, a churlish omission perhaps unprecedented in the history of the American republic. When it came to the substance of his speech, common sense was as lacking as common courtesy. Trump does not have an original thought in his head. He only seems able to speak in slogans, in the same way he only writes in Twitter-length soundbites. [Continue reading…]