If you live in a solid-red conservative community, you may not fully appreciate how much courage it took for Donald Trump to run the kind of campaign he ran. As controversial as Trump may have appeared on television, the scorn he received from the media and the Washington establishment was likely nothing compared to what he encountered in New York’s elite social circles. Try being a moderate conservative in Manhattan. Now try being the kind of conservative that Trump has become. You won’t find it easy.
But that kind of courage served him well, and it will continue to do so. If anyone was nervous that Trump would lose his nerve – that he would soon be crushed and compromised by the entrenched political club in Washington – the new president offered some words of comfort in his historic inaugural address. There, standing in front of some of the most powerful people in the nation, Trump made it clear that his loyalties lie with the American people.
“Today 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 American People,” Trump said. “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.”
It’s one thing to make this speech in Orlando or Houston; it’s quite another to make it on the steps of the Capitol, right in front of the very politicians he’s condemning. For all of the clapping and the forced smiles, there were a great many lawmakers in attendance who want nothing more than to see this president fail spectacularly. Some of them belong to his party.
And he damn well knows it.
It would be very easy for Trump to spend the next four years in cruise control. Let Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell figure out what they want to do. Let them know that he’ll sign whatever they want. Spend the rest of the time tweeting and holding rallies. No problem. More than a few conservatives would probably be thrilled if Trump handed the reigns off to Mike Pence and constrained himself to public relations. Many liberals think that’s exactly what he’s going to do.
But if there was little reason to believe that prior to Trump’s inauguration, there is even less reason to believe it today. In his speech, Trump did not sound like Paul Ryan. He did not sound like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush or Mitt Romney or any other beloved conservative. He sounded like Donald Trump – a man who got elected not because of the Republican Party, but in spite of it.
Trump’s ideology is not conservatism – it’s common sense. It’s not liberalism – it’s dealmaking. It’s not politics – it’s problem-solving.
On Friday, he stood in front of this nation’s ruling class and declared war. That takes guts. That takes the heart of a warrior. That’s what America now has in the White House.