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Much of the world appeared to breathe a collective sigh of relief when Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America.
After four crazy years of Donald J. Trump, calm has been restored. A comforting normality has returned to the self-proclaimed greatest democracy on the planet. Certainly, Biden will conform to many people’s view of what it means to be “presidential”.
Long live Trump
However, while Trump’s presidency may be dead, Trumpism lives on. To ignore it, to hope it will just peter out as a force would be foolish in the extreme.
To this end, President Biden has talked the language of reconciliation, of unity. Therefore, we must assume that his administration isn’t about to completely discard the almost 75 million US citizens who voted for Trump.
Biden only needs to look at his own inauguration day to be reminded of why Trump won the 2015 election. While the outgoing commander-in-chief decided, as has been his wont, to go against 150 years of tradition and not attend the peaceful handover of power, three former “establishment” presidents were present: namely Clinton, Bush and Obama.
“Untruths can be forgiven as long as one is acting in good faith, saying what one thinks. ‘Trump may be a liar, but he’s an honest liar.'”
The bonhomie on display, especially the banter between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Michelle Obama, will lead some to believe that common ground between two deeply divided factions can be found in the years to come. There is room for bipartisanship.
However, another way to look at it is as the personification of what Trump referred to as the ‘swamp’, a swamp he promised to drain which, depending on who you ask, he either made a decent fist of doing so or failed miserably.
Where lies truth?
This Washington swamp is a political elite out of touch with the needs and wants of America. It’s an enemy that needs to be dismantled for those who espouse Trumpism.
Then there’s language, what’s said and what isn’t said. The BBC’s Washington correspondent, Jon Sopel, when asked of Trump’s positives, referred to his transparency.
Now while we all know of the many untruths Trump spouted and tweeted during his term in office, what Sopel refers to is the idea that you knew how he was feeling at any given time. To use the old expression, Trump wears his heart on his sleeve — or at least he constantly posted it on Twitter when he had access to that medium.
This is another important element of Trumpism. Untruths can be forgiven as long as one is acting in good faith, saying what one thinks. ‘Trump may be a liar, but he’s an honest liar.’
Contrast this with the politically correct language of Biden and his ilk. Experience leads Trumpists to view with great suspicion all these carefully worded speeches. They’ve heard it all before.
What’s more, in such language they tend to hear not the equality of opportunity they associate with their USA but rather an equality of outcome. What they believe made the US great — the individualism, the freedom, a “non-interfering” government — is being eroded before their very eyes under the guise of progressive politics.
President Biden is only settling in at the White House. He may indeed turn out to be a president who can build bridges rather than walls. Convincing some in his own ranks to rein in their more ambitious ideas will surely prove key to that.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.