Dark Knight Rises: US President Donald Trump skewers the elite, vows to give power back to people

It is easy to see why Donald J Trump is such a polarizing figure and one of the least popular US presidents to take the oath of office, but he reminded the world through his inaugural address on Friday just how he made the impossible, possible.

US President Donald Trump. AFP

US President Donald Trump. AFP

No one took the reality TV star seriously when he announced his intent to run for the most prestigious job on the planet. With an orange mop on his head and outrageous remarks on lips, Trump had looked and played the part of a skirt-chasing, narcissistic, megalomaniac philistine. The real estate magnet was summarily dismissed as a mountebank and yet invited to TV studios so that people may laugh at him while his rivals had to open their purse strings for that kind of publicity. As he put paid to his Republican rivals and ran into Hillary Clinton, not even his own family members perhaps gave him much of a chance.

And yet it was Trump who stood on Capitol Hill swearing on the Bible of Abraham Lincoln as the 45th president of the United States before a stony-faced Clinton who displayed admirable chutzpah in attending her own political funeral. How did this miracle take place? Trump showed it all over again.

There was no grace, grandeur or poetry. No appeal to the better nature of our selves. No political correctness, no beating about the bush, none of the usual niceties. There was not even a perfunctory attempt at mending of bridges, leave alone extending an olive branch to the war-mongering anti-Trump brigade who continued to clash with the police even on Friday. If Trump had run a bulldozer through the template of presidential elections while gunning for the office, he carried that motif even during his inaugural speech.

As the rain beat down on his parade, El Presidente launched a raw, savage attack on the entire American political establishment whose members stood motionless beside him, transfixed in revulsion and perhaps even fascination. This was Trump the Outsider, barging through the gates of White House and skewering the power elite before his followers on the Hill and a world audience beyond it.

But he wasn't just taking on the opposition.

Be it the Republicans or the Democrats, the Trump rapier drove through the heart of Washington's entire power elite. His violent indictment of the cozy power-sharing culture between the political dynasties of the Bushes or the Clintons right before their very noses reminded one of the stunning attack he had launched during a Republican debate before South Carolina primary when he savaged the Bush dynasty in their den by calling Iraq war a "big, fat mistake" and indicated that George W Bush had taken the Mickey out of American public by lying about Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction'. It takes balls of steel to pull off such a stunt and Trump showed he has them.

"For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land," he said, as the applause ran through.

Political consultant and author Craig Shirley, who has written on Ronald Reagan, told Washington Post that "this was pure Trump, just a declaration of war against the Washington establishment and President Obama… It was not the usual call for togetherness; it was Trumpism, the speech of a businessman — problems and solutions, very utilitarian.”

This was more campaign rhetoric than an inaugural address but that was the point. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly presented 'himself' as the solution to all of America's problems. On Friday, he sought to reassure the people that power won't be able to change him because with him in office, it was really the American public who are in White House, not the influential members of the current system. This is an interesting narrative. Even as he became the part of the Establishment, Trump insisted that he will remain an outlier because now the power will be given back to the people.

"We are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people."

Trump seemed to be quoting Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, where the villain in the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman flick tells Gotham City after a raid: "We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you, the people."

There have been a lot of concern about Trump not being able to build his team fast enough before the transition and relying on Obama staff members to fill key administrative posts. Trump, however, indicated that none but he will matter in his establishment. Be it foreign policy, homeland security or policy decisions, he will take the only and final decision in direct consultation with the people.

While pitching for protectionism in all its Great Depression-era glory, Trump vowed: "Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down… America will start winning again, winning like never before."

There will be time yet to judge him for his words, and how much of the promise will he be able to meet. For now, we must revel in the spectacle that unfolds as a Molotov cocktail is lobbed inside the sanitized precincts of the White House.

Published Date: Jan 21, 2017 13:57 PM | Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 16:14 PM

Also See