The ebb and flow of American political appetite: Matt's Memo
This is an amazing nation. How else can you explain the shift from Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon. Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan. George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton. And,now Barack Obama to Donald Trump. The political party flips. The personal qualities change. The approach to leadership switches from one approach to another.
"An Oath to God and Country," is how President Obama described the commitment he made on his second inaugural in 2013. That oath is central to the continuity of American democracy. Nowhere in the oath does it demand a specific political or personal approach. When recited at midday by the 45th President of the United States it simply showed Donald Trump's commitment to handle the job to the best of his ability.
Donald Trump stood at the Capitol just a few feet from former Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and now Obama. The continuity of a nation could be seen on one stage reaching back nearly forty years. On the opposite side of the Capitol more than 56 years ago John F. Kennedy took the same oath before delivering his inaugural. He also was flanked by past and future Presidents including Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Again a group of leaders from disparate backgrounds, varying levels of charisma and a range of approach to leadership.
All it takes is that view of post World War II American politics to see the changing mood and priorities of the electorate. Those who wish to express themselves in the polls turn out in greater numbers depending on their level of connection to the candidates presented. Their passion for change also reflects the marks they give the prior leader and whether they public perceives the times to be good or bad for them.
That sense of the ebb and flow of political change that is built into our democracy is the only way to explain the stark contrast between the inaugural delivered today and the one delivered four years ago. Two strong leaders with different approaches. President Obama called for inclusion and a new global view. He offered inspiring words in a cadence he solidified during his time in office. President Trump also called for inclusion, but he did so while sharply criticizing his predecessors who shared the stage. The President also called for a new global view that puts"America First" at the top of the agenda.
We do not yet know how the Trump Administration's approach will work. We do know enough of the nation had an interest in discovering the answer to elect him to office. Four years from now the country will gather again to decided on who should spend the next four years in the White House. Which appetite will rule then? One that desires a new taste. Or one that is happy with the course we are on.