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Trump inauguration moves dial from rhetoric to reality

18 January 2017
Inauguration ceremony marks the start of a four-year term

Trump gained power by magnifying the sense of national malaise – with a potent mix of populism, nativism, nationalism and conservatism, writes Professor James Curran in the Weekend Australian.    

Donald Trump will take office as The United States' 45th President. Image: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump will take office as The United States' 45th President. Image: Gage Skidmore

Soon, Donald Trump will stand before a vast concourse of the American people gathered in front of Washington’s Capitol building and take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States. America, and indeed much of the world, will be taking a plunge into the unknown.

Reality, though, has a habit of biting. As president, Trump will find that the public’s patience for endless talk of past “disasters”, ­finger-pointing and ridicule will be limited. The showman now has to govern; the real estate tycoon now has to navigate a political system that will not always bow to brand Trump, and that indeed may force him to swallow both words and outcomes unfamiliar to his view of how the world works: messy compromise and, yes, sometimes political loss.

The clash between these two cultures, ­between the business ­empire from which Trump has emerged and the congress whose job it is to check presidential power, will define his time in office.

All the triumphant boasts about the nature of his victory, and all the gold and glitter of Trump Tower, the gleaming hub of his transition, now have to give way to the hard dull graft of getting things done. Trump talks of the past 12 months in American politics as a “very painful period” but his challenge is to marshal the policy tools — and the skills — to assuage the pain and heal the nation.

Many of the doubts, anxieties and uncertainties about how Trump will use presidential power have been intensified, if not magnified, since his win in November.

His recent news conference in New York — his first formal such affair in nearly six months — gave expression to all the characteristics and qualities that he drew on during the campaign: exhibitionism, sensitivity to criticism and a visceral contempt for those challenging his prescriptions. Trump is unlikely to change any of this once commander in chief. His character is set. Only time will tell how those qualities assist in his management of a domestic or international crisis.

Professor James Curran teaches history at the University of Sydney. His latest book is Fighting With America: Why Saying No to the US Wouldn't Rupture the Alliance. This is an excerpt of a longer piece published in the Weekend Australian (paywalled).

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser
Many of the doubts, anxieties and uncertainties about how Trump will use presidential power have been intensified, if not magnified, since his win in November.
Professor James Curran