‘It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care centre’
celebrity, an elevated regard for wealth and a somewhat devilish desire to toss the dice and try something totally different.
“Forgotten Americans,” in Trump’s phrase, saw him as someone of success who might restore the country to its previous economic, social and cultural position after the foreign and domestic crises that beleaguered the nation in recent decades.
Shortly after John F Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, trust in the US federal government stood at 77pc. Today the level of trust languishes at 20pc.
Without trust in government, people form a jaundiced opinion of politics — and want something or someone new and not connected to the circumstances that created the national unease and distress.
Moreover, about two-thirds of the US citizenry today think the country is on the wrong track, another indication of Yankee funk, and this is occurring at a time of low unemployment, a booming stock market and relatively strong consumer confidence.
“We live by symbols,” the legendary US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed over a century ago. Donald Trump is, indeed, president, but he is also a symbol of the divided states of America and of a historical moment when politics across the Atlantic seems so broken, an inexperienced yet famous outsider can become appealing to millions of voters.
Is he the harbinger of a new age of governmental leadership or a one-time lark of populist petulance? It will take longer than a year to learn the answer to that question.
Robert Schmuhl is a professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and an adjunct professor in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University. He’s currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford